It’s not easy being a paramilitary dictator on a train carrying some of humanity’s last survivors through an icy tundra, but somehow I make it work. That being said, this new - and free - roguelike deckbuilder, Frostrain, is far from an easy ride.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world not so dissimilar to the graphic novel Snowpiercer, you’re aboard a sturdy and seemingly unstoppable train as it surges through various landscapes that switch between frozen and toxic. On this train, you don’t deal in water or food; it’s happiness that’ll keep you and the survivors going.
At the top of your screen, you’ll see a happiness meter, which will help keep track of your passenger's mood. However, every few cycles, which can increase or decrease in length depending on perks, a chunk of happiness will be automatically taken off your meter, and hostile environments will drain it as well. These procedures are built to slow you down and will send you to an early grave if that all-important happiness reaches zero. It’s imperative to have a constant and high supply of smiles if you want to survive.
To do so, you must strengthen, expand, and build synergies between the carriages to keep everyone who joins the ride to the mysterious and elusive paradise at the end of the tracks happy. This can be done by collecting cards which double as train carriages. These carriages are split into various categories like security, entertainment, and education, and having multiples of certain types provides perks that help boost morale, but as you only have space for a few at a time, you need to be picky with what you take on the rails with you.
After a bloody and very hostile uprising, I was appointed leader and given the unenviable task of both driving the train and keeping its passengers happy. As the chosen leader, I made it my mission to choose a path that would explore every inch of the post-apocalyptic landscape in hopes of finding the key to survival and potentially new materials that could sustain us until then. Easier said than done.
The further you travel through the frosty wasteland, the more discontent your passengers become. While you can try to circumvent the gruesome outcome of their rage by switching train carriages and boosting perks, the best way to ensure the happiness of your fellow commuters is simply to get through the frosty landscape as quickly as possible. This will allow you to reach small settlements that usually reward you with new cards or special additions to your train, such as a propaganda center which can help trick your unhappy commuters into bearing with you a little while longer.
You’ll also want to do your best to avoid the icy winds that chase you down, as well as the toxic wastelands that lie in your path. These sorts of issues will only infuriate your passengers. In an attempt to discover all the secrets of this tundra, I doubled back on myself, getting everyone caught in the brutal storm. That was the first strike; a disgruntled group of riders knocked my door down, and with a gun to my head, I begged for a stay of execution, which I was granted. Then there was the toxic wastelands, which will take a good chunk of happiness off your reserves. This lifeless landscape also led to another uprising, which nearly got me thrown out into the fluorescent green cesspools.
So, while I did manage to straddle the line of the usurper and usurped for around 40 days, eventually, my time ran out, and the hordes returned. As a result, I was swiftly taken care of, and I can only assume that another poor soul took my place.
Brutal yet fun
Like most roguelike deckbuilders, Frostrain has quite a rapid difficulty spike, as things can get bad very quickly. But this brutality didn’t dissuade me from diving right back in after I was thrown out into the snow.
Thanks to its simple premise and beautiful visuals, getting beaten up and left for dead doesn’t seem too bad. As long as you try to switch up your plans and tactics after each round, you’ll soon be able to figure out what works for you best and which route will be the least perilous. I was able to get that step closer to victory after each run, and while I’m still not quite there yet, I’m sure that with a little bit of perseverance and a lot of begging, I’ll be able to make it in no time.
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Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications.
Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.