Some of my (and probably many peoples’) earliest game experiences were with paper based role playing, from the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books to traditional fantasy D&D and other systems. Therefore, it’s always nice to find an RPG game that is obviously heavily influenced by these because it reminds me of my childhood playing games. ICY is a nostalgic RPG that takes a lot of mechanics from D&D systems and visualises it in a more immersive for the user.
Your character was involved in a tragic snow slide accident, but was saved by travelling nomads that adopted you into their family and allowed you to travel with them. This is where the story starts, you play through life with the family until a sudden event puts you in charge as some family members get kidnapped. And the goal is to save them as well as making sure the rest of the family have enough food and will survive the travels. It’s quite a typical RPG story, and the player is dumped right into the middle of it, unfortunately, the game fails to develop the other characters enough in the beginning of the game to make you care about them, the story doesn’t feel sad because you haven’t met or had much interaction with the characters for very long so you know nearly nothing about them.
Character creation in ICY will be familiar to most people who have had experience with paper based role playing, you get 7 points to put into 3 base skills: body, mind, and words. Then you also get 40 experience points to put into a wide variety of other skills that are based off the base skills, for example the bow and melee skills are a subset of the body skill. The game is text based with pictures for characters, enemies, maps etc and you have various dialogue options for each encounter that produce different results and reactions. You can unlock more dialogue options by levelling up different skills such as intimidate. These options do offer real choice, they don’t feel redundant and the game doesn’t often railroad you in a certain direction which is refreshing as in many games nowadays, choices often don’t matter and what you experience is carefully selected. You must provide your nomadic family with enough food, you do this through hunting, which can be dangerous, you can also scavenge certain areas to find tools and weapons. You must decide how long to do each of these things for, the less time you spend, the greater the risk is and the likelihood you will encounter trouble and get hurt increases, this is a unique mechanic that isn’t often seen in games however, the game fails to make time important in the general gameplay, you rest automatically as you travel and the time of day has no effect on social interactions. It’s a shame the time mechanic wasn’t used more as I believe it would make the game a lot harder to survive in as you wold be limited by what you could do so you would have to plan your actions.
In regards to the difficulty of the game, the default setting is “story” which is lower than easy, I selected normal and whilst I was playing the game I never found that I was running out of food, if you keep an eye on how quickly its depleting, there are plenty of woodland areas to hunt in and I never had a problem in combat where I had to run away or I would die. In addition, the game forces you to make various moral decisions about whether to kill people or not, or to take medication from a cache you find etc but you never feel as if your decisions have much weighting, there are rarely any bad consequences from decisions you make, for example, if you take all the medication from the cache, nothing bad happens and if you decide to let someone travel with you instead of killing them, they never try to hurt your family even though it’s hinted at that you may not be able to trust them. This lessens the importance of some moral decisions you must make and so I found myself often just picking the option I wanted to pick rather than having to think about the possible consequences of the actions and what would be best for my character and their family. On a similar note, it was hard to connect with many of the characters as they aren’t developed very much and I personally didn’t find them relatable. Thus, when an argument occurs within the family it feels very whiney and you don’t feel particularly motivated to solve it or to side with a particular person, in fact it can become rather annoying to sort out arguments within the family that you aren’t invested in or care about.
The music in the game starts in the menu with a radio station static noise that gradually fades into different types of music, this is unique, fits the style of the game as your family travels to many places and means the menu music doesn’t get tedious to listen to. The style of music in the whole game is a little tense, to add to the theme of survival but not loud or annoying. There are also environmental sounds in the menu and the game, including fire crackling and footsteps. The art style of the pictures is photorealistic, they are also seemingly hand drawn and coloured, this provides a nice tough. The characters all look like real survivors, with big coat hoods and with the females having practical hair (short or tied up) and not much in the way of makeup which makes the game feel more realistic. There are some minor issues with the game, sometimes it crashes randomly which can be annoying but the game AutoSaves regularly so I was never loaded far back from where I was. Also, ICY can take a while to load certain parts of the game, this isn’t obvious to the player so can feel like a crash and breaks the immersion for the player. The game does have replay value as there are different skills so you can have playthroughs with different types of characters and so different play styles although the gameplay itself can be a repetitive and you may not have the patience or motivation to play through it more than once.
ICY is a game suited to fans of D&D style games, players who like very story orientated games and don’t mind reading text constantly. The pace of the game is slow and relaxing, even during combat sequences, so it isn’t for people who want a fast-paced action game. It’s refreshing to see a game that is so evidently based on paper based RPGs and it has some unique mechanics however, the gameplay and storytelling could be more engaging and relatable to players and the mechanics feel as though they need developing and updating some more.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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