Frozen Hearth: RTS, RPG and MOBA in one indie gem

By Brenna Hillier, Wednesday, 21 November 2012 08:19 GMT

Brenna Hillier wandered approximately 800 metres from her own front door to discover an indie treasure. Come warm yourself at Epiphany Games’ Frozen Hearth.

Frozen Hearth

A fast-paced RTS developed by Sydney-based indie Epiphany Games.

Fully playable in single-player, but designed with two-player co-op in mind, with 20 maps.

Backed by German and Thai publisher Immanitas Entertainment.

The first chapter of an ongoing saga set in the world of Ámorrá; Frozen Hearth acts as a prequel to a planned MMORPG.

Will be supported by simple but powerful mod tools allowing for full scripting, even without programming skills.

Official Website. Frozen Hearth on Facebook. Frozen Hearth on Greenlight.

Ámorrá is a dark fantasy, Celtic and Gaelic-inspired world setting created by Sydney’s Epiphany Games. It’s a harsh world, one in which a hardy race of warriors, the Danaan, is faced with the possibility of extinction at the hands of the Shangur. Driven on by a relentlessly advancing wall of magical ice, the Shangur spread cold entropy before them, and the Danaan must fight, or die – or fight and die, as is more likely.

This is the set up for Frozen Hearth, an all new RTS with RPG elements introducing the world setting ahead of its proliferation into other titles, including an MMORPG. It’s a compelling story, with a very real threat – the advance of an ice age – behind its mythical leanings, and it’s not hard to sympathise with the Danaan even as in-fighting threatens their chances at survival.

In my hands-on session with Frozen Hearth, I experienced this in-fighting first hand – quite literally. The tutorial level which opens the story campaign had me choosing a hero from one of a number of classes and variants, giving me access to a wide variety of configurations even before I had access to level my skill tree, and then taking this hero to smash another member of the media.

I know my RTS strengths (none) so I chose the most tankable character and took a wave of fodder with me to meet my foe; my HP outlasted his DPS-focused build as my legion of cheap archers, powered by a collection of captured map points, tapped away at his health, leaving me victorious. But moments later he was back, and this time fighting by my side, as we faced down a common foe.

The environment we fought in had several obvious funnels but positioning my units was tricky nevertheless. The Shangur spread ice before them – it’s hard not to make comparisons to the Zerg or WarCraft’s undead – which slows player movement, and avoiding these hazards – or removing them – while facing down relentless waves of attack was not easy.

This is not a game designed for noobs; it feels more like a loving iteration on the RTS and MOBA theme by hardcore fans of the genres. I struggled to keep up, and later, while playing a multiplayer game versus one of the developers, felt completely lost. Don’t let that put you off, though; as a general rule of thumb, the less Brenna Hillier understands about a strategy game the more orgasmic it appears to hardened veterans, and I was assured that the story campaign takes its time in introducing new units and combinations.

Although the mechanics of building up a hero character to be the heart of your army is a familiar one, Frozen Hearth offers another neat feature – base building. Players begin with an empty home structure capable of only the most basic functions, and then kit it out with various upgrades. rather than scattering your structures around the map, you’re limited to just six, and must position them in the wings of your base. You’ll have to purchase a certain number of basic structures before you can access later ones, and each offers a variety of upgrades and research items for the units it produces, or in some cases, your hero or whole army.

With two factions, each with a wide variety of hero characters, and plenty of co-operative and competitive multiplayer modes available both through LAN or online, Frozen Hearth packs in a huge amount of content even apart from its 20 level story campaign. But Epiphany isn’t satisfied with this already promising package; it plans to release a set of mod tools which, in the right hands, should be able to transform the basic game systems and assets into a wide variety of new play styles.

Frozen Hearth is now available for pre-order on GamersGate at 10% off, with bonus soundtrack and artbook in digital format. It is expected on November 29 for €19.99/$24.99 USD/£16.99.

Disclaimer: Epiphany Games is currently partnered on an unrelated project with a developer founded by two chaps I am pals with.

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