Draugen from Red Thread Games
There’s nothing like a game set in a small town. I for one like games set in such a place; it creates an aura of mystery from the outset. Since small. unfamiliar towns can exude mystery in of themselves, they become even more captivating when they are shrouded in even more drama.
Draugen by Red Thread Games uses the setting of a small town to tell a story about a missing person and a place that’s hiding a morbidly strange past.
The protagonist is Edward Harden, and he is accompanied by his ward Lissie on a journey to find his missing sister. The game starts at their arrival at Graavik, a small, seemingly abandoned Norwegian town. As I explored the town, I started to uncover the mystery behind the town itself and why it’s seemingly abandoned.
As I walked around I would come across clues in the environment that would unveil what could have possibly happened. As you can tell, I don’t want to reveal too much about the game’s narrative, but I’ll do my best to discuss the bare minimum. But I recommend you go into this game not knowing more than what I talk about below because its narrative is its main draw.
The narrative was great about giving me an engaging – at times unnerving – mystery to solve. The main mystery revolves around Graavik and how it relates to Edward’s missing sister. Since the game is very narrative-focused, I feel that towards the end I can see how its conclusion can be divisive.
The ending of the game takes some interesting turns, turns that I personally enjoyed that could irk those looking for a more concrete, less vague finale. Overall, the narrative does a wonderful job of letting you piece things together but also reveals enough so that you’re not lost when it comes to most of the game’s mystery.
On this journey, I was accompanied by Lissie, a plucky, energetic character who serves as a nice counterbalance to Edward. Edward’s obsession with finding his sister, mixed in with the seemingly conflicted relationship he has with Lissie, made it an even more intriguing narrative journey. Edward is a complex character to play as, and the writing did a superb job of making him believable.
I don’t want to reveal much about his character, but needless to say by the end of the game I legitimately cared about him. What also helped sell these characters was the fantastic voice acting across the board; the vocal actors artistically deliver performances with nuance and emotion that make them come to life.
I Get Around
The mechanics of the game will have you walking around and interacting with objects, much like the game Gone Home. For example, I see something in the environment and I can comment about it to Lissie, which activates dialogue that further elaborates on the mystery of this place, its inhabitants or Edward’s character.
The mechanics of exploring Graavik, picking up objects, and interacting with Lissie accounts for most of what I did in this game, and it’s what pushes the narrative forward. There are no puzzles or combat, as it’s more focused on delivering its linear three-hour-long narrative.
Draugen’s linear design did feel like a hindrance at times. There were instances where I couldn’t interact with new objects I found because I could only interact with them later on in the game, like I had not reached the point in the narrative where the object was necessary. So don’t expect a whole lot of exploration or freedom to openly sleuth. But that being said, I didn’t mind the linear nature of the game because I was hooked by the game’s enthralling narrative.
The mystery behind Graavik is also sold thanks to the game’s top-notch visuals. Textures have great detail, and Lissie’s facial animations properly convey a wide range of emotions. When exploring, I’d find handwritten notes in cursive, drawings from a child, and newspaper clippings, all executed expertly to make its world feel believable.
This abandoned town has the right amount of subtlety, realistically conveying lived-in spaces. The town’s store has broken bottles on the ground and pictures on its walls. Graavik, as a result, has a lot of depth and exploring it was more enjoyable as a result.
The Beautiful Evocation of Dread and Drudgery
I knew I was in for a fantastic soundtrack as soon as I booted up the game and just sat there listening to the main menu music. The music is my favorite component of this game. It does so much to evoke certain moods, to instill fear or evoke elation. It makes particular tense scenes even eerier thanks to cellos, violins, ethereal vocals and somber piano chords.
It’s a perfect soundtrack that melds wonderfully with the game’s mysterious yet unsettling narrative. It also was performed by a live orchestra, making every track feel full and resplendent. It’s one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in years.
Draugen does so much well to deliver a captivating narrative. From the game’s music to its narrative depth, I found myself liking a lot of elements of this game. Its narrative can be divisive and its linearity somewhat limiting, but those looking for a psychologically infused small-town mystery should definitely check this one out.
Draugen is available via Steam and GOG.
Check out the official trailer for Draugen below: