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Frozenheim Review – Viking-Themed RTS

Frozenheim is a Norse viking-themed RTS with base building mechanics. Developed by Paranoid Interactive and published by Hyperstrange, this game has been in Steam early access for over 12 months and recently launched v1.0 on June 16, 2022. It’s a slower paced game which took me a few losses to work out, but the graphics are amazing, and the music suited to strategizing as you work to build resources and conquer your enemies. I found the game to be a mix of Northgard, with small numbers of viking-themed armies, and Banished with the resource and survival elements.

There’s a thin storyline to connect you to the missions with short cutscenes pre and post mission but really, it’s up to you understanding the mission objectives that drives you forward. You don’t have enough resources to build massive armour like in most RTS games, rather you’re working with small bands of Vikings using axemen, archers, scouts, and other warrior types. You explore the land, clearing bear caves and wolf dens, as well as bandit camps as you explore the fog of war, looking for landmarks and ultimately an enemy clan to vanquish.

Your base starts with a Jarl headquarters which you must protect at all costs. From there, you need houses to gain population, resource generating buildings such as a fisherman’s hut or hunting hut for food, woodcutter’s hut for wood, collector’s guild for ores, and so on. Once the buildings have been built, you need to assign workers to them. You can hold down alt which shows the worker amounts for all buildings so you can quickly raise or lower workers per building in the early stages to prioritise work. Later once you have more huts, you’ll want to maximise all workers.

Village happiness/discontent is something you need to start considering a few missions into the campaign. Ensuring you have enough food and housing is the first step and preparing for the coming winter. Some buildings, like farms, don’t operate during winter so you need to prepare for that, as well as thinking about how fast you expand your army. Placing houses near each other helps with happiness levels, as does having a well near those houses. When enemy armies attack, they set fire to buildings. The only way to put those out is with wells. Discontent will set in if you start running out of food or if your fallen warriors aren’t cared for with burials.

The buildings in Frozenheim look authentic for the viking era, with the glow of fires shown within buildings at nighttime and in winter. The grass, flowers and trees all look fantastic as you explore the wilderness. In camp, as your workers start to move between buildings, they will wear paths in the grass and snow which is a great effect. You can also gain boats from helping nearby villages or by building a shipyard. Small boats only fit one combat unit on them, while larger boats can fit 2-3 units. This is how I lost a few of the later missions where I had fortified from ground attacks but totally forgot about ships coming in from waterways.

You can build gates, palisades, and watchtowers however it all comes down to how you have managed resources up to that point. I lost a few missions after exploring for 40-50 minutes as I didn’t leave enough troops to defend my base, and they were too far away to get back in time. It was frustrating losing a game after that long, but it also taught me what I should prioritise in base building and army generation. It was this slower pace that made me think more strategic rather than just build an army and rush the enemy base like in other games.

Combat is quite engaging in Frozenheim with each unit type having its own skill that will enhance their efficiency for a short time. I advise that you put them into battle stance, as the default defensive stance means they will not attack while moving and can run right past enemies as they’re attacking you. Axemen have rage while archers can enhance their ranged damage. I found archers were quite effective, so long as you kept them protected.

Shield bearers are good too for ranged defence, however they run much slower than all other units. There is also a unit called Seidkonas which can tame bears and wolves you come across. This skill is a targeted one, so you need to be quick and precise before the bears wail into your other units. The bears are quite handy to have as they rush in and can take the agro while you set up your axemen and archers to target other enemy units.

It took me a couple of missions to learn you can build a healer’s hut once your Jarl’s homestead has been upgraded to tier 2. Placing this healer’s hut next to the training camp will then allow you to heal your armies where units use a rest ability and then await treatment. If you have selected to join the Wolf Clan at the elder’s building, you can advance a tech tree that allows you to heal within camps you find in the wilderness, which is super helpful.

Overall, Frozenheim is a decent RTS game with outstanding graphics and slower-paced strategic gameplay. Each mission took me anywhere from 40-60+ minutes to complete, with multiple failed missions as I learned different strategies. This meant I could play it in shorter doses but still feel I accomplished and learned things. It was fun and mostly relaxing with a great soundtrack that I could play to unwind after a long day.

This review utilised a key provided by Evolve PR and Frozenheim is available now on Steam.


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