Draugen – Review
In Draugen, the search for your missing sister has led you and your ward to quaint, rural Norway. What mysteries await? Here’s what we think.
Draugen has a way of playing coy with you before you’ve even bought the game. You’re never really sure of what it’s going to be about, and that uncertainty is an ever-present factor through much of the walking and talking that this game involves. Questions outnumber answers, and mysteries multiply. Is it sinister? Is it something lighter? Is it going to throw a curveball at you?
In Draugen, you play as Edward Charles Harden—an American bookworm who finds himself travelling to a Norwegian village in search of his missing sister Betty. The man’s a bore. Thankfully, he’s accompanied by his much more bubbly and vivacious ward, Lissie. She, on the other hand, is a delight.
Upon arriving in the village of Graavik, Edward and Lissie find another mystery afoot. The locals are missing and their houses are abandoned. Imagine that, two mysteries for the price of one! And as you investigate the town, peering into the fossils of local life, you’ll find even more mysteries to chip away at.
The first thing that really hits you about Draugen is that the village of Graavik might be one of the most picturesque environments painted in a video game. Once the clouds of the initial day pass on and the sun hits the fjord, you encounter a harmonious medley of vibrant, spellbinding colours. It’s the perfect foil to a ghost town that’s riddled with mysteries.
The nature of the game makes it so that revealing anything about the game’s mysteries would be a spoiler. The game holds those twists and revelations close to heart, so it’d be a real shame if you did somehow discover them beforehand.
What I can talk about, is that a good bit of Draugen is sadly, predictable.
Early in the game, you’ll start forming your theories on what’s going on; and because the game never distracts you well enough, you’ll come up with enough theories that at least one is bound to hit its mark.
Where the game did succeed in keeping my attention, apart from the visuals, was with the impeccable voice acting of Nicholas Boulton and Skye Bennett, who play Edward and Lissie respectively. Both are natural in the roles and pleasant to listen to, and they do much to elevate the game.
Draugen’s dialogue is largely a ping-pong between Edward’s stodginess and Lissie’s imaginative enthusiasm. Before the game is wrapped up, you’ll learn a lot more about both; and you will also find that both are well-defined characters who surpass their basic nature.
The game uses its 1920s setting to great effect and Lissie’s lines in particular are peppered with brilliant American slang of that era. Over the course of the game, Edward gets called a wet blanket, an old bean, an old sport, a silly goose, and more terms that I didn’t note. ‘Applesauce’ is an exclamation, and ‘noodle juice’ stands for tea. We need to bring these terms back.
By the time Draugen wrapped up, I felt a little melancholy that the game only seemed to scratch the surface of every story strand it explored. Its handling of one particular core topic seems well-intentioned, empathetic, and even nuanced, but otherwise leaves much to be desired.
There may not be a satisfactory ending to Draugen, but there also doesn’t seem to be a satisfactory game here, even after the artistry of its presentation and the uniqueness of its set-up.
After all is said and done, Draugen feels like a beautifully-crafted, but unnecessary, prologue to whatever story lies ahead of it. It’s worth a spin, most of all for its short playtime and gorgeous presentation, but least of all for its actual mysteries.
Developer: Red Thread Games
Country of Origin: Norway
Publisher: Red Thread Games
Release Date: 29 May 2019 (PC, Mac, Linux), TBA (PS4, Xbox One)
This review of Draugen is based on a copy provided by the developer.
WHAT DID IND13 THINK?
THREE OUT OF FIVE STARS
Draugen has mysteries in spades, but what you’ll really take home are the beautiful visuals and strong performances.