In 2015, one of the first games I reviewed for TechRaptor was Icy, an indie RPG by developer Inner Void. The game was incredibly underwhelming, with convoluted menu and inventory systems, hackneyed dialogue and rough role-playing clichés juxtaposed to the fantastic setting of a frozen wasteland apocalypse. Icy, being a crowdfunded game, had a rough start for sure and the game's budget magnified its flaws tenfold.
To their credit, Inner Void revamped Icy for a 2017 rerelease as Icy: Frostbite Edition. A “special edition” of sorts, the game features major improvements to its overall design in the hopes to mitigate the massive flaws of the original title and the game succeeds in making Icy more accessible than it was before.
Most of the changes come from a change in the user interface and inventory systems. Characters now have specific equipment menus for weapons and armor, and a whole new inventory system to use special attacks and abilities with. The player character's statistics are intact but streamlined. Some statistics hit the chopping block, and the previously numerically based system now follows a standard rank and check/fail system, like the World of Darkness tabletop games.
Combat is no longer a game of percentages. Instead, players will pick what they will do based on their equipment. For example, certain types of body armor offer a chance to evade or increase defense from incoming attacks, and your ranks in one of the three weapon types will decide how many “!” spaces you get in your action line. The more “!” you have, the fewer actions you can take on your turn of combat. It is a back and forth affair then, where you combine different attacks for different effects, and in a way, it makes the combat more rewarding and less random.
Another change was the use of exploration. Instead of a pure open world, Icy: Frostbite Edition uses a more grid-based system, moving your characters like a chess piece across pre-determined spaces. This does drop the need to organically explore and scavenge the world but in its place, we get a more controlled risk/reward search engine. Sometimes we see the same vignettes we saw in the original release (animal attacks, building collapses, hidden items), other times it’s a simple fight or a success at scavenging items.
A lot of the changed features work to round out the edges of the original Icy release, but it does still fall into a monotonous trap. Grinding through different search points can yield a ton of resources to sell or use for yourself, but the massive tradeoff is the lack of challenge due to the ease of scavenging. New additions such as a basic crafting system and an inventory weight limit also compensate for the lack of exploring, but the game does lose a lot of the risks associated with it before thanks to the new map system. Unlike the first Icy, I was never in danger of running low on food, as designated forest areas would lead to abundant food that allowed me to keep going for a few more turns.
It is ultimately a trade-off between a cleaned-up interface and inventory system, or a messier presentation with arguably harder gameplay. Both sides have strengths and weaknesses, but in this area, the Frostbite Edition does feel superior as an experience compared to the original release. Unfortunately, the game’s biggest problem cannot be fixed, and it is the writing and narrative presented in the title.
Much of the criticism I have about the game's narrative is lifted wholly from my original review, and the text-adventure style is still severely lacking. The whole narrative focuses on a political game between survivors of an underground bunker known as Eden, where the player character is an amnesic from that bunker who spends the first half of the game in the wasteland.
The plot is understandably silly and clichéd in its own way and ironically takes little risks with their source material. It plays the situation with a straight face, attempting to make up drama for the player by giving them seemingly binary choices about your decisions. This same fate befalls a lot of the player's traveling companions, many of whom don’t go beyond their designated character trait and stay stereotyped throughout the adventure, making them feel flat and mostly inconsequential to the experience.
The side-content fares better, as it focuses on the world setting and human civilization in Icy. My favorite quest deals with the recovery of a bible in an abandoned church. These simple fetch quests steep themselves in in-game lore. For example, the bible is a religious artifact that's associated with a Cult that worships a working turbine windmill. The windmill has become a symbol of God, and the bible is a relic of his good words to give hope to the people.
It is a small quest that gives us context to the world in a way that isn't cheesy or steeped in serious cliché. Other side quests follow similar patterns, from helping workers defending a dig site from oncoming mutants to attempting to negotiate with other nomadic groups to avoid bloodshed. Icy does get these quests right, but they are often short and simple in their design while the main quest persists to the end of the game.
Inner Void has also worked hard to iron out a lot of the in-game bugs with the Frostbite Edition, but a few of them remain. One big one for me was a music bug that would have the games somewhat grating combat soundtrack loop outside of battle. Worse still, when it stopped it would leave the game in total silence, even losing sound effects in the process until you shut down the game and restart a save. It left a negative impression on the soundtrack and saw Icy lose a lot of its atmosphere, which was one of the game's strengths. It became almost a silent movie without a soundtrack, at times, and really highlighted the more monotonous aspects of the title.
It is hard to still justify a purchase for Icy: Frostbite Edition. What it does well it already achieved in the earlier version of the game, so the new additions and changes to the overall system are welcome ones that make the game bearable. Ultimately, the narrative still pulls it down, and while the Frostbite Edition of Icy is a more competent game than the first release, the final product still struggles to make a lasting impression. It also has a lot of competition with other indie RPGs out there, but Icy has little other than its setting to make it stand out. In the end, it’s just another average game on Steam, which might be worse than being truly terrible.
Our Icy: Frostbite Edition review was conducted over 7 hours on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developers.
While the Frostbite Edition of Icy is a more competent game than the first release, the final product here still struggles to make a lasting impression.(Review Policy)
- Improved Combat and User Interface...
- New Inventory and Crafting System...
- Excellent World and Side-Quests...
- ...Loss of In-Game Statistics and Challenge
- ...Bugs Still Plague the Title
- ...Boring Main Quest and Characters