We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message
PC games software Reviews
15,670 Reviews

Winter Voices review

£3.49 per episode

Manufacturer: Beyondthepillars

Our Rating: We rate this 3 out of 5

Winter Voices is a unique episodic role-playing game, and we've played the first two chapters. But is it too strange for its own good?

Winter Voices is a role-playing game, but you won’t find any orc-slaying or galaxy-saving here. As a rule, RPGs deal with high adventure on an epic scale, but fledgling indie developer Beyondthepillars seeks to challenge that assumption at every turn, using familiar gameplay mechanics to tell an intimate, contemplative story about one woman’s struggle to come to terms with the death of her father.

There are skills, stats, experience points, character creation and turn-based battles, but in the icily beautiful world of Winter Voices each is given a novel spin. There are no mages, knights or rangers, and attributes like strength, fortitude and stamina have been replaced with a more idiosyncratic range of options. My character, Persephone, for example, is a “Weaver” with high Intuition, Perspicacity and Humour, and the mere fact that I’m able to write that sentence at all gives me an undeniable thrill.

The enemies your woman must fight aren’t the traditional array of rampaging monsters, either. They are manifestations of her troubled psyche; painful memories and emotions in the form of floating orbs and shadowy figures. Similarly, your armoury isn’t composed of swords and guns, but skills derived from various approaches to coping with grief. 

Does your character assuage her pain by seeking solace in her friends, or does she simply erect a wall around herself to block the world out? Does she meet her emotions head on, or does she run, trying to stay one step ahead of the eventual reckoning? As you fight the battles and earn XP, these are the sort of questions that will guide the way your character evolves, and again, the very fact that an RPG requires me to consider such ideas is a cause for celebration in its own right. 

But there’s a problem, and unfortunately it’s a fairly enormous one: Winter Voices simply isn’t that much fun to play. When you’re free to roam the frost-bitten landscape, meeting its residents and absorbing the wonderful music and deliciously overwrought dialogue, Winter Voices is a bewitching experience. But when the combat starts the cracks really begin to show.  

In terms of execution, the skill animations are agonisingly slow, making even the earliest encounters feel unnecessarily protracted. This isn’t helped by the lack of attention paid to educating the player in the gameplay’s intricacies. Even as you’re being charmed by Winter Voices’ presentation and quirks, there’s a nagging feeling that you’re flying blind, and sure enough, as the battles become more complex and challenging a handful of deaths is all but necessary to figure out exactly what you’re supposed to be doing. 

And that’s the bitter irony of Winter Voices: it might be brimming over with innovative ideas, but a general lack of finesse when it comes to the basics makes it a difficult game to love. However, it’s a compromise I can live with, because games you can stand back and admire are simply too rare to dismiss, and with several more reasonably-priced episodes to come there’s every chance that Beyondthepillars will address these issues over time. Ultimately, a few pounds is a small price to pay for such original thinking.

Winter Voices Expert Verdict »

OS: Windows XP / Vista / 7 Processor: Intel Pentium 4 3GHz / AMD Athlon 64 3000 +
Memory: 1 Gb (2 Gb for Vista)
Graphics: 128 Mb
DirectX®: DirectX 9.0c
Hard Drive: 500 Mb
Sound: DirectX 9.0c.
  • Overall: We give this item 6 of 10 overall

At once frustrating and highly original, Winter Voices is well worth a try.

  • Final Fantasy IV for Nintendo DS review

    Final Fantasy IV for Nintendo DS

    The Nintendo DS version of Final Fantasy IV is worth playing through from beginning to end.

  • Alpha Protocol review

    Alpha Protocol

    After several years of development and a seven month delay, Obsidian Entertainment's ambitious spy-themed action/role-playing game, Alpha Protocol, is finally infiltrating consoles and PCs.

  • Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together review

    Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

    Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together might have an extremely silly name, but it's a stellar re-imagining of a classic game that shines with an engaging plot and in-depth battle options.

  • Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call review

    Professor Layton and the Spectre's Call

    Professor Layton returns in his longest and most intellectually stimulating adventure yet.

  • Neverland Card Battles review

    Neverland Card Battles

    Neverland Card Battles is one baffling game. While this title has all the basic fundamentals of a decent card-based tactical RPG (large battlegrounds, complex combat rules, and so on), they actually make one really terrible game when they're all put together.


IDG UK Sites

Black Friday 2014 tech deals UK Live: Best Black Friday deals from Apple, Amazon, Argos, eBay,...

IDG UK Sites

Black Friday feeding frenzy infects the UK

IDG UK Sites

VAT MOSS: Will I be affected by the EU VAT changes? Here are the facts for designers and artists

IDG UK Sites

Black Friday 2014 UK: Apple deals, Amazon deals & Black Friday tech offers