Draugen is pitched as a psychological thriller/noir mystery-type deal set in the remote rural Norwegian town of Graavik during the 1920s. In this first-person view, exploration-heavy title you take control of the bookish Edward Charles Harden as he arrives in Norway on the trail of his missing sister, Betty. As the game’s tagline bluntly implies, he is not alone. Tagging along on the adventure is his plucky young ward, Lissie. Now Lissie can be either a fun or an annoying character, depending on your outlook. She is an excitable 17-year-old girl who likes to gab and jape using all the slang of the ’20s. Funnily enough, she tends to share the same vernacular as Adam West in the old Batman television show. I almost split my face in half with a smile when she unironically said something along the lines of “Hot dawg! Let’s shake some ankle!” She has a tomboyish way of dressing: she looks like an eager young street urchin right out of a period piece, complete with newspaper boy cap and all. Her extreme nature provides a solid counterpoint to the somewhat dour Edward.
The graphics and setting are the real stars of the show. Let me set the scene for you: Edward and Lissie cross the cold blue waters of the fjord and disembark the rowboat. You now gain control of Edward so I begin to head up the path to the hill. I stop to take in the sights at a rest spot a little way up. Flickering rays of sunshine breach the golden canopies of the birch trees as the branches softly sway in the wind. I take a moment to watch the small inlet as it meanders down the hill, under the old cobblestone bridge, and then out to join the fjord. I can’t stay there forever, so I continue my journey up the hill to meet the Fretlands. A misty fog begins to gust down the valley as I get closer to the Fretland’s house. It looms in the distance: a charmingly rustic affair, complete with a white picket fence. As I get closer, I can see that the old fence could use a fresh coat of paint. Graavik is an idyllic little town in the middle of nowhere and it is absolutely beautiful to look at. Red Thread Games didn’t slouch when it came to rendering the character models either; just take a look at the screenshots of Lissie down below.
The sound design is also excellent. The use of classic instruments and haunting vocals on videogame soundtracks is something I never tire of. I’ll take the sound of string instruments over synthesizers and drum machines nine times out of ten. The ambient sounds are superbly done. I loved the way the thunder rolled out across the fjord and the way the wind picks up as the storm gathers near the beginning of the game. Another thing that had caught my attention (In a good way) was the way the storm noises smoothly transitioned when I entered the house. It felt natural the way rain pattered against the window panes and how the wind had begun to rattle through the old wood house. For the record, I was using a Logitech G432 headset for the duration of my playthrough.
This is mainly a narrative experience, so the gameplay is fairly simple. You’ll spend most of your time exploring Graavik and speaking with Lissie about the situation they have found themselves in. Lissie will often go on ahead of you. Edward can call out to her, leading her to respond to help guide you to her location. It’s a nice touch to help players avoid getting lost since there is no map function. There are books and newspaper clippings to be found that help to flesh out the story and the occasional puzzle to solve. I say puzzle for lack of a better term. They aren’t difficult by any means but they do help to break up the monotony of walking from point A to point B. As I said; simple!
There isn't much to complain about here. There is supposed to be a day one patch to fix an assortment of glitches, but I haven't run into any of them, aside from an issue where the 'read' prompt doesn't disappear after I interacted with a certain book. The draw distance could be better It feels a bit spotty in some places, but it's not bad overall. I feel like the plot falls a little in the end. I found it interesting but rather anticlimactic. It feels like the prologue to a much larger journey. After the credits roll, the scrawl reads that Edward and Lissie will return. Personally, I believe this has the potential to be a great series and I'd love to see more, so I'm excited to see what's in store for the future of Draugen. Want to play it but don’t have a PC? Draugen is expected to release later this year for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 8/10
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