The Snowfield: A game of small mercies

On Play This Thing, Greg Costikyan reviews The Snowfield, a game developed as a student project at the Singapore MIT GAMBIT Game Lab. It sounds like a very odd and compelling experience: in The Snowfield, you're tasked with gathering up the survivors of a brutal battle on the eastern front in WWII and coaxing them to gather at a ruined house where a fire will keep them from freezing to death. Greg calls it "a game of small mercies."

You begin on what was clearly a battlefield not long ago, strewn with corpses, barbed wire, and broken fences, covered in snow. You are huddled and obviously freezing. There are some other soldiers in the area, mostly standing in a daze, shell-shocked; they speak to you (a handful of catch-phrases repeated), in German; evidently, this is the Eastern Front in World War II, though none of the corpses are wearing Russian uniforms. The setting is stark, and emotionally impactful.

Movement is via WASD; some items can be picked up, though only one at a time, and handed to others. In a ruined house nearby is a fire; if you spend too much time away from it, you freeze to death, the view becoming blurry about the edges and what seem like ice cracks appearing in your vision as warning. It's easy to lose your bearings in the snow and freeze to death; the controls are also a bit awkward and you cannot climb even a fairly shallow slope, so you sometimes find it hard to extricate yourself from your current position.

The Snowfield



    1. Plugin required (“Unity Web Player”) and not even working! Downloaded and installed multiple times, but the plugin is simply not recognized by any browser. Tried on Win7/x64 with IE9, FF10 and Chrome 17.

      The idea for the game sounds good, but I’m not really that bothered to play it at this point.

      1. you’re not missing much. it’s a good idea, but about as enjoyable as watching paint dry. also, if someone is wandering around in a lethal snowstorm 30′ from shelter but refuses to take cover until bribed with whiskey, there’s a case for letting them die… which they of course won’t for some reason, even though you will.

          1. i get your point, and if the game represented that reasonably, i’d feel differently. if life was on the line, i would talk to; grab; or otherwise coerce the shellshocked man, rather than walk around and fetch him whiskey as he was dying. there’s also the fact that you die from exposure, while your charges do not, which also ruins the immersion. i’ve felt much more psychological engagement in “normal” video games.

          2. In my experience people tend to act pretty rationally in emergencies. It’s not like the movies. In fact, it’s usually harder to get people scared; they don’t want to believe the seriousness of what’s happening.

  1. I thought it was pretty good. Once you figure out the right combinations of objects, it’s all pretty easy. But it’s atmospheric and engrossing. Could do with different endings. 

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