A couple of years ago I went to see Snow White and the Hunstman, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t think highly of it and I certainly didn’t expect a sequel to come from it. A few months back, Desert Owl Games thought it best that this universe deserved its own game. The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse, while connected to the same realm as the films, The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse can be seen as its own unique game that anyone can jump into without persistent confusion. With that in mind, how does this game fare in the ever expanding market now that it has come to the PS4?
The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse: PlayStation 4 [Reviewed], PC
Developer: Desert Owl Games, LLC
Publisher: Desert Owl Games, LLC
Release Date: 23 August 2016
Price: £17.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse takes the form of five books which essentially are the game chapters. The game begins with a storyteller recounting the tale of Elisabeth, a girl who is tired of farm life and is ready to go on an adventure. After realising that her brothers haven’t returned for some time, a mature and somewhat hardy Elisabeth goes out in search of them. While the story initially appears to be nothing particularly unique, it actually takes some interesting twists and turns and can be enthralling in places. This is largely because of the way it is told.
The Huntsman isn’t a complex game by any stretch of the imagination. When you aren’t in the heat of battle, the story will play out in vein to a graphic novel. You will read passages of dialogue and will also need to use a little imagination as it progresses with the games stylish 2D visuals. Occasional choices will also be presented to you to slightly steer the story in a different direction but it remains pleasantly simple. This style of gameplay may be too simplistic for some and may not hold the interest of many, due to the fact that the story takes up a large portion of the game. Nonetheless, it is still somewhat charming and enjoyable to play through.
The meat of The Huntsman‘s gameplay come with its battle segments, where Elisabeth and her companion engage in a scrap with nasty creatures and various humanoid enemies. The Huntsman has gone down the route of turn-taking RPG’s that require some strategic thinking to come out on top. Your party is given a fairly small skill tree, once you level them up you will be able to assign a skill point to increase HP, add extra damage to certain enemies and even increase the various abilities the player has access to when their turn comes. One of the great features with The Huntsman is that at any point, the player can change their skills around to suit any situation. You are never locked into a skill selected and can change it back and forth at your own convenience.
As well as your skills, players have armor, a weapon and two accessories to aid them in battle. All of these provide two abilities that come in the form of cards. While some of these cards are simple damage dealing abilities, others act as buffs that can weaken enemies while making you stronger for a number of turns. As the timeline of battle progresses and you reach your turn once again, up to five cards in your deck of abilities will be randomly picked and you have the choice of which to use. This is where strategic thinking comes into play as you will need to decide which ability is best. You may want to sacrifice dealing damage so that you can buff your party or heal anyone low on health, and if three enemies all have their turns next, your party may take a turn for the worst if you somehow wasted your last turn on a useless card. Just like the skill trees, your gear can be changed whenever you want, apart from in the middle of combat for obvious reasons, so depending on your situation, you will want to arrange your arsenal for each battle to give the best possible results. With all this in mind, the battle system is easy to get the hang of and is an enjoyable way to play the more taxing parts of the game, while also meshing well with the overall art style.
For the most part battles aren’t too difficult when playing on normal so you won’t have to worry too much about dying for the vast majority of the game. Unfortunately, there is a sudden difficulty spike as it gets closer to the end so don’t expect to completely breeze through the entire game without death. In my personal playthrough, I also came across an unwanted brick wall, where the game put me in a battle with a boss enemy where only one member of my party engaged them. This caused that particular battle to become impossible, even on the easiest difficulty, and it is unclear at this stage whether it was merely a bug or an unfortunate direction the story has taken, either way, it left me unable to continue with my game.
Regardless of this incident, The Huntsman manages to lure you into its fairytale-like world with an easy to navigate world map, the odd (but forgettable) side quests and pleasant music that fits in with the mood of the game. It is up to you whether you buy all five books to experience the whole story, but without doing so, you may find yourself abruptly coming to an end with your current playthrough without access to all content. It is an interesting take on conventional episodic games that helps to separate chapters while also keeping them well and truly part of the same story. If you like the first book, then it’s more than likely that you will continue on to the end. At least you won’t have to worry about attaining awkward trophies as these are all story related.
The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse presents an interesting story that, although done before, will hold your attention throughout its duration. Although a large chunk of its gameplay is slow paced, The Huntsman‘s battle segments are well executed and picking cards also helps to give each fight that bit of uncertainty, while keeping you on your toes in addition to allowing you to change your available skills. The art style is pleasing to look at, but it doesn’t take away from the overall simplicity of the game. It is unfortunate that there is a possibility of reaching an impossible battle as I did, but whether you experience this or not, the game itself is an enjoyable title for the short time that you will play it.