The survival genre is a guilty pleasure of mine, but so are RPGs with visual novel elements. I love crafting my own experience and seeing where the adventure takes me in a new world to explore. Throw in an interesting narrative and my favorite biome to play in – hint: it’s snow! – and you bet your fur gear I’m venturing into the frozen wasteland!
ICY: Frostbite Edition is an updated version of Inner Void’s original game released back in 2015 simply called “ICY”, now remade using the Unity engine. Honestly, I wasn’t able to play the original game prior to this, but according to my research certain aspects like the crafting system were not included in the original. There’s still plenty of frozen-world adventure to be had, so let’s get right to it.
This dialogue-based RPG takes place during a new Ice Age that has overtaken the planet. Survivors in this frozen wasteland are mostly nomadic groups who try to etch a living in the snow. Some groups have managed to adapt more than others, while other dangers lurk just beyond the snowy veil. Staying put is an option for some, but they run the risk of constantly being harassed by bandits. Nomads are safer since they are constantly on the move and they’re better suited to avoid danger. Other groups, like the Red Horsemen, roam the white wasteland pillaging and imprisoning anyone they come across.
Icy left me with a mixture of emotions from being giddy at seeing my survivors make it through another encounter with enemies to boredom. It’s an odd mixture since the dialogue between each character is crafted realistically. Right off the bat I could tailor the difficulty of my survival experience, which gave me the option to explore.
Before starting my survival experience, I was able to choose the skills my main character would be proficient in, focusing on whether they would be an excellent hunter with bow skills or a convincing talker who happened to be good at foraging through abandoned houses. There were pros and cons to each build which would affect how the story and encounters played out later in this frozen world.
Along the way, other characters make their presence known in this cold landscape. Most of these encounters felt realistic and unique enough to help create an immersive story for me to fall into. One encounter that left me in near tears is when I came across a man whose daughter had been shot and killed. Bandits had come to his home to take the man and his daughter as slaves to be sold to other groups. Like a good father, the man defended his small family the best he could, only to lose the most precious member in the process. How the scenario played out kept my eyes glued to the screen since I had the option to side with the bandits and kill the man for being a ‘murderer’ for defending himself or to help resist those who killed his daughter.
Interactions like this are where Icy shines and really feels like an authentic experience through another’s eyes. This is only an example of the kind of people I met along my journey who had either retained their humanity despite how the world had changed or were cruel to the bone like the bandits. The different facets of human nature weren’t bunched up into stereotypes or oversimplified. People are faced with difficult choices each day that land in that grey area between good and evil. Often, people just don’t have a choice whether it means their own death or the risk the suffering of those they hold close to their heart.
When moving to another area of the map I had the option to scavenge in abandoned buildings for supplies or to hunt in the woods for more food to keep my party alive on their journey. The only aspect I didn’t care for was that traveling around the map involved clicking on small circles to take my group from one area to the next; I’d have preferred something more natural, but I made due. Other encounters involved skirmishes where I had to balance the attacks I had to ensure my survivors made it out alive. These small fights helped to break up the monotony of navigating around the map, but most of the time they felt like the luck of the draw.
ICY: Frostbite Edition ended up being way better than I initially gave it credit for, both as an RPG and a survival experience. There are heavy elements of a visual novel included, too, like unique artwork and character design that accompanies each encounter. This world sucked me in with the sound of boots crunching over snow or inhuman growls of mutants lurking in an abandoned church. Those hunting for a unique survival experience with solid storytelling and genuine thrills won’t regret adventuring out into this frozen world.