Bramble: The Mountain King Preview – Deadly But Beautiful
Adventure horrors are not normally my bag. Weird I know, coming from a veteran of asymmetrical horror game, Dead by Daylight. In fact, you would usually have to convince me with many jaffa cakes to play a snippet of any kind of horror game that puts me in the titular character, embodying the story, experiencing the tension and almost living in the shoes of that individual’s fear. Although I am a big fan of normally watching others play through adventure horror titles.
There was something about Bramble: The Mountain King that caught my eye however. It intrigued me, whether it was the beautiful visuals, the adventure of a lost boy, or the different tales of the chapters within this Nordic-inspired world. Although this isn’t normally my bag, I wanted to dive in and was lucky enough to be given the preview for the first 20 minutes before it’s release on the 27th of April, 2023.
This preview included two chapters of the game. The first introduces you to Olle, the protagonist of this preview. Olle wanders the forest looking for his sister. There is something immediately sinister about this forest. Almost like even the pinecones have eyes that are watching your every move. Basic controls are shown such as inspecting the environment around you and some platforming elements. The game handles really well, and with a controller felt very smooth and buttery as I explored.
As you travel on your adventure you find a spark of courage. Shaped like a small rock, Olle eventually finds his sister and you go through some very basic combat moves. Being able to throw this small fragment learning how to aim. The fragment also lights the way for you should you need it to. This brings me to the next chapter that is shown in this preview. Skogsra’s Grove.
Bramble: The Mountain King had no time to waste, as I was plunged straight into a boss battle with almost no context. All I know at the time is that my sister is lost and I must climb the mountain to rescue her. I did really enjoy the narrator adding to the folk tale. I encountered Skogra on my travel, a beautiful but deadly powerful mythical creature.
Skogsra attacks with penetrating spikes from the ground, explosions and a flood of darkness that I must use tree’s to block with. My first aim is to run between the tree’s, using the tree’s as cover and shining my fragments at bodies that appear to be keeping Skogra’s power going. Skogra is beautiful, and from the back you can see her exposed heart wrapped in vines. These bodies attached to the trees also have exposed hearts and using my spark of courage to beam light in their direction caused them to disintegrate.
I am not embarrassed to say at first this took ages to figure out. I would consistently die between the different waves of attacks she would throw at me as I had to time my escape to each tree. There were no clues or really any direction, which given a preview does make sense. I would hope if I played the full game I would have a much better grasp on the mechanics and play of the game by that point, to better and quicker understand how to progress forward.
However, once I figured it out and stopped dying, I was able to tell when she was going to hit me and what with, whether I could be near a tree or needed to risk more exposure to dodge the attack, it was extremely satisfying. What was less of a pip in my step, was the fact that I had died around ten times before ‘beating’ her. This is when I realise that ‘beating her’ her was just the first phase out of three before death. I should also make it clear that you can only be hit once. Olle has no health bar and dies on impact. I did the next two phases pretty quickly, and with that a deep breath, and a slower heart rate.
This experience was tense and made my heart pound, but I was having a blast. I at no point wanted to throw the controller directly in front of me and squint my eyes shut. Even in the forest when the tension builds, I felt a sense of thrill. This was one of the more unique boss battles I had seen in a long time, and it seems that this is only the first of many mythical beasts that you will encounter as Olle in the forest and mountain. It also appears, given the trailers released thus far, that there will be lore to all of these creatures to add depth to an already interesting story.
This is a stunning game, and I am really drawn to the art direction of this. It’s almost reminiscent of Pinocchio in terms of the character design and fable-driven visual art in the environment. In such a short time, Bramble: The Mountain King was able to deliver on unique qualities, tension, a heart pounding but satisfying battle and beautiful scenery.
This game will not be for the fainthearted. The very end to my preview saw Olle release emotion by plunging the sword into Skogsra as a quick time event, only stopping when you stop. The blood splattering his face as he is working through the fear, the anguish that he has alone being brave in the forest. Bramble: The Mountain King warns players up front about references of suicide, child harm, animal harm and many others. This will be one game I will not be watching someone play, but one I will certainly be taking on the adventure myself.
Bramble: The Mountain King is available April 27th 2023 on PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series S|X and PC via Steam.
Developer: Dimfrost Studio
Publisher: Merge Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional preview of the first 20 minutes of the game.
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