Draugen Review

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Game Details

Title: Draugen
Developer: Red Thread Games
Publisher: Red Thread Games
Website: https://www.redthreadgames.com/draugen
Genre: First-Person, Adventure, Psychological
Platform: Steam
Audience: Mature
Release Date: 29/05/2019
Price: £15.29 – Rapid Reviews UK were very kindly provided with a review code for this title.

What the Developers Say

Draugen is a single-player, first-person Fjord Noir mystery set in 1920s Norway. Explore a picturesque coastal community in your search for your missing sister, accompanied by your gregarious and enigmatic young ward.

Introduction

In some ways, the less said about Draugen, the better. If you are a fan of first-person narrative experiences like What Remains of Edith Finch, this is an easy recommendation. If you are sceptical, this may be the title to shift your paradigm. In any case, read on for this Rapid Review!

Gameplay

Draugen’s gameplay is quite simple. You’ll walk through the environment in first person investigating notes, photos, and other objects while exploring with your ward. What sets this game apart from others in the genre is how interactive your relationship with Alice, your aforementioned ward, feels.

Alice is a wonderfully developed character who truly feels like she’s observing the world beside you. She’ll criticise you when you’re insensitive, cheer you up when you’re sad, and even crack a genuinely funny joke or two. This interactivity is displayed via dialogue choices that frequently present themselves.

For example, you may happen across a dead bird, and Alice will posit what killed it. You could agree, disagree, or dismiss the conversation entirely. It’s unclear if these moments have an actual mechanical effect on the story, but they feel real. It feels like they genuinely grow your relationship with Alice. This is important because this relationship is core to the progression of the game’s story.

Audio & Visuals

Another area that Draugen excels in is its visuals. This game is a great proof of the concept that visual design can offset technical fidelity. While Draugen does boast some impressive lighting, its models and textures are quite good, rather than great. However, the in-depth attention to detail in the clutter and design of the world more than makes up for this.

In terms of character art, the animation is really what sells them. The characters are expressive and feel very real, despite not being on the cutting edge of modelling. Helping this along is the outstanding voice acting. These characters genuinely feel alive thanks to incredible reads that convey emotion and sincerity. I especially enjoy the way their dialogue “steps” on each other. Often they’ll interrupt or talk over one another in a way that feels rich and real, without actually being hard to follow.

Also of note is the game’s score. Composed by the wonderful Simon Poole, the music in this game is some of the best in recent memory. While it errs on the side of a filmic approach, I can’t imagine the score being any more perfect for the setting. From sad pieces that drive home emotion of the moment to beautiful meanderings that enrich the world’s colour palette, this is a score I will listen to for a long time.

Story & Replayability

Penned and directed by industry veteran Ragnar Tørnquist, Draugen’s story centres around your character, Edward’s, search for his lost sister. That search has drawn him to the quiet Norwegian village of Graavik, with his ward Alice at his side. As you might suspect, there’s more to this place than what the duo has bargained for.

To say much more too directly would spoil the magic of this game. Suffice it to say that this is a brilliant narrative that explores dark, heady themes well. The way this game carefully treats elements of mental health and well-being as real is refreshing. This isn’t a game that simply offers stigmas and stereotypes.

With all this said, Draugen is a short experience, at around 3 hours. I did, however, get the inkling to play it again from the beginning with the perspective gained through my playthrough. I suspect others will want to give it another whirl as well.

Conclusion

Draugen is a beautiful experience who’s only real flaws fall to whether or not you enjoy the genre. As a huge fan of narrative adventure games, I was enthralled. I cannot wait to see what Red Thread does next.

Rapid Reviews UK Rating

You can purchase Draugen from Steam at the following link,

You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.

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