I’ve never done anything too extreme to play a video game before. In fact, I remember going to my local Best Buy when Nintendo introduced its Super Smash Bros. Wii U demo kiosks, only to turn around once I noticed the line wrapped around the block. I did the same thing at PAX East earlier this year, slyly maneuvering my way around the show floor based on which demo stations had long lines and which games you could just walk up and play.
For me, going out of your way to play an upcoming game is similar to going to see the new Avengers movie on opening night. Sure, you get to be a part of the audience, cheer along with your fellow moviegoers, and most importantly, be on the forefront of the cultural zeitgeist. Additionally, you know once you walk out of that theater you can read all of the latest think pieces, digest every critic’s review, and wander social media without worrying about stumbling onto spoilers. However, that experience comes with a price. More often than not, being on the forefront of a piece of new media often means having to deal with long lines, noisy crowds, and the chance of getting stuck in the worst imaginable seats.
Okay, maybe I sound like an old man. That’s a fair criticism. However, there’s no denying that for a majority of my life, I haven’t been the opening-night type of person. Time and time again I’ve opted to wait for media buzz to die down before engaging with new things. A two-hour line to play the new World of Warcraft expansion at PAX? I think I’ll sit that one out. New Star Wars coming out? Awesome, catch me at the Sunday matinee in a month. Having the outlook of a grumpy old widower when it comes to waiting in line, you would think I wouldn’t go too far out of my way to try new things.
And yet, when King asked me to travel to Sweden to play its new turn-based puzzle game Legend of Solgard, I said yes. For those of you who haven’t explored the industry, these kind of press events aren’t uncommon–and when outlets agree to an event, you never know what it is going to entail. Will it be a bunch of people cramped into a Marriot conference room with some stale bagels and a PowerPoint presentation? Or will it include driving your own ATV’s and shooting rocket launchers.
When we took King up on seeing their newest game, Legend of Solgard, we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. For those of you who enjoy travel diaries, consider this editorial one of those; for others who would like a peek behind the curtain at what industry events for game previews entail, here is a sneak peak.
Either way, the following is a series of things (in no particular order) I learned on my trip to Kiruna, Sweden to play Legend of Solgard.
1. Sleeping in a Room Made Out of Ice is Oddly Comfortable
The press trip for Legend of Solgard was set at Sweden’s famous IceHotel, which as one would assume, is a hotel completely made out of ice. Boasting a frigid negative five degrees Celsius, the ice room was actually incredibly comfortable. Upon arriving at the room, hotel staff gave me an insulated sleeping bag that’s normally used for much more extreme temperatures. When it was time to go to bed, I simply laid the sleeping bag on the bed and hopped right in. Besides the temperature, one of the most interesting things about the ice room was its complete sense of silence. Since the room’s walls are covered with snow and ice, the ice room provided me with the quietest sleep of my life. This made coming home to New York much more unbearable.
2. More Puzzle Games Should Be Weirder
Not always to its benefit, Legend of Solgard effectively mixes a hodge-podge of different genres. While at first glance the game may seem like a simple tile-matching game, it quickly branches out into a fully immersive turned-based strategy game with RPG elements. Coming from the same publisher as Candy Crush, it’s refreshing to see such an authentic subversion of tried and true puzzle game tropes. With the explosion of mobile games on both iOS and Android and the subsequent saturation of the puzzle game market, it’s comforting to see developers like Snowprint rise to the occasion and introduce new types of gameplay mechanics into accessible, familiar genres.
3. Reindeer Meat is Really, Really Delicious
Reindeer meat was ubiquitous during my time in Sweden. It seems like there was hardly a moment when I was more than a few feet away from some kind of reindeer-based snack or meal. And to be honest, it was absolutely delicious. Extremely lean and mild in its consistency, reindeer meat is really flavorful and not nearly as gamey as venison.
4. Roughpaw is My Beautiful, Large Son
While I didn’t encounter any bears during my time in Kiruna, I became well acquainted with Roughpaw, one of the starting characters from Legend of Solgard. He is large and beautiful, and I wish he was my friend in real life.
5. Ax Throwing is Much Harder in Real Life Than in Video Games
Taking a cue from Grimpchop, Legend of Solgard’s ax-wielding defensive starting character, King decided to have us throw some axes. It was this point that I was convinced that Legend of Solgard didn’t actually exist– that this entire trip was some kind of viral marketing stunt for a new battle-royale title. I kept looking into the woods to see if there was a camera crew ready to film a press trip turn into an unwieldy match of PlayerUnknown‘s Battlegrounds. Alas, I was wrong– we really were just throwing axes. While I didn’t personally throw an ax, I was amazed at the sheer combination of upper-body strength and precision it warranted from those who did. In fact, even our instructor, a strong Renaissance man employed by the IceHotel was unable to hit the target after a few tries. In this case, I’m almost glad I didn’t live out my wildest God of War fantasies, I have no problem leaving the ax throwing to Kratos.
6. Nordic Folklore is Still Fresh Even After God of War
Speaking of God of War, another similarity the two games share is the folklore. Setting its roots in Norse mythology, Legend of Solgard tasks the player with preventing Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse. Seeing as this is an area of folklore most games don’t explore, I was excited to sink my teeth into the Nordic influence present throughout Legend of Solgard.
7. I’m Surprisingly Good at Archery
Considering the fact that I haven’t picked up a bow since my time at Boy Scout camp twelve years ago, I was shocked that I was actually able to hold my own in a bout of archery. I’ve decided that this is how I’m going to settle all personal feuds from now on. Forget a 1v1 private match in Nuketown, I’ll see you on the archery range.
8. I’m (Unsurprisingly) Very Bad at Rowing a Boat
Upon taking a boat from the airport to the IceHotel, the boat’s motor stopped working. Or at the very least, the driver it told us it stopped working. Whether or not getting a group of games journalists to row a boat to shore was a (hysterical) practical joke, a well-planned PR move, or the result of an actual motor malfunction, one thing is for certain–I’m terrible at rowing. Instead of lightly dipping the oar into the water I kept accidentally pushing it down, forcing myself to get caught in the current. Near the end of our journey I was able to row somewhat competently, however, the damage was already done.
9. Sometimes You Have to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Well, here’s my Eat, Pray, Love moment that you’ve all been waiting for. In the last few months I’ve made a conscious effort to try new experiences, meet new people, and, well, just learn to say “yes” more often. It’s notoriously easy to get into the habit of coming home from work just to watch a baseball game or play a little Rocket League before going to bed. Breaking the monotony of everyday life sometimes requires saying “yes” to things that may sound ridiculous, even if that means traveling 7400 miles in a four day period to play a new video game. Who knows, maybe next week I’ll even go to the movies on a Friday night.
- In terms of in-flight movies, Scandinavian Airlines is really killing it.
- I can’t believe Steven Spielberg started The Post with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son over a montage of the Vietnam War. Truly a creative decision that is beyond parody.
- Have airlines started serving better snacks than they did in the 1990’s or was Jerry Seinfeld making a fuss for no reason?
- Swedish meatballs should be accepted as a breakfast food here in the United States.
- Enter the Gungeon is a great way to palliate the ennui of a five-hour layover.
- Likewise, Legend of Solgard is a great game to play on a nine-hour flight.
- For some reason, a TSA employee thought my paperback book was a “small bottle of lotion” and I was subjected to a bag check.
- The Stockholm Airport not only sells SNES Classics, it also has a LOT of them in stock.
- I will never get used to the Swedish Krona to United States Dollar conversion rate, and I will constantly wonder if paying 25 Krona for a bottle of orange juice is normal (it is).
Legend of Solgard is available on iOS and Android right now. You can check out a detailed version of my impressions here.
Editor’s Disclosure: To get our hands-on experience of Legend of Solgard, DualShockers’ staff was flown out and put up at a hotel by King, the game’s publisher — something that should be obvious after reading this editorial.