A troll with a floral crown

Thorns: King of the Mountain review

Thorns: King of the Mountain review

need to know

what is it? A dark action-adventure filled with Norse myths and legends.

release date April 27, 2023

developer dark frost studio

publisher merge game

Reviewed on Radeon 5700 XT, i5-9600K, 16GB RAM

associate Official Website(opens in a new tab)

Fairy tales, in their raw form, are not the reassuring bedtime stories we remember from childhood. Jack and the Beanstalk ends its home invasion with murder. Beauty and the Beast revolves around blackmail and an imprisoned child bride. Dimfrost Studios understands the dark subtext of these fables, and has drawn inspiration from Norse folklore and the niche sub-genre of horror platformers to craft a world in Bramble: The Mountain King that is both captivating and disturbing – even with the accompanying The challenge failed to match the mood of its inspiration.

Young Olle wakes up in the middle of the night to find his sister gone, and their cabin is eerily quiet near the edge of the forest. Determined to find Lillemore, the worried child musters up courage and ventures into the realm of trolls and fairies against their mother’s advice. Backstory details are subtly blurred: We don’t know much about the siblings’ parents, their situation, or the mysterious countryside they inhabit — an obscurity that only adds to the slowly escalating sense of menace. Only the gentle voice of the narrator intervenes at crucial moments, providing vital clues and a handful of beautifully illustrated tomes scattered here and there to illuminate the origins of the game’s tragic heroes and villains.

(Image credit: Merge Games)

While gorgeous 3D landscapes invite you to wander around, Bramble remains a strictly linear affair inspired by beloved children’s adventures like Limbo and Little Nightmares. Sleepy gnome villages, desolate swamps, and moonlit groves may seem vast, but there’s little to entertain them. There’s nothing to do but keep going, and the camera pushes you forward, preventing unnecessary exploration. Even its few collectibles, in the form of wooden figurines of legendary grotesque actors, are hidden within predetermined paths, rarely requiring a detour.

In fact, for a long time, especially in the first few levels, I felt like my input was nothing more than making sure the joystick was pointing in whatever direction I needed to go. On-screen recordings might show my intrepid hero balancing precariously on a tree branch over a foaming river, tumbling through a mudslide, or struggling desperately on vines on the side of a steep cliff, but the dangers of these situations And the excitement is never conveyed through a game’s motion controls.

After I get deeper into the forest, I need more hands-on time, usually solving simple environmental puzzles like moving a cart around so I can climb an out-of-reach ledge, or fencing a bunch of cabbage creatures into their enclosure to appease a temper. Grumpy dwarf. While effective in breaking up the tedium of non-stop traversal, these were mostly meant to ease the pace of the game–obstacles that prevented me from getting through, rather than actual brain teasers for me to battle my wits about. Limbo was released more than a decade ago, when some of its early puzzles felt rudimentary—Bramble rarely topped them.


(Image credit: Merge Games)

Combat fares much better, so it’s unfortunate that it was introduced relatively late, and is dedicated to the occasional boss fight with the Mountain King’s nightmarish sidekick. After Olle discovers a sphere of pure light, he uses this magical artifact not only to light the way or clear the way for prickly thorns that slip away from its brilliance, but also as a projectile that hits an enemy’s weak point to Somehow reminiscent of Amicia’s sling from A Plague Tale.

It’s not so much rote skill as it is their relentless creativity on stage that makes these rare encounters so fascinating. Once, I saw a succubus hovering high in a tree, using the corpse of her former lover for protection. On the other hand, a demonic violinist conjures a deadly melody in the middle of a placid lake as I crouch from boulder to boulder to avoid the onslaught of his voice. Most memorable of these skirmishes was a frenetic dream clash with a hooded figure, triggering surreal hallucinations that were the most gloriously unhinged experience I have experienced in recent memory. One of the video game sequences.

As Olle gets closer to his final destination (a brisk journey that shouldn’t take more than five or six hours), the story intensifies the bleakness, introducing themes of infanticide, mob violence, and ritual sacrifice. To the developers’ credit, these subplots aren’t exploited for their shock value. Instead, they are handled with elegance and humanity so that they blend organically with the structures of the pagan realm.

(Image credit: Merge Games)

A highly emotional confrontation that notably showcases the game’s ability to lure you into the main protagonist’s desperate state of mind: after taking care of a main villain, a persistent QTE asks you to take her out, the requisite violence and excessive bloodlust The lines between are dangerously blurred. After all, fairy tales always tell the journey from childhood to adulthood, and young Olle’s innocence transforms gradually, almost imperceptibly, into blind anger at the injustice of the world—a transformation that’s driven entirely by the player’s hand.

If Dimfrost had been showing the same level of focus on Bramble: The Mountain King’s instant interactions, we could be talking instant classics, but the studio seems more focused on delivering a strong narrative than giving it a compelling game from start to finish. For now, only their carefully crafted world lingers in the mind after the final credits roll: a Twilight Zone dimension whose darkness is tempered by a sense of wonder.

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.