If you're a fan of mysteries then a trip to the fictional Norwegian fishing village of Graavik in this new adventure might be up your alley.
In Draugen, you play as Edward Harden after travelling by boat to an isolated picturesque village in the Norwegian mountains. He's accompanied by an energetic young lady named Lissie who loves to joke about calling him an Old Bean and she can constantly be found doing pirouettes and other acrobatics as she explores the town at Edward's side. Draugen is set in the 1920s and as luck would have it, the only way to communicate with anyone outside of the village is through the single telegraph machine at the general store that's been broken for a long time. No one has bothered to fix it but why would they when it seems like every single resident of the quant hamlet has abandoned their home?
According to Edward, the pair are visiting the town of Graavik to find his sister Betty as he has a strong feeling that she's somewhere to be found there. Each day spent in the village is a chapter and upon resting your head at the end of each chapter, you'd have uncovered a little more about what happened to the villagers as well as discovered more on the whereabouts of his sister.
Draugen is played in first-person and for the most part, the controls and gameplay are very straightforward. It could almost be a pure walking sim if there wasn't the odd interactive element. Occasionally, you'll have to search for something or press a button to get Lissie to shout out where she is so you can follow the echo of her voice that's then displayed onscreen. There are also some collectibles in the form of sketching at certain picturesque spots just like you do in Life is Strange 2.
There were a couple of times when the controls became frustrating such as when I could see something hidden in a bush yet it seemed random as to when I could get Edward to notice and actually interact with it. I also couldn't get a new interaction indicator to show until I observed everything in a room twice. Given Draugen has so little gameplay, it's unfortunate that there are moments like this.
The sometimes frustrating controls could be more easily forgiven if the story held my interest longer. It takes a few twists and turns but ultimately, it left me feeling unsatisfied as if it ended too early. I wanted to uncover all of the mystery around what happened to all of the villagers but you only spend a little more than a few minutes doing actual investigative work on the disappearance of only one particular character who I wasn't even that invested in anyway. The rest of the time, you're walking around while listening to Edward's ramblings and Lissie's annoying typical teenage banter. That being said, there is a strong theme of isolation and mental health from the start of Draugen and it does a good job of exploring them in unique ways that I haven't seen before in a video game.
The town of Graavik is quite beautiful and the variations in lighting depending on the day make it look anywhere from cheerful to depressing. There were quite a few moments when I felt tension as well although to be honest, a lot of that was me working myself up because I kept getting scared when I would suddenly see Lissie sitting somewhere in a room where I didn't expect to see her.
When it comes to audio, the dramatic orchestral soundtrack helps contribute to the tension and it's even available to listen to separately from the main menu. Plus, you can view nice-looking shots of the village in a lovely slideshow. Finally, I have no major complaints about the voice acting with Lissie's actor being slightly more convincing and animated than Edward's.
As slow-paced first-person mystery adventures go, Draugen is about as middle-of-the-road as you could get. It offers an intriguing story with interesting subject matter in a picturesque setting yet it ultimately feels unfulfilling once the brief story reaches its conclusion.
- + Scenic and beautiful Norwegian village setting that's a joy to explore
- + A unique take on isolation and psychology
- + Does a great job of setting tone
- - Story is over too quickly / unsatisfying ending
- - Gameplay is limited and lacks variety
- - Controls can be frustrating