To be wholly unique in any artistic medium is a rare thing, yet Skabma — Snowfall manages to tell an intriguing, thought-provoking narrative about a world and culture we’ve never seen explored in a video game. Let’s begin our Skabma PC review by looking at the story and world of Skabma.
Bright and Beautiful
This Indie game follows the story of a young boy named Áilu and his fight against an unforeseen threat — a dark, nondescript corruption that’s rapidly spreading across the region. It’s a tried and tested formula, true, but one invigorated through the infusion of Sámi culture.
Before playing the game, I knew nothing of the Sápmi region: an area that stretches over four separate countries and that makes up the game’s setting. But if its digital aesthetic is anything to go by, it is a beautiful place.
The first thing you’ll notice upon launching a new game is a piercing amber light beaming through the gaps in the trees and in-between the distant mountains — energy that reflects across glistening bodies of water and defuses into the dense fauna.
Video game depictions of nature can often feel a little flat and washed out, but here, you can feel the life pulsing through every fibre of the forest.
While this is unmistakably Earth, there’s explicit magical sentience to this place, and what the graphics lack in fidelity (waterfalls, I’m looking at you) they make up for in tone and cohesiveness. The whole game is bathed in a serene, autumnal hue that captures the majesty of the landscape and provides a suitably enchanting setting for the story.
An Authentic Sámi Story
Skabma’s tale is anchored by the characters of a tiny farming village. At the behest of a particularly belligerent uncle, it’s our protagonist Áilu‘s job to look after the Reindeer — a role his habit of napping doesn’t gel with. After one of them escapes, his short pilgrimage to rescue it sets the story in motion.
To say too much about the narrative would be to spoil the game’s main aspect. You won’t find any groundbreaking game mechanics here, but you will discover an earnest, unique story, and that’s an attribute we don’t see a lot of in this medium.
Similarly noteworthy is the level of authenticity and attention to detail seen in the world and characters. From the architecture, clothing, language, and folk tales, the game does an excellent job of providing insight into Sámi culture, and its endearing characters did a great deal to solidify my investment.
I particularly enjoyed Jean, a French researcher interested in the way the Sámi people live. His humorous antics and relationships with the other characters represented but one of many endearing arcs, and no matter who I was talking to, dialogue always felt natural and unstrained.
An Ambient and Emotive Affair
Facial animations are impressively expressive with the cutscenes feeling genuinely emotive and impactful. Characters take on a Pixar-like quality, with Áilu being especially detailed; I empathized with his perpetually worried expression — a juxtaposition to his unappreciated bravery.
The developers perfectly captured the tumultuous emotions of a little kid, and the story as a whole was so well put together that I found myself eagerly awaiting each new cutscene.
Praise has to be given to the music, too. A serene amalgamation of traditional folk instruments and soothing pads gives further vigor to the environment, cementing the rivers, trees, and hills as collective pseudo-characters in their own right.
Somewhat of a Mixed Bag
On the gameplay side, I felt Skabma was lacking. The main premise revolves around using a magical drum to illuminate your path, discover artifacts, and, most importantly, locate four spirits in order to return the land to equilibrium.
Each spirit offers a new ability that enables the player to open up more of the world, but I wasn’t enamored with any of them. It’s all fairly simple stuff, and I thought that the gameplay needed more of a unique hook; nothing stood out as notably inventive. There’s no proper combat in the game, either.
Standard 3D platformer fighting would probably have felt out of place, granted, but I would’ve appreciated at least something beyond the ethereal nature of the main enemy Áilu faces.
I also ran into several graphical bugs that necessitated a restart, and despite playing on a more than capable PC, the game wasn’t able to maintain a solid 60 frames per second.
None of the technical issues were major enough to irreparably mar my experience, but coupled with the uninspired mechanics, Skabma as a game contrasted significantly with Skabma as a story.
Having said this, I did think the small open world was thoroughly well designed. The developers did a particularly good job of creating organic feeling scenery — something I imagine is extremely difficult to get to look natural and not like a sequence of designated gamic paths.
Previously blocked routes open up sequentially as you progress, and I enjoyed traversing this fascinating setting despite the tasks I was given not being overly interesting.
The Verdict: Steeped in Culture
I came to realize that it’s in its own brand of atmosphere that this game shines: through its wonderfully vibrant environment and a cast of unique, interesting characters. It’s the sort of title you enjoy simply running about in, gaining satisfaction from listening to the mundane antics of the NPCs.
We usually ascribe gameplay as the most crucial aspect of a game, and while this is the case most of the time, Skabma is evidence that other elements can take center stage.
I found that while I was critical of the game’s simplistic, rather uninspired mechanics, I never really felt bored. This area of the Sápmi region was one I enjoyed merely existing in, and as Áilu learned more about his own heritage, so did I of a culture I was previously ignorant of.
It’s not perfect, but despite several irritating bugs, the aforementioned bland mechanics, and a total lack of an in-game map, I still enjoyed my time with it.
Perhaps that’s testimony to the developer’s passion for their game and their culture: the world is positively bursting with magical detail, and Red Stage Entertainment’s zeal for their heritage is what makes Skabma —Snowfall an interesting, albeit a polarising piece of video game art.
- Totally unique setting with insight into Sámi
- Simple, yet often stunningly beautiful graphics
- An interesting, novel story delivered through endearing characters
- A relaxing mixture of platformer and walking simulator gameplay
- A fair few irritating bugs
- An unsatisfactory main gameplay hook
- The lack of a main map makes for some frustrating pathfinding
Here are some alternatives I think fans of this style will enjoy:
- Firewatch: A walking similar with similarly rich, warm visuals.
- BLACKTAIL: A game with a similar woodland setting, but with a greater focus on survival elements.
- The Stanley Parable: Whilst far removed from Skabma in terms of tone, The Stanley Parable elitists an equally laid-back pace.
- Journey: An indie staple with beautiful art, music, and a relaxed atmosphere.
Skabma PC Review: FAQs
Question: What Genre is this Game?
Answer: It’s hard to pin down the genre, but I’d say it’s a cross between 3D plat-former and Walking Simulator. It’s primarily an explorative experience.
Question: Do I Need a Beefy PC to Run it?
Answer: Despite the stunning visuals, you shouldn’t need a high-end gaming rig to run this. As with any game released on Steam, you can find the system requirements on this page. Scroll down to the bottom to find both the minimum and recommended hardware.
Question: What Platforms Can I Play the Game on?
Answer: As well as PC, you can also play Skabma — Snowfall on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. There are no plans for a Nintendo Switch release right now.