Don’t be fooled. Wildfrost may have a cute and charming art style, but that is not reflective of the brutal difficulty of this game. You will likely find yourself rolling along, having a good time, right before getting demolished in a boss fight.
Wildfrost is a deck-building roguelike set in a post-apocalyptic frozen tundra and developed by Chucklefish. At the time of writing this, Wildfrost is only available for the PC, Mac and Nintendo Switch.
For anyone who has played Slay the Spire, this game plays similarly to that, in some aspects.
Background of the Story
The “Wildfrost” in-game is a vicious snowstorm that has wreaked havoc on the tribes of the world. It soon spread to cover all areas of the land. It is widely believed that the storm has an unnatural source.
Many adventurers have tried to venture out and seek an end to this storm, but all have fallen short and succumbed to the violent conditions. You need to assemble teams to find and stop the source of the storm.
The objective of the game is relatively simple; to battle your way through a series of increasingly difficult enemies while upgrading your deck along the way. At the start of a playthrough you choose a leader from a different variety of tribes, each leader will have randomized stats and skills.
There is a decent amount of replayability, where you need to keep completing runs as they get progressively harder. Eventually, you will be able to take on the final boss.
The Leader system in Wildfrost is where I believe this game really shines. The leader options you can choose are randomized, and you will never see the same exact leader twice.
Your health and base attack will be randomized as well as abilities that can range from snow (which freezes enemy turn meter), poison, damage reduction and even healing. You can also rename the leaders, giving them a personal touch.
You will find new companions for your deck with similar abilities, but it appears they are not randomized like the leaders. This is a slight disappointment especially given that you will be seeing a lot of the same companions, which can get repetitive.
Aside from this all the leaders look and feel great. If a Companion dies, they will become injured in the next battle. This is a debuff to their stats, which are halved (rounded up). They can recover from injuries by either surviving the next battle or being put into Reserves.
If a leader is killed in battle, you will lose the run. This certainly adds to the strategy of the game and how you choose to use each character. This can be punishing, but I think the added strategy element more than makes up for this.
In Wildfrost, you spend most of your time in battle, and thankfully, it distinguishes itself from other deckbuilding games through its distinct gameplay mechanics.
Each unit card possesses its own attack counter that decreases every turn, signaling when the unit will initiate an attack. The frequency of attacks varies depending on the counter value, as some units may only attack once every few turns or in response to being attacked by an opponent.
By using item cards, players can strategically reduce the attack counter of friendly units or delay enemy attacks, thereby gaining an advantage on the battlefield.
Contrary to most deck-building games, there is no mana or energy.
In Wildfrost, the process of drawing cards differs from traditional card games. Rather than receiving a new hand of cards each turn, players have access to a redraw bell with its own timer. At the beginning of each battle, the redraw bell counter starts at four and counts down.
If you want to draw a new hand of cards before the counter reaches zero, you can ring the bell to do so, but you won’t be able to take any other actions during that turn. Once the counter reaches zero, you can draw a new hand of cards without any penalty.
You are able to move your leader and companions freely around to different positions, without using up your turn “action”, regardless of the lane they’re in.
You can also move companions to your discard pile, which fully heals them and will shuffle them back into your deck.
When you kill an enemy, they drop Bling, which is the currency of the game. Killing more than one enemy in one “sequence” will give you a kill combo. The more enemies you kill in a combo, the more Bling you are rewarded.
The enemy variety is also very good. Just looking through the enemy database in the game shows the vast enemy variety this game has to offer. It seems comparable if not greater than well-known games like Slay the Spire in terms of enemy variety.
Like the leaders, most of the enemies look great and have a lot of detail, but this is where their charm ends.
The biggest drawback of the game, in its current state, is the seemingly unstoppable enemies and punishing difficulty. Most unique enemies and bosses will have status effects that will match and even overpower your leaders. To go along with this many will have very high health and base damage to go along with this.
If that wasn’t enough, some bosses will have near-endless waves of powerful minions that will remove all hope of victory. Base cards in your deck, such as Scrappy Sword, deal a base damage of two. This and other base cards become quickly useless when bosses with 30+ HP start to roll around.
High difficulty isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it seems the game does not give you cards that will allow you to stand a real chance, adding to an imbalance in its current state. It should be noted the developers have said they will be releasing a balance patch in the near future of writing this.
Choose your path
While along your journey, you will be given the opportunity to upgrade your deck with new companions, cards, and items which can be applied to your companions. These are obtained through stops along your journey in the form of frozen companions, caves, treasures, and stores.
You are sometimes given the option to choose which path you want to take, which gives you flexibility depending on what your deck needs. For example, as seen above, I wanted to take the northern path with the Blingsnail Cave and the Frozen Travelers, but I could’ve taken the southern path with the Charm and Treasure.
Defeating enemies will give you money, which you can spend at the Wolly Snail shop.
During your journeys through the frozen wastelands, you will find pages that will help fill in the lore of the game.
Additionally, in each run, you will be completing challenges that unlock new items for future runs and unlock more buildings for your home base, Snowdwell.
As you progress through the game and complete more challenges, you can construct new buildings. These buildings and unlocks will help you get more tribes, cards, pets, companions, and charms, as well as help you progress more efficiently during runs. Also, some of the challenges unlock other cards and charms.
Snowdwell is essentially a central hub where you can unlock things, similar to that in Hades.
Furthermore, Wildfrost has a Daily Voyage mode. This mode provides players with a unique deck and a set of modifiers that change on a daily basis.
Players can aim to achieve the highest score of the day on a global leaderboard or compare their scores with friends, ensuring that the game remains engaging even after completing the main storyline.
The art style of Wildfrost is fantastic. It has a very cartoony and friendly theme. The colors are very vibrant and suit the atmosphere well.
If you only looked at the artwork not knowing it’s from a game, you would think it’s from a new show on Cartoon Network.
The animations are very smooth, and further enhance the immersion in the Wildfrost world. It is extremely well done.
The game’s audio is very solid. The soundtrack is simple but does the job. Much like Slay the Spire, the game’s sound design does a good job of immersing you in this cartoony and cold atmosphere.
There is nothing here particularly groundbreaking here, but you don’t really expect that from a deck-building game like Wildfrost.
If you are a fan of both deckbuilding and roguelikes, chances are you will enjoy Wildfrost. It clearly has many card mechanics and features that give the game a lot of potential. Veterans of the genre will also feel at home with the gold and shop system in the game, which allows you to add new cards and remove cards from your deck. The home base that is continually improved is a nice touch that adds a nice tangible reward for continued runs.
However, the current imbalance with the cards/leaders effects compared to the power of enemies can make the game frustrating and unwelcoming. This is disappointing as the game looks, runs, and feels great outside of this current imbalance. We are hoping the update to be released by the developers will be a great quality-of-life upgrade to the game.
Despite these issues, I do still recommend this game, especially at the fair price of $20. The game has enough promising features that I believe will pay off after an update or two. You can pick up the game today on the Nintendo Switch eShop, or on PC and Mac through the Steam store.
Also, be sure to check out our article on the best companions for Wildfrost!