Two words that always strike dread into my gaming heart are that of roguelike and roguelite. So when a new game appears on the horizon promising to be one of these, I’m obviously the best placed to take on the challenge.
That game is Warm Snow from those at bilibili Game/BadMud Studio and Microids. But to help increase the interest levels, whilst it may be an action roguelike, it does come with an ancient Chinese twist.
It always helps to have a story that goes along with the action on the screen, and luckily Warm Snow has us covered. It is the year 27 of the Longwu era, and a strange warm snow that refuses to melt begins to fall. This is not actually snow, as is soon found out when these flakes start to turn people into monsters. It appears the gods have decided that the five ruling houses, who are meant to protect the world from corruption, have themselves become corrupt, and so the path is set for a lone swordsman (i.e. us) to take on the baddies and save the world. Why it is always a lone swordsman rather than a whole army I don’t know!
Anyway, we, as Bi An, a mysterious warrior, have to bring the pain using a variety of pointy implements and restore order. What could possibly go wrong?
Presentation wise, the art style of the game is based on that of ancient silk paintings; it is very nice indeed. The blurb for Warm Snow claims that this style brings “poetry and elegance” to the game world, and it is hard to argue with that, as it all works very well.
The game looks great, both when in motion or when just admiring the backdrops. The animation is also top notch. This certainly helps in keeping you alive, as you are never in any doubt as to what the enemies are doing, and suitable action can be taken. The action is viewed from a more or less top-down perspective, and the arenas that we fight in are quite large and sprawling. The enemy designs are equally varied, from wolves and pigs to giant screen filling bosses. Again, their individual designs are pretty unique.
Sound is a good point too, with lovely music playing over the menu screens. The rest of the time the soundscape is filled with the sounds of combat and dismemberment. All in all, nothing to complain about here!
Taking to the action and we will clear one thing up first – you will die in Warm Snow. In fact, you will die a lot. That’s fine though as that dying is a part of the lifecycle of the game – if you fall, you can upgrade your character with permanent stat buffs that then make the next attempt easier. All before rinsing and repeating. So far, so roguelike, right? Well, starting again right back at the beginning every single time does get a bit tiresome, but soon you will be whizzing through the early levels, finding yourself in better shape to take on the rest of the game. Being able to upgrade things like how many healing flasks you have at your disposal is great, whilst going equipped with more health or doing increased damage is even better. There’s also the chance to unlock skills such as upgrading relics that you find. Choosing where to spend your hard earned points is never easy.
At its heart, Warm Snow is a slasher, as we are armed not only with a main sword, but come with the ability to carry and control seven flying swords. These swords can be controlled and fired at will, or, if you choose a certain skill at the start of each run, they can be fired automatically as you attack. They can also be recalled or sheathed; but beware of the cooldown, as sometimes having no flying swords left can handicap you.
When I say sometimes, that is because of the game’s loot system and the way that new items are gained. You see, each run of Warm Snow is different, with various loot and relics to find. As you go through the game, there are different paths to take at the end of each level, and there is usually a symbol on the ground to tell you what awaits at the end of the next level. This can be a new weapon, a powerful foe, or even new skills to find and equip.
The skills are pretty useful, giving different powers, but the big game changers are the weapons and the relics that you find. You can only have one weapon equipped at a time, and surplus ones can be broken down into souls – the currency of Warm Snow. Relics, however, allow you to equip up to four, and depending on where you put them, they can have a very different effect. For instance, one particular relic allows you to summon poison clouds every five seconds while it is equipped, while others grant you fire or lightning powers, and so on and so forth. Finding a loadout that works for you is great, but it is in the hands of RNG, so it can be tricky. Even the lady who sells relics will only offer you a random one, but you can usually make a good system out of the things that you find.
The sheer amount of customisation found in Warm Snow is pretty breathtaking. There are a number of relics to find, a vast array of weapons to use, and more skills than you can shake a stick at. And you will need them as Warm Snow is completely merciless. Neatly, Warm Snow doesn’t give up its achievements easily either, so be prepared for a long haul if you are a completionist.
All in all, Warm Snow will go a long way towards curing you of any roguelike phobia. In fact, you’ll have a blast running around and slicing things up. If you like a roguelike this is an easy sell, but even if you don’t, I urge you to give Warm Snow a try – there is something special about it that will just keep you playing.