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Video Game / Draugen

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Draugen is an Environmental Narrative Game developed by Red Thread Games of Dreamfall Chapters fame, and released for PC on May 29th, 2019.

It is set in 1923, and follows the story of a scholar from Hanover, Massachusetts named Edward Charles Harden and his ward Lissie, as the two arrive from the US to the Norwegian town of Graavik, to search for Edward's missing sister, Betty, a journalist working for a New York newspaper. Betty recently went to Graavik for reasons unknown, but disappeared under mysterious circumstances during her trip.

However, they find the town abandoned, and seemingly for a long time — else the fishing boats wouldn't have started rotting and equipment in the mines would not have gotten overgrown. The fact that the town's craftsmen abandoned their prized tools of trade to such fate only underlines the gravity of the situation, and deepens the mystery before the pair. The game is mainly inspired by works from Norwegian Romanticism, including Henrik Ibsen and the painter Hans Gude, taking a look at the darker underbelly of rural Norway, but also adds a dash of the works of H. P. Lovecraft.

Draugen provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Mine: You pay a visit to the closed-down Fretland mine towards the end.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Lissie typically refers to Edward as either "old bean", "old sport" and "old boy". At times, she may even call him "Teddybear", much to his annoyance.
  • Agent Scully: Edward firmly believes that all of the strange events he and Lissie experience must have a rational explanation, and dismisses her notions of curses, ghosts, and monsters. In the end though, he must admit that he cannot come up with any logical explanation for how he learned about Graavik and why wanted to go there in the first place, suggesting that it might indeed have been some kind of otherworldly pull that attracted him to the place.
  • Alice Allusion: Lissie once mentions going Down the Rabbit Hole. Edward instantly recognizes the source of the quote. Bonus points for her real name being Alice.
  • Anachronism Stew: At one point Edward mentions Agatha Christie. In 1923, she was very early in her career, so it is unlikely that one would associate to her when mentioning a whodunit.
  • Apocalyptic Log: As expected of the genre, you'll soon begin to discover various notes and letters to shed a light on what happened.
  • Arc Symbol: The rather-Lovecraftian Norse brooch seen on both the cover art and being the game's loading symbol. It was part of the Viking trove found in the Fretland mine, and one of the things Ruth had with her when she died.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: Early on, Lissie calls Edward a "Debbie Downer". The word "downer" as a way to describe a depressing or mopey person wasn't used before the 1960s or so, around 40 years after the game is set.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Many of the notes in-game are in Norwegian, and while Edward does translate his tendency to merely skim rather than read in full leaves a lot of context for those who can understand Norwegian to find on their own.
  • Book Ends: The game begins with Edward rowing a boat towards Graavik, with Lissie commenting on the water being cold. The game ends with Edward rowing the boat away from the village, and again Lissie commenting on the water being cold.
  • Cain and Abel and Seth: The twins Johan and Fredrik Fretland had a younger brother named Arne. Arne's untimely death made their already deteriorating relationship worse.
  • Central Theme: Isolation is harmful; being left to stew over your own negative feelings, without intervention from the outside, can only lead to ruin. This is borne out in the stories of Graavik — the feud between the Fretlands devolves into superstitious hysteria and violence that consumes the whole town, with the outside world not even aware of the issue, let alone able to interfere — and Edward — with no one who cared for him after the death of his family, he resorted to creating an imaginary companion and deluding himself into forgetting his past to cope with his loneliness and guilt.
  • Conveniently Interrupted Document: The birth & death register at the church is missing pages. They've just been scattered over the floor, which renders this a short-lived mystery.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Somebody wrote "Child murderer" with what seems to be blood on the wall of a building Edward inspects.
  • Creepy Crows: Several ravens have taken residence in Graavik since the village's abandonment, and they oddly seem to lead Edward toward hints of what happened.
  • Crisis of Faith:
    • The whole community of Graavik eventually succumbed to this, after all the terrible events they had suffered, believing their town to be cursed and that God had abandoned them.
    • Implied to have happened in the past to Edward: he dismisses the value of religious beliefs any chance he can, but he also shows an intimate familiarity with the Bible, some lines imply his father believed, and his trauma manifests to him as an angel; one can infer he was raised in a religious household but rejected the faith after his parents' deaths.
  • Dead All Along: Betty was never in Graavik, having died as an infant. The woman in the photo is actually an actress who Edward equated to Betty in his madness.
  • Death by Childbirth: Margarethe, the wife of Fredrik Fretland, died giving birth to their only son, Simon. This served to deepen the brother's feud as Margarethe and Anna's sisterly bond had kept the two cordial if not happy.
  • Death of a Child:
    • The tragic death of Ruth Fretland is what set the tragedy into motion, turning the brother's feud into all-out war as the town tore itself apart, with the survivors either fleeing or killing themselves after.
    • The fate of Betty, who drowned as a baby, which catalyzed the destruction of Edward's family.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Enabling "1923 mode" turns the game's visuals black-and-white.
  • Dialogue Tree: Edward and Lissie converse in this manner. However, all dialogue occurs in real-time, and you can freely move throughout, much like in Oxenfree. You can also start talking to Lissie with your back turned...but she'll immediately demand that you look at her, and will not listen until you do.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Many of the townspeople killed themselves shortly before Edward's arrival, with him and Lissie finding one still hanging from a tree on the town's outskirts.
    • Both of Edward's parents committed suicide when he was a child.
    • Midway through the game, Lissie jumps off the roof of the Fretland farmhouse as a bid to remind Edward how important she is to him. Given how she can't actually die and is perfectly fine minutes later, the maneuver is not tragic so much as incredibly mean-spirited.
  • Dropped Glasses: Edward loses his after a tumble down a hill, but he finds them pretty quickly; he isn't Blind Without 'Em, only somewhat nearsighted.
  • Due to the Dead: Lissie urges Edward to bury the hanged man.
  • Dying Town: Graavik, after the mining accident put the Fretlands out of business.
  • Enemies List: Fredrik Fretland kept one of the people in town he considered "traitors".
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: At the end of the story, it's revealed Edward was the only living person in Graavik all along, with all of the villagers as well as Betty being long dead.
  • Exiled to the Couch: A different variation. Even though everyone in Graavik appears to have vanished long ago, Edward still sleeps on the sofa of the house they were originally invited in, instead of simply going into the vacant guest bedroom, because he feels it be very impolite to do without permission.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Note that Lissie seems to move without you looking, and that she never seems to interact with the objects.
    • On the first day, Lissie thinks that the scarf on the mannequin which matches Edward's picture doesn't prove anything and claims that Ed's memory of his sister dancing around in it didn't happen. He hastily denies this, then has an "episode". This is our first real indication that something's not quite right with him.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: It's established early that Edward is not at all physically fit, getting easily winded from short walks. Later, the player can jog around, and Edward doesn't have an issue with such exertion except when needed by the story.
  • Genki Girl: Lissie is excitable, imaginative, and always moving about, in contrast to the melancholic, serious, and reserved Edward.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Partway through the second act, the focus of the game swings from an investigation of the mysterious disappearances of a village population and their possibly supernatural cause to a deep-dive into the protagonist's unstable psychosis and his struggle to maintain his sanity as he confronts memories of his past. The original premise persists, but it functions more as a backdrop to the new drama.
  • Holler Button: Edward can call out to Lissie through the use of one.
  • Imaginary Friend: What Lissie actually is to Edward; he created her to help cope with his loneliness after the loss of his family.
  • Insurmountable Waist-High Fence: Edward can only climb things when a prompt is provided, which occasionally results in a shin-high pile of stones barring his way.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Betty was one, and came to Graavik as she was the first to suspect something was off and there's a great story in the making.
  • Invisible Wall: It is occasionally possible to stumble into these if you poke around hard enough, though usually, the natural features are sufficient.
  • Leave Me Alone!: Twice Edward yells at Alice and the Entity to stop talking to him and leave him be; he immediately regrets it when his wishes are granted.
  • Light Is Not Good: The Entity takes the form of an angel bathed in light, but it is harsh towards Edward and encourages his self-loathing.
  • Lightning Reveal: Edward awakes the first night to see a shadow by the windows during a Dramatic Thunder roll.
  • Little Miss Snarker: Lissie's favorite pastime is firing snarky comments at Edward.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The "curse" upon Graavik is eventually said to be common tragedy, stemming from a brother's feud and their prideful refusal to reconcile destroying an already-strained community. But, the ravens showing the way to the Viking trove and other inexplicable coincidences remain.
  • Moral Myopia: Soon enough, Edward brushes the fate of everyone else in the town to the wayside to re-focus entirely on finding Betty, which Lissie never fails to call him out on.
  • Never Trust a Title: "Draugen" or "The Draug" in Norwegian folklore was a supernatural creature that, like it was explained in the game, rows around in half a boat and signals death to anybody who sees it. It's said to be an ill omen. Nothing blatantly supernatural happens in the game, although the ill omen part is rather fitting considering Graavik's misfortunes.
    • Then again, the name's original meaning comes from the word "Dauing", based on the Norse word "Draugr", both meaning "Dead person" or the ghost of any dead person, which fits the game's theme pretty well.
  • Nordic Noir: The game's site even calls it "Fjord Noir" as a retro spin on this genre, with the plot focusing on unravelling the mystery surrounding a rural Norwegian village taking elements from the darkest parts of Norwegian folklore and rural society.
  • Not in Front of the Kid: There is some indication that Edward makes an effort to watch his language around Lissie. Notably, when he comes across Fredrik Fretland's Enemies List, he wonders aloud why he would keep a "shitlist", but catches himself before he can say the entire word and does a Verbal Backspace into saying "list of undesirables" instead.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Lissie will often reappear near the player if they wander too far from her, and in too little time for her to have traveled the distance by running. Justified, since she is a figment of Edward's hallucinations and can freely teleport anywhere in the story's last third.
  • One-Woman Wail: This track from the soundtrack.
  • Onscreen Chapter Titles: Each new day is announced with an old-fashioned Title Card.
  • Rapid-Fire "No!": Edward when he sees the corpse in the bed upstairs, fearing that it could be his sister.
  • Removed from the Picture: You find a photograph of both brothers posing in front of the mine that has one brother torn off.
  • Retraux: The game has an old-film effect on the loading screen and the pause menu: black-and-white with film grain. The same effect can be turned on for the game itself with enabling 1923 Mode.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The game is rife with details that gain significance once the player knows the narrative.
    • The dialogue contains countless examples of ironic observations about the town and its people, as well as allusions to Edward's past.
    • Pay attention to the figure outside the window during the first night and one can recognize it to be the Entity.
    • Going upstairs the first time, one can notice the coat hanging on the rack, and how it is clearly distinct from "Betty's jacket."
    • Anna's diary mentions Betty. Knowing the ending, you should realize that the diary cannot be real, because Betty is not real. Even without this knowledge, there is one more thing that's off about the diary: It's written in English, while realistically, as other documents found throughout the game, it should be in Norwegian.
  • Rugged Scar: Edward, despite being a bookish scholar, has a distinctive scar from a cleft lip which makes him look quite imposing.
  • Sanity Slippage: It eventually becomes clear that Edward is slowly undergoing one, as you spend days in Graavik while only scratching the surface of the mystery. By the end of the game, it's revealed his grasp on reality was unstable long before the story's beginning.
  • Say My Name: Edward is constantly calling out for Betty and Lissie.
  • Scenery Porn: Graavik and the fjord it's settled in is gorgeously picturesque.
  • Sequel Hook: At the end of the credits, there's text saying "Edward and Alice will return".
  • Sibling Rivalry: Hoo boy, the feud between Johan and Fredrik Fretland was less "rivalry" and more "deep and abiding hatred," so much so it led to Graavik's destruction.
  • This Is Reality: Edward at one point calls Lissie out on treating the events in Graavik like something out of a mystery novel:
    Edward: This is real life, not a whodunit by Agatha Christie! There won't be a trail of convenient clues leading to some neat conclusion.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: The end of the game shows that Betty's clothes were merely random articles which Edward, in his desperation, imagined to be hers.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Graavik seems to have been an idyllic village nestled in a pristine fjord, but notes found in-game shows that even before the tragedy there was a lot of terrible feeling just under the surface.
  • The Unsolved Mystery: In the end, Edward and Lissie doesn't fully uncover the exact circumstances of Ruth's death, leaving it ambiguous whether she was actually murdered or the whole thing was just a really unfortunate accident.
  • Wham Shot: After a tense argument at the church ends with Edward yelling at Lissie to leave him alone, Lissie obliges by vanishing before his eyes.
  • You Monster!: Lissie calls Edward a monster after he exhumed a corpse thinking it was Betty. Later Edward calls Lissie the same when she throws one of his father's insults back at him out of spite.