Wildfrost combines the mind games of card battles with the unforgiving difficulty of a roguelike in a unique and addicting game. It has a very fun and cute art style, as well as a fairly simple system. But just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it lacks depth. It’s easy to grasp, but difficult to get the hang of. With its daily challenges and progression system, it’s easy to sink hours into Wildfrost without even noticing how much time has passed.
There is no real narrative or meaningful characterization in the game. But that’s fine, because the main selling point of Wildfrost is its gameplay. Every run has you choosing from three randomly generated leaders. These leaders can come from three different tribes that have their own strengths and weaknesses. I personally enjoyed Shademancers the most, due to their summoning mechanics and the Tar Blade. Every turn, you can play a card to attack an enemy, summon an ally, or support your characters. A counter at the bottom of every card denotes how many turns are left before they attack. Various cards can have different passive effects, as well as active ones that buff or debuff other cards. You automatically lose if your leader dies.
Like I said earlier, the battle system in Wildfrost is very simple. It doesn’t take long to understand all the different numbers and card types. But what I found difficult is the game balance. It felt very skewed in the enemies’ favor. Granted, the game should be hard. But sometimes, it was simply ridiculous. Not all of the passives that you can build your deck around are viable. For example, my healing-focused deck got obliterated against a Shell one. I found that a deck that allows you to passively inflict Shroom (poison) was really the most viable way to get through the game. But whether or not you can even get a viable Shroom deck going really depends on RNG. Of the probably thirty or so runs I did for this review, I was only lucky enough to start with a Shroom leader twice.
The way that Wildfrost amps up its difficulty also feels artificial. Battles become harder only because the game throws more beefy enemies at you. Lots of games do that, but where Wildfrost can get a little frustrating is how little agency I have as a player. Remember: everything is completely up to the RNG. Lots of runs ended prematurely because it was virtually impossible to kill the enemies due to a bad match-up. Without aggressively utilizing status effects, some of the later encounters feel impossible. I kind of wished that there was a larger window before reinforcements would arrive or that there were more chances to power up your deck. Personally, I found it closer to “masocore” than just a roguelike, because it was really a slog to push through a run I knew was doomed from the start because my starting pull was bad.
So far though, I’ve liked what I’ve seen in Wildfrost. I’m a big fan of how cute the art is in this otherwise brutal game. Plus, it was really easy to just pick up and play. But I wish that the game allowed me to refresh my options in the beginning or made expanding Snowdwell feel a bit more rewarding. I enjoyed unlocking new cards, but there was never much fanfare. I also wished I could use leftover bling instead of accomplishments to add more cards to the hub. You really needed to get lucky with RNG to get the necessary cards. Nonetheless, Wildfrost is a game as beautiful, cruel, and cold as its sunless environment. Players going in will have to prepare to sink hours into building their dream deck… and punching their pillow.
Wildfrost is available on the Nintendo Switch and Windows PC via Steam.