Draugen Review: Draggin' Through a Beautiful World
A small-town idyllic life amongst the mountains of Norway is an appealing thought. One away from the hustle and bustle of modern-day life, from the pollution and noise of the city, and devoid of your normal stressors. Rather than worry about getting to work on time, you can become part of a small community; all working together for the good of each other in an almost utopian setting.
Draugen has you heading to a sleepy village in search of your sister. You arrive by rowboat with your trusty companion Lissie, an intensely free spirit who is just along for the adventure of it all. You moor your little boat in a small dock in Graavik and go to meet a family you’ve been in contact with.
There is a problem though — as there often is — there is nobody home. It isn’t just the family that you’ve been in contact with though, the entire town seems to be missing. The seemingly simple task of finding your sister is made infinitely more complex by this peculiar occurrence. How can you find your sister when there is nobody to talk to?
This is the core concept of Draugen and is the story you’ll be following as you walk through this sleepy village. By interacting with various points of interest and objects you get to uncover more of this strange tale and get closer to the truth. Thankfully, the game is absolutely beautiful to both look at and listen to. The scenery will have you wishing you could just jump into the world and unwind, while the music does a brilliant job of setting the scene.
The voice acting is good too, not only do the characters feel believable, but they do an excellent job of mixing languages and feeling as though they are real. One stand out moment for me came when in a heated discussion with Lissie. I was looking around the room to see what else I could interact with when I heard “Please look at me when I’m talking.” It snapped me out of what I was doing, and I actually felt quite rude.
It’s the kind of thing that Draugen does quite well and it results in things feeling a bit more personal than they would otherwise. Lissie interacts with the protagonist in a natural and charming way, which makes it all the worse because the protagonist isn’t all that likeable. He is short-tempered, abrupt, and cold-hearted for the most part.
While it makes some sense in the context of what’s going on — you would be tense if you were trying to find a missing sibling — it feels a bit out of place given the mystery that Draugen presents you with. One missing person is stressful, but if you found that an entire village was missing wouldn’t your perspective change?
There is some discussion on mental health in Draugen, but it all feels a little bit off. The way it portrays it just doesn’t sit right. Just because somebody suffers with mental health issues, doesn’t mean they are going to be unpleasant, yet there are several moments where it feels as though that’s what the game believes. It mars the story somewhat because it feels outdated.
The story itself is told in an intriguing slow roll, one which you can elaborate on as you go by exploring the village. It starts off pretty well thanks to the gorgeous setting and fascinating sense of mystery. The world is strikingly beautiful but also deeply unsettling which draws you in and keeps you invested in everything you see and hear. Things fall apart towards the end though unfortunately due to a mix of peculiar pacing and a somewhat lackluster ending.
- Beautifully realized world
- Fantastic sense of foreboding and genuinely unsettling atmosphere
- The interactions with Lissie are stellar
- Lackluster latter half
- It feels as though it is setting up a series rather than just standing on its own
Draugen is a good game that slowly transitions into being a perplexing one around halfway through. It’s interesting, but not always in a good way. This lack of consistency is fine in something like peanut butter, but it is a bit disappointing in a video game.
The world and characters are intriguing, but it almost feels as though it’s a prologue for a bigger game.
[Note: A copy of Draugen was provided by Red Thread Games for the purpose of this review.]