By: Jeff Cater
The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse is one of the latest movie franchise tie-ins to grace our consoles. Usually, that’s frequently a very easy nail to place into a coffin for a game because they generally butcher the source material and/or lack innovative or interesting gameplay mechanics.
Such is the case with Winter’s Curse, a game that takes place in the same universe as the recent Universal Studios movie but features a unique story that actually has little-to-nothing to do with the film. Here, our protagonist Elizabeth finds that her brothers have gone missing, and she sets out on a dark and dangerous journey to uncover any clues as to what may have happened to them.
The game features turn-based combat with very light (and sometimes confusing) RPG elements. Through the adventure you will find new cards you can add to Elizabeth’s move repertoire, but most of the attacks look exactly the same and simply inflict different debuffs to enemies. Different characters that you’ll get to tag along with Elizabeth do feature different attacks and abilities as well, but they also suffer from a bad case of the “sames.”
In regards to the repetitive animations, they completely take you by surprise. While simply staring at the attack screen, The Huntsman looks wonderful with characters that idly breathe in a smooth, interesting way. As soon as you attack, however, rather than being treated to equally beautiful animations we’re given literally one frame. It made me say aloud, “…that it?”
That lack of impact during combat made it boring rather quickly, and I quit caring about really sprucing up anyone’s gear or abilities. Considering how fast the attacks display, the game sure takes its sweet time moving onto the next character. Rather than just letting the next person/creature make their move, a timeline is displayed at the top of the screen with the current turn order. Someone makes a move, and the portraits slooooooowly make their way to the other end of the meter. Ugh.
Upgrading abilities and assigning new pieces of equipment is weird. It’s not easy to tell what you’re actually assigning or removing from your character’s inventory because of the lack of any confirmation when placing items. Same goes when adding skill points — it’s just difficult to discern whether or not you’ve actually assigned the point correctly or not.
The story unwinds like a digital graphic novel, with pounds of dialogue to sift through. I’m not sure if it’s the dreary color palette in the game, but the dialogue can be tiring. It may have something to do with the underwhelming soundtrack. At times during the story, Elizabeth can make a decision on what to do next, but with no audible dialogue and sub-par soundtrack, the true impact of those decisions is difficult to observe.
This remains the case throughout the game’s five chapters, so getting through the whole game might be a bit of a chore. Each chapter is an about an hour, which would feel much more like a punishment if not for the surprisingly snappy writing. Elizabeth is quite the pessimist most of the time, and many of the encounters with other characters in the story lend a surprising amount of humor.
The Huntsman: Winter’s Curse feels like a game that could have been a lot more. It could have used a bit more work to make the inventory and skill management friendlier, and maybe spruce up the soundtrack and add some spoken dialogue to make the experience more welcoming. As it stands, it’s a hard game to recommend, which is unfortunate because it’s wonderfully written but just not well executed.