Cold as Ice
Developed by Kings Group and published by FunPlus, Age of Frostfall is unique because it doesn’t technically exist. While the real-time strategy game is listed separately on the Google Play Store, it is effectively the beta server for Kings Group’s King of Avalon. Players can freely swap between the two games as long as they link both to the same FunPlus account.
However, nothing on Age of Frostfall’s Google Play page makes this clear. Furthermore, Google Play also lists the game’s publisher as Warmest Good Limited. This makes it looks suspiciously like FunPlus is trying to sneakily re-release King of Avalon without anyone knowing. Given the game’s prominent Game of Thrones influence, I wonder if FunPlus is trying to capitalize on House of the Dragon.
Age of Frostfall takes place in the Kingdom of Avalon after the death of the legendary King Arthur. However, while Arthurian legend fills in some of the game’s backstory, Game of Thrones was clearly the main inspiration. The lands are blanketed into a seemingly endless supernatural winter, and humanity is under siege by undead hordes. In fairness, Age of Frostfall’s Unmelted aren’t a one-to-one copy of the GOT’s White Walkers. They are chattier, for one, with their leaders having distinct personalities and possibly even a limited degree of free will. However, their visual design is strongly reminiscent of HBO’s interpretation of White Walkers, even if it still isn’t exact.
Being nearly identical to another game might explain Age of Frostfall’s inconsistent tone. The early game almost has a fantasy Frostpunk feel, with cold lighting and a bleak, snowy landscape. However, that literally evaporates shortly after you hatch your Dragon in the first few hours of the game. The unique atmosphere disappears, and players get ready for Generic Fantasy Land number 900 million. In fairness, it’s supposedly only the area around your castle that’s sunny. Still, it’s hard to take the eternal winter seriously when you barely see it.
Players take the role of a humble blacksmith charged with protecting and hatching one of Avalon’s last Dragon Eggs. After Unmelted overrun the player’s home village, they lead the survivors to rebuild the ruined city of Dragonholm. Upgrading the city provides various benefits to resource production and is necessary to progress the story.
That was not, however, enough to make me care about it. It’s functionally the same system that many mobile strategy games have, with linear and very incremental progression. You don’t choose where anything goes or even really what to build. I based my construction and upgrade choices on whatever I arbitrarily needed to unlock the next level of my Stronghold. I only bothered with that since it increases heroes’ maximum levels and opens more of the mission tree. However, the whole thing still just feels like busy work. It’s not so much enabling the core gameplay as holding it hostage.
Battles in Age of Frostfall are real-time and revolve around protecting one or more structures from waves of Unmelted assault. Players can deploy up to three heroes in battle, each commanding a small force of nine soldiers. The Hero’s class determines the kind of soldiers, which include Swordsmen, Spearmen, Marksmen and Horsemen. Spearman are strong against Swordsman, whose shields give them an advantage against Marksman, whose range gives them an edge fighting Spearman. Horsemen deal significant damage and have a decent defense rating but are the rarest type by far as only one Hero provides them.
Swords in the Snow
Age of Frostfall’s battles take place on maps typically representing a small, fortified settlement. Most stages consist of two or three levels separated by stairs and other chokepoints. Three heroes can’t always cover every entrance, so players constantly need to reshuffle their forces in response to new threats. Randomly spawning powerups also heal the player’s troops or regenerate Heroes’ special albites. However, players must decide whether sending troops to collect them is worth compromising their defensive line.
The real-time combat is fun and fast-paced, though the stages are small and shorter than I would have liked. There also aren’t that many unique maps to go around, so players will visit the same locations quite often. Nevertheless, I still liked it overall; I just think there should have been more of it. One of my favorite parts of the game was the Shadow Sanctuary, which strings four standard stages together.
Overall, I didn’t hate Age of Frostfall, and there were a few parts I really liked. I was reasonably invested in the story, though I was disappointed that its atmospheric opening chapters aren’t indicative of the whole game. The real-time strategy gameplay was simple but fun, and it’s no wonder the latter featured so heavily in Age of Frostfall’s marketing. My biggest criticism is that I wish the game offered more opportunities to engage with it.
Is It Hardcore?
Age of Frostfall has some good gameplay and storytelling at its core, but everything else just feels like it’s getting in the way.