As the credits roll on Draugen, a haunting melody plays and the sound of water lapping brings some closure to the game. It has only taken an evening to play through the events of this title and through it, various thoughts have clashed. What has happened in this isolated Norwegian village of Graavik, where is everyone, where is Betty, and do I actually like the Edward Harden?
Red Thread Games’ title puts you in the shoes of Edward Harden who, along with his compatriot Alice, have traveled to the isolated village of Graavik in search of his sister Betty. On arrival in Graavik, everything feels off. The village is abandoned for a start, with no signs that anyone has lived there for quite a while, but that does not deter Edward from carrying on with his mission, his single-mindedly obsession. That may be why he comes across as unlikeable for a lot of the game. His sole goal is to find Betty regardless of whatever else has happened.
Alice, on the other hand, is Edward’s foil. She is invested in the mystery behind Graavik and searches for answers on where everyone has gone. Of the two characters, she feels much more human compared to Edward’s purely logical approach, letting her imagination fill some of the gaps. You are drawn to her while Edward’s behaviour and attitude pushes you away.
Edward as a character gets too bogged down by this attitude in the early stages, making it slightly harder to muster sympathy for him later on as the Draugen launches into exploring mental health. It is a tricky subject to discuss or represent within video games, but a decent attempt seems to have been made here, even though it can be a bit over the top later on.
Draugen’s story unfolds rather quickly, but if you really pay attention to the game’s environment and the actions of the characters you’ll be able to guess a few of the plot reveals before they happen. Graavik is a village torn apart with Edward and Alice arriving in the aftermath of a feud that has lasted decades. The reason for the feud and Edward’s own search are two separate stories, but the themes of family, relationships, and death all intertwine.
Draugen is not a hard game and you are encouraged to explore the small village to understand its background. The setting within a fjord really works to capture the atmosphere of such an isolated place. The sea and the land pop with colour in the shadow of the hills and cliffs that tower over the small village. The buildings, the pathways, and design really capture what was once a place that would not look out of place on an idyllic postcard.
That design lends itself to the one collectible set that is in the game. Edward is someone who likes to draw and spread out across the village are drawing spots where he can take stock and relax while putting pencil to paper. These moments are interspersed between much more climatic, and sometimes tense moments.