Draugen (PC) Review

By Ofisil 15.06.2019

Review for Draugen on PC

Ragnar Tørnquist is a very talented creator; an artist with a subtly unique style, as well as a tendency to bite more that he can chew, evident by his, rough around the ages, The Longest Journey/Dreamfall saga. This time around, rather than an adventure of epic proportions that deals with parallel dimensions, and other, even weirder stuff, Tørnquist chose to offer something less ambitious, in the form of a missing person/mystery whodunit, with a pretty strong Norwegian aroma, where, once again, the mundane meets with the supernatural... or is it? Enter the untrustworthy world of Draugen, and decide for yourself what is real and what's not.

The adventure opens with the protagonist duo approaching a mining village by boat; a village which seems to be inside the bowels of a titanic fjord. Now, Draugen was co-funded by the Norwegian Film Institute, but it should probably be fully-funded from the country's ministry of tourism, because, from the unbelievably blue, tranquil waters, to the autumn-coloured village in the distance, and the towering rocks around it, this looks absolutely stunning.

The coastal microcosm you'll explore through the eyes a man known as Edward, is beautiful, and has an atmosphere that's hard to describe. Ever paid a visit to the countryside, and came upon a place with a magical, "dreamy" vibe? That's exactly how this feels. Alice, Edward's... something, doesn't exactly fit that well between all that realism, as her animation quality is nowhere near a title with the same production values as something like, say, Hellblade, but that's ok.

Screenshot for Draugen on PC

What's not ok, is the fact that you won't get a chance to see much in here. Draugen isn't exactly a traditional adventure game, but a narrative-driven walking simulator of sorts; one where you'll spend the majority of your time searching for clues on where to go next, with little freedom given to you - if any. In conclusion, you can't stray far from the path. At least, is the path any interesting? More importantly, why are you here?

This begins as a search for a missing person, namely, Edward's sister, Betty, during the process of which he'll discover of the darkness that fell on this, seemingly peaceful place, which somehow ended with its inhabitants deserting it. In reality, however, this is more of a psychological thriller that revolves around someone who turns out to be quite the unreliable narrator; a tale that deals more with the darkness within him, instead of the world around him.

Admirably, while this isn't a horror title, it can almost feel very much like one, mainly because of the uncertainty behind it all. Was this door slammed shut by the air, or by someone else? Is that shadow really a shadow, or is it someone spying on you? The facts clearly show that you are alone - are you, though? Are these objects, the hat, the gloves, the scarf, really Betty's, or Edward's, almost scary, obsession with finding her leads him to imagine things?

Screenshot for Draugen on PC

Sadly, Draugen ruins all that by not managing to avoid the problems of the walking sim "genre," the first being that there's not much to do, observe, and ponder on, which, for an adventure that'll only take two to three hours of your life, is quite the big issue. Come to think of it, the few things that can be done here feel more like chores, and their only purpose is to add a few more minutes to Edward's mission, with needless tasks such as picking up a bunch of scattered pages in a room.

This would really benefit from having less of that kind of "gameplay," and more from strengthening its already powerful, aura of mystery and ambiguity, and by focusing in exploration and conversations with Alice - the jolly girl that's the only thing that keeps you from falling asleep, as this is quite the slow-paced game. Which leads us to the second problem: the fact that these two aren't really that interesting as characters.

Edward and Alice are supposed to be a yin-yang couple. The first is a middle-aged, overly cautious weakling, whose only concern is to find his sister, and Alice is a young, cute, teenage tomboy, with a knack for adventure, and, of course, for teasing 'Teddy.' A promising dyad? Sure. The sad eality? Alice is just you "quest giver." She points at the general direction of where you should go next, and every now and then, makes comments about the current state of affairs.

Screenshot for Draugen on PC

Unfortunately, without the mystery surrounding those two, and the predicament they are into, both end up being just a few steps above forgettable. There are occasional moments of brilliance, especially near the end, where they decide to be less one-dimensional, but, in all honesty, these never manage to make you truly connect with them. Is it because of the mediocre writing, the humdrum voice-acting, the uneven pacing, or simply all these combined?

It's really a shame, first, because the one behind this has actually created some fantastic characters, with one example being April Ryan from The Longest Journey (one of the best female videogame characters ever), and, secondly, because Simon Poole's magnificent score is gone to waste, as those deeply emotive string and piano-filled tunes, and folk song-like vocals feel like they could very well be used at some pretty strong moments; moments that never really come.

In conclusion, while there are far worse ways to waste three hours (or less), the content on offer just doesn't ever manage to justify the price of admission. The visuals are awesome, the music is excellent, and the mystery behind it all is enough to provide some amount of fun... but that's not enough. Draugen is way too short, with way too little to do, and two characters that never really reach their true potential.

Screenshot for Draugen on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Draugen is not bad, just disappointingly... mediocre-to-decent, when it could be so much more. The whole noir mystery narrated by an unreliable protagonist thing definitely manages to spark some interest, but this never really becomes the engrossing tale it wants to be. Forget the marvellously rendered Norwegian landscape, and the magical music that keeps it company. What lies underneath is just an okay-ish, walking simulator.

Developer

Red Thread Games

Publisher

Red Thread Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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