Bramble: The Mountain King is a grim adventure game developed by Dimfrost Studio and published by Merge Games. It is set for release on April 27, 2023 on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, and we have been fortunate to play through a preview build of two new levels not seen in the previous demo of the game. While short, it already has captured my attention with it’s great dark atmosphere and eerie but emotional premise.
Bramble: The Mountain King draws on the powerful creatures and rich fables of Nordic myth to spin a unique tale of one boy’s courage in the face of impossible dangers. Fairy tales often hard dark undertones and this goes pretty dark. There’s a fair warning as you enter the game of the types of content it includes, so be sure to watch trailers and read about the game before diving in. It is well worth playing though.
In this preview, we take on the role of Olle, a young but brave boy, called by fate to adventure through unsettling yet stunning environments of Bramble to rescue his sister from the clutches of beasts. We are placed into the world in the preview’s first area, the Nearby Forest with a very well voiced narrator setting the scene. I used keyboard/mouse and the camera does a good job at showing you the path forward through this lush forest, especially when occasionally the path isn’t visually obvious. Pushing a direction with the keys generally has the camera then pointing you forward which was helpful. It also gave smooth transitions from small cutscenes, ending by the camera pointing in the direction to go next.
We run through the dark forest with misty moonlight shining through the trees and we can inspect some interesting pinecone figures that hint at dark undertones. We are able to run up fallen logs and jump across gaps in the terrain. Before long we come to a ladder that leads into a house with a locked door. Once inside, there is a matchbox that we can interact with, and by turning the box around with the camera, the box slides open and an old key falls to the floor. Once through the door, it starts getting darker and we fall into an underground passage.
Down the passage we can see a small light held by a statue. Slowly creeping forward, the music instilled an uneasy feeling as we approached the light, and the narrator’s voice almost startled me. A short time later we come to some ruins where we find our sister, Lillemore. Here the mood turns more light-hearted as we play with the light orb, throwing it to each other and then using the mouse to aim and hit pinecones that Lillemore throws into the air. This is getting us prepared for the second area, Skogsra’s Grove.
We see Lillemore running ahead of us, but she keeps running ahead without stopping until we come to a clearing. It is a trap and we have been deceived, and now must face one of the game’s bosses, Skogsra. The music intensifies and we must defeat her, however hurling the light orb directly at her does no damage, but it does show bloodlines to omens in the trees around her. We need to move Ollie around using the trees to break line of sight as Skogsra’s throws direct damage spell and area effect spells at us. We need to move around the perimeter of the field and use the orb to take out the omens in the trees.
There are three phases to this fight, and after each one Skogsra falls to the ground, weakened. We attack her back with our orb that has turned into a light sword, and she gets damaged by deflects us back to the treeline. After defeating her third wave, she falls to the floor and we stab at the heart with our sword orb. It is here where an interesting gameplay element is displayed. Skogsra is on the ground, defeated, and we are prompted to press E to stab her with the sword. As we do, blood splatters over Ollie’s face and body.
We are continually prompted to press E, causing more blood to be spilled and the sound design here was getting off-putting after half hitting her a few times. At a point I decided to let the prompt timer run out and with one final blow, the screen fades to red with the music causing you to think on your actions. It’s interesting now looking back that she was defeated after the initial killing blow, and that it is up to the player how much more bloodshed they inflict. It then fades to white with a quivering Ollie crying next to Skogsra’s corpse which had melded with the grass and dirt below, leaving an almost beautiful meadow behind. Thus ended the preview.
I was intrigued before playing this preview, but this small sample has me hooked and I am super keen to see more of the game as we get closer to release. This preview utilised a key provided by Hooligan PR and Bramble: The Mountain King will launch on April 27, 2023, on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.