There are few things I love more than dark, gritty atmospheres, story books, and Role-playing Games. The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse is an excellent combination of all three. If that sounds like your style, this very well might be the game you’re looking for; but don’t get your hopes up yet. While the recipe seems to make something that would make your taste buds salivate, sometimes the chef makes a mistake that completely ruins the entire dish. There is one glaring flaw that would make any customer lose their appetite: bugs. Tons and tons of bugs.
The game is split into five different parts, or “books” as they’re called in the game. For PC players, the first book is freely available for download, and the rest are able to be purchased as DLC. For this review, I played on the Playstation 4 version of the game which has all of the books together in one package. The bugs and glitches I mentioned earlier are technically present in both versions, but the PC version does have a hotfix available that you could use to patch up your game. Whether it works or not, I’m not sure, but what I do know is that there is no such cure for the Playstation users.
Let’s talk about those glitches. Everybody knows them, and while some can be enjoyable, most of the time they’re anything but. Throughout the game I found that my inputs would sometimes not work, the game would send me to the primary mission even if I selected the secondary missions, blocks of dialogue would be skipped and not viewable at random, and most notably I couldn’t finish the game. How exactly, might you ask, could I not finish the game? There is a game breaking glitch that removes all of your party members but one during a certain portion in Book 4. While it could be technically possible to beat, the boss fight at the end certainly is not. Most of the glitches aren’t really present until Book 3, but the issue is both clear, and quite frankly it’s rather outrageous. I’m sure I’ve rambled on enough about the bugs present in the game, but I do find it rather important to cover since it doesn’t let you complete the game.
I would like to mention that this game is quite good and definitely deserves to be appreciated to some extent. The storyline, while not quite captivating at first, definitely succeeds in being consistent and fairly accurate toward what the developers were going for. It’s very much a dark and gritty version of the world of Snow White, and as such, I can certainly appreciate what was done with it. The story starts off with Elizabeth, a girl who has been affected by the events that took place in Snow White and The Huntsman (a movie that retells Snow White in a more dark and mature light), and is in search of her four older brothers that have run away from home. Elizabeth decides that she is bored of living her life in town and would rather put her years of sword training to the test by going on an adventure. It turns out that a powerful woman known as Queen Freya has tainted the world with evil magic, and nevertheless her brothers have fallen victim to her. While the tropes and ideas may seem fairly conventional, the atmosphere and charm really do make the story work out quite well here. It is a true love letter to anyone who craves an interesting and mature story with all of the bits that make it seem like a normal picture book.
The style of the game is truly otherworldly; the detailed visuals look almost as if Tim Burton had wanted a part in the game and decided to draw them by hand. It’s dark, unique, and beautiful; and that’s definitely quite a feat to behold. I think you would be hard pressed to find any storybook style 2D art that looks as good as what is to be seen here. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t give all that much variety with different enemies, characters, or backgrounds, but there is a decent amount to be found, and all of it is beautiful. Since the game relies heavily on its storytelling, this style fits like a glove and makes it seem all the more enjoyable.
Of course, the art isn’t the only thing that makes the game stand out. The combat system is by far one of the coolest ideas I’ve ever seen implemented into a video game. It didn’t come off too strong for me at first, but I quickly fell in love with what was done here. There are three important factors to understand when you’re talking about the battle system: it’s a card game, it’s a traditional turn-based RPG, and it uses a time bar. While the game itself is quite linear and guides you towards the appropriate levels and equipment you need, the strategy at play here could be fantastic. Notice how I said could be. I can’t help but feel that they made the game a bit too easy, but then again I wouldn’t know about anything past the beginning of Book 4 due to the bug problems in the game. Regardless, that doesn’t make the system of combat itself any less amazing. You can change into 4 different types of equipment, which gives you a different set of cards in each slot. This gives the game a lot of potential in terms of gameplay, as things like speed, slow, stun, cripple, and invigoration could greatly change the Meta. Speed gives you the opportunity to attack faster, slow does the opposite, stun pushes you back on the time bar, cripple lessens your damage, and invigoration pushes you forward on the time bar. There is more to it, but seeing as it’s a bit complicated, it’s probably easier to understand if you see it yourself.
The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse could have been a pretty good game, as it has fantastic visuals, a compelling storyline, and rather ambient music selections, but the bugs make it unbearable. Maybe one day this game will be a 4 star rating in the books, but until then there is simply no place for it there. There is a lot to love, but little of it tends to taste good when your completion is obstructed by a problem that should not have existed if the developers just put a bit more time into making sure it was ready for release. By no means do I intend to say this game is bad, but if you do decide to play the game, you know what to expect.
Most of my time is dedicated to tearing apart games and movies, then telling you what I think about it. I've been a gamer since birth, practically born with a controller in my hand. I've always spoke my mind, so critique was a natural fit. Twitter: @Jsrf38