There are two things that I really love in video games: a good mystery and some stunning picturesque sights. Draugen, the first-person narrative adventure (more commonly known as a ‘walking simulator’) from developer Red Thread Games, just so happens to offer both of these things, so I had to give it a play. I’m happy to report that it offers an intriguing and touching narrative too, though it’s one that’s a little bit too predictable to stand out amongst the genre’s best.
Draugen tells the tale of Edward Harden, a young man whose missing sister was supposedly seen in the Norwegian town of Graavik. After embarking there with his companion Lissie, he soon realises that something mysterious is going on, specifically because Graavik itself is seemingly deserted. It’s up to Edward to find out what’s going on, where Graavik’s townsfolk are, and whether or not his sister is still somewhere to be found.
It’s an intriguing and mysterious premise that certainly did enough to keep me invested in Draugen throughout its roughly three-hour playtime, but it was guilty of being a little predictable. The game’s clues can be very on the nose at times, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself turning sleuth and correctly predicting what twists-and-turns the narrative is going to take. That’s not to say it’s underwhelming though, with its handling of mental health issues both tasteful and presented in a way that actually complimented the plot; it just rarely offered anything too unexpected.
Gameplay-wise, you can expect to do a lot of exploring in Draugen, with the player searching through multiple locales across Graavik, uncovering documents and items that flesh out the narrative, and interacting with Lissie as they look to solve the mystery. Lissie gives you plenty of hints as to where you need to go so you’ll never veer from the correct path too often, whilst interactive objects are pretty clear so you shouldn’t miss anything either. You’ll also get to pick a few dialogue options during interactions, but they don’t affect how the story plays out so you don’t have to worry if you’re picking the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ response.
And that’s about it. Draugen isn’t a game that will have you perplexed with puzzles or putting your twitch-reaction skills to the test with platforming segments, but instead just tells an enjoyable story and lets you take in the luscious world around you in true ‘walking simulator’ fashion. It’s a formula that’s been successful in plenty of games in the past, with Firewatch and Gone Home proving to be good examples, and for the most part Draugen nails it here too.
However, it was missing that little spark of intrigue to completely draw me in. I was certainly invested in the game’s tale, but I wasn’t on the edge of my seat waiting for the many twists-and-turns that would wrap everything up (though that could be partially owed to the game’s aforementioned predictability). That’s not to say that I was left unsatisfied with how events played out and Draugen certainly tells a good story – it just won’t stick in my memory for a long time like other titles in the genre have.
On the other hand, some of the sights I encountered in Draugen will certainly stick with me for some time, with its idyllic Norwegian setting proving to be one of the most stunning I’ve seen in a video game for some time. Graavik is full to the brim with luscious sights to see, with the visuals hitting an incredibly high standard and adding a vibe of beauty to just about everything you do in the game. Whether you’re admiring the stunning vistas or taking in the sheer detail of the buildings you visit, you’re going to find yourself incredibly impressed with Draugen’s visuals.
Draugen tells a tale that’s both mysterious and emotional, whilst the stunning sights and intriguing locales certainly bring the adventure to life. However, it’s a little bit too predictable in design and lacking that special *something* to make it stand out as a great of the genre.
Fans of ‘walking simulators’ and a bit of mystery will certainly enjoy what they see in Draugen though, whilst its roughly three-hour length makes it the perfect little escapade to enjoy in one sitting.
Developer: Red Thread Games
Publisher: Red Thread Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC