Stylish but punishing, we can’t help going back to Warm Snow – even if it’s just to get our butts handed to us again. Set against a backdrop of Imperial Chinese dynasty, this roguelike challenges players to think fast on their feet, be nimble with their attacks and even quicker with their dodge manoeuvres. Succeed, and you’ll be rewarded well, with new weapons and abilities handed out generously during a playthrough.
Death can come all too easily though, particularly when you’re just learning the ropes of Warm Snow and getting used to all of its nuances. There’s a main attack available to you, but you also have a special attack – which varies, depending what abilities you pick up – and the ability to throw blades at your enemies from a distance. This is a very neat mechanic, and used properly it can deal devastating damage to an opponent. But once your blades have been thrown, you need to pick them back up before you can use them again. And that’s sometimes easier said than done.
Even if you do die, though, each run of Warm Snow will net you some rewards, and there’s a permanent upgrade tree that will see you getting stronger each time you play. We love to see that: even if your early runs don’t last more than a few minutes, you’ll likely be able to upgrade your health or damage by a fraction, making your next run that tiny bit easier. Push on, and you’ll be a sword-throwing master in no time.
It looks great, too: its art style is striking, and its cutscenes are beautifully animated. Each environment you pass through packs in a great amount of detail, and there’s a large amount of interactivity here – boxes that can be sliced through, and, er, dead animal carcasses that can be exploded. It’s a grizzly game, with blood splattering everywhere as you slice and dice your opponents. Not for the faint of heart, then, but for an action game it feels great.
That’s perhaps one of the things we like most about Warm Snow: there’s a real feeling to each and every one of your attacks. From the gentle rumble of the DualSense controller as you swing your weapon to the damage numbers that pop up on screen, you feel connected to your enemies, with each and every time you move your weapon having real weight behind it.
No two runs ever really feel the same, either, thanks to the huge range of weapons, modifiers and abilities that can be picked up. You might be making your way through the same environments (although different routes are available) but your skillset can be vastly different from one run to another. In one, you might choose to give up control of your flying blades to opt for a more powerful melee attack, for instance. In another you might pick up an ability that boosts your attack by 300% but lowers your defence in return. The special abilities you have can make a big difference too: perhaps you’ll pick up a shield, boosting your defences. Or maybe you’ll have a powerful attack that fires projectiles in all directions for 10 seconds.
It’s this huge variation in skills and abilities that makes Warm Snow so easy to jump back into, time and time again. When you die – which you will, regularly – you’ll want to start all over again, this time vying to do that bit better, get that bit further. And that’s the key to any good roguelike: one that hooks you with the desire to just keep on trying. We’re happy to say that Warm Snow has nailed it.