The Huntsman: Winter's Curse is a PlayStation 4 game based in the same universe as The Huntsman film series. Billed as an "episodic role-playing game with card collecting elements", the game follows the story of a girl, Elisabeth, who goes on a quest in an attempt to save her brothers from the corruption of the Ice Queen.
The story plays out from the perspective of an older female telling a story to some children before it develops into gameplay, which makes up the bulk of the game. Unfortunately, the story portion of the game found at the beginning of each chapter is the only exposure to any form of voiceover, and a surprising amount of time will be spent sat reading dialogue between characters, which wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the game's dull soundtrack, which is so uninspiring you could almost be forgiven for thinking that you're playing the game sitting in total silence.
Delving into the actual gameplay of Winter's Curse, there's very little control given to you. Sure, you're allowed to click on locations on the map, but only the ones the game specifically directs you to – there's so little option, it begs the question why the game even gives you the control in the first place. After part of the main story has been completed, the opportunity arises to complete side missions in chosen areas on the map, but this is the only chance given to actually explore anything. There's no controlling Elisabeth once you get into an area, it's simply a case of reading what's presented, occasionally choosing an inconsequential dialogue option, and proceeding to battle.
Combat is largely flawed and rather than feeling tactical, seems entirely down to the luck of the draw. At the start of each battle, you're given a choice of three cards to play, each of which has a move on. Some moves have effects attached to them which can be anything ranging from slowing the enemy down to stunning them. Equipping different items to characters pre-battle changes the cards that will be available during the battle, but it's really here that any strategies end.
Indeed, the cards are random, so it's pure luck whether you're dealt with a good bunch. The effects of each card aren't explained enough to give you a reason to play some cards, with the meaning of some not being entirely obvious and seeming to only be a waste of a move. Your position in a battle is determined by a rolling conveyor belt, which displays the images of all characters in battle at the top of the screen. Certain moves will move the position of characters, so it's not uncommon to find that enemies are able to get a mass of attacks in before you even get a chance to retaliate. Starting a battle with a good set of cards makes all the difference, and a poor set can often result in a whitewash against the wrong enemies.
The game is littered with issues, with some dialogue scenes being cut short, often skipping whole sentences that appear on screen before the battle screen forces its way in. Luckily, the plot of the game is so simple, it doesn't feel like anything has been missed, and even if it had, there's little risk that it could make you care about what is going on. It's a story that has been told a hundred times before – and better. There are also game-ending glitches which present themselves throughout, one which forced us to completely restart the campaign as a party member wasn't correctly joining and was unusable in battle, meaning the whole thing was a total whitewash.
The Huntsman: Winter's Curse's relatively short campaign is a slog, with little variation in the types of enemies presenting themselves. Moreover, the plot is so basic that it offers little in the way of distraction from the terrible mechanics of the game. The only saving grace is that this is an attractive game with its storybook stylisation.