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Video Game / Winter Voices

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Winter Voices is a narrative-driven, episodic, role-playing game set in an imaginary and timeless world at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Players control a 24 year-old heroine as she deals with the death of her father. She must journey through the heart of Winter and battle her worst enemies – her own personal demons.

The first season of the Winter Voices series is comprised of seven downloadable episodes, each unraveling new elements of the character’s tale.

Winter Voices combines “point and click” real-time gaming with strictly defensive Turn-Based Combat. As the game alternates real-time dialog and world exploration with combat, players will experience turn-based psychic warfare.

This show provides examples of:

  • Achievement Mockery: The "Like A Hen On A Wire" Steam achievement. To get it you have to obtain the worst score in every major quest of the boat.
  • Action Girl: The Heroine. Lampshaded by a group of villagers when she tells them that she survives the dangerous mountain pass next to their village, which very few survive.
  • Anti-Intellectualism: Skills on the left side of the skill tree focus on the negation of damage and resistance against enemies, but go against the game's Aesop of acceptance and personal growth. Lampshaded in gameplay, due to the fact that these skills are only useful with a high Humor, which would make Memory obsolete (a Memory-heavy character would be around 7 or 8 levels higher than a Humor-heavy character during Episode 3, for example - with this difference in power only growing as the game goes on).
  • Audience Surrogate: The heroine herself, especially as the game goes on and the player has more influence in her personality.
  • Author Phobia: Rape. Night terrors are also a very big theme, and it's in them where most of the battles take place.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Trauma or not, a constant barrage of hallucinations isn't normal.
  • Animal Motif: The Player Character and The Father have crows.
  • Awesome, but Impractical/Blessed with Suck: If you pick the Volva class. Being storytellers, it's your responsibility to keep old memories alive and have a good sense of humor. This means that you gain more XP from battles, but take more damage.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: There are two in Episode 1 and then some scattered throughout 2-4, though 5-7 have many more.
  • Black Comedy: Having a high Humor, obviously, allows you to make irony or dark comedy out of negative situations.
  • Bury Your Gays: Played with. Some people in the game consider homosexuality disgusting, whereas other characters are casually mentioned to be homosexual or bisexual, such as the Queen of the Capital. It's worth mentioning that the religion the game's ideology is based on, Seidor and Germanic Paganism, often had sexual rituals that paid little attention to the gender of the participants.
  • Cast from Hit Points: Battle Summons, like Fairy Tales or Absences, use a percentage of your Energy as their own.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Just about everyone in the Heroine's village, the Crow, but most importantly The Beast.
  • Clever Crows: The player gets a Crow as a companion which has maximum (or "Divine") Memory. This means that the player will take more damage, but will gain more XP. The player is also unable to kick the Crow out of the party, so putting points into Humor or Willpower is vital if you plan to unlock its skills. Also Truth in Television, as Crows have memories and facial recognition skills just as, if not better, than humans.
  • Culture Chop Suey: The religion of the Kingdom of Three Rivers is similar to Old Norse paganism - there are mentions of völur, Seid and Norns, and crows are an important symbol - but many characters have (pseudo-)Finnish/Estonian names, while Finno-Ugric pagan religions are different from those of Germanic peoples.
  • Darkest Hour: At least one every Episode.
  • Deadpan Snarker: You can certainly play as one, and quite a few characters are.
  • Development Hell: Episode 6, the final episode, suffered a lot of this, and it took a year to be released due to the game being taken down from Steam temporarily. And whether or not there will be a second season is another matter entirely, though the developer has stated that it's more of an "eventually" than a "maybe".
  • Dream Sequence: The player spends quite a lot of time in the Seid in Episode 1.
  • Dying Alone: Discussed when the heroine contemplates it in the wilderness.
  • Episodic Game: 7 parts and has yet to be finished.
    • As of 17th of September, 2013, the 7th and final episode, Falls, has been released.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The Intuition attribute allows the player to better detect traps and increases the Energy of certain summons. But if the player doesn't regularly put points into it, Detection falls behind in usefulness. Luckily, the player gains an ability which greatly increases Intuition as long as The Heroine stands still.
  • Fantastic Aesop: Accept your inner demons and grow as a person, or become terrorized by the vengeful memories of the presumably dead and said demons.
  • Fantasy World Map: One detailing the Kingdom of Three Rivers. The player goes through the mountains, around the river, and eventually arrives at the capital.
  • Foil: The Heroine and Ven, especially if you piss him off in Episode 3.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: The Heroine's father was a very respected man in the village, but nobody actually knew him well or even liked him, with the exception of a few very close friends. Not even The Heroine liked him all that much, and often remarks that she thinks he never really loved her.
  • Generation Xerox: Many characters comment on the Player Character being very similar to her father, in both appearance (reflected in the character art) and the events in their life. By the end of the game, she has done everything her father had done in his life and more. It's even lampshaded when you leave the nameless village: a quarter a century ago, your father carried you into town. 24 years later, you carry what is left of him out into the wilderness.
  • Ghost Memory: What most of your enemies are.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • The battles. Oh, the battles. The fact that there is an opportunity to skip them after a number of unsuccessful attempts says a lot.
    • Depending on your actions during Episode 2, you can get a +30 bonus to one of three stats, a new companion, and a new ability for the Pyre Princess mode. Picking one of the two stats means that you can't get the optional companion, one of the three stats is mostly useless and only there for the added difficulty, and the usefulness of any of the three Pyre skills is very subjective and contextual. Naturally, this leads to this section of the game become reviled among its small community.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: For most of the game, The Heroine denies the shadows and evades them. It's only when she begins to accept them and learn to cope with them she begins to recover from what a doctor diagnoses as schizophrenia. The Aesop comes off as "Don't hide from your inner demons; accept them and overcome them", and possibly "Changing yourself is so difficult, so why try to change others?".
  • Heroic Resolve: To varying degrees of heroism.
  • Heroic Willpower: Literally. A high Willpower increases your Energy.
  • Always Female: The Weaver class, a trade most commonly taken up by women. Discussed In-Universe and how its popularity among women started bouts of sexism throughout the Kingdom of The Three Rivers.
  • Imaginary Enemy/Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Shadows.
    "Did the shadows give good counsel?"
  • Imaginary Friend: The Imaginary Friend skill available on the Support path. They can increase your Willpower, Humor, Psyche Points or Movement Points provided they survive the battle. And possibly Ven.
  • Interspecies Romance: With a crow.
  • Living Memory: The Creations that the player can create on the Ex-nihilo path. They provide helpful benefits, such as draining an enemy's PP or diverting aggro away from the player.
  • Made of Iron: At several points in the game you come very close to literal death, yet always survive. Justified if you pick the Huntress class.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Not all of the shadows you encounter are your own memories, and a few are implied to be your father's memories.
  • Men Are Generic, Women Are Special: An odd example. Being based on old Germanic religion, the only volvas the player meet are female (in real life, a male volva would invite a social stigma called ergi) and only female characters use models instead of sprites, because the Player Character is female and thus the most seen person in the game.
  • The Millstone: Played with in the form of the Crow. Having him in the party increases your Memory, which can be quite annoying if your character has low Energy. On the other hand, the increased experience and ability to lower enemies' PP can make him very useful.
  • Mind over Matter: Played straight and inverted. Physical companions, as opposed to summons on the Ex-nihilo path, are able to influence your hallucinations. You also gain the skill "Rebound" at the beginning of the game, which allows you to push enemies away.
  • Mind Screw: A very poetic and eloquent Mind Screw, but still a Mind Screw nonetheless.
  • Misery Builds Character: Does it ever...
  • Missing Mom: No mention of the player character's mother is made aside from the beginning, which states that she ran away into the wilderness, and presumably died. Soon after, the player meets a hallucination of her. They can then joke that it's a family reunion, and then shrug it off. It's later revealed to be a metaphor; The Heroine's mother died giving birth to her.
  • Mushroom Samba: At the beginning of the game, the village volva gives you some drugged tea to help you fall asleep. This leads to some very vivid nightmares.
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Willpower. It doesn't factor into any skills, but it increases your maximum Energy - which you will need. If you don't put 5 points into Willpower every level, battles - especially in Episode 4 - will destroy you. Due to the fact that she gains an additional 5 Willpower every level, the Huntress is considered the easiest class to play through the game.
    • Dump Stat: If you aren't a Volva, Memory, and if you aren't a healer/support role, Charisma. Though if you are a Volva, you'll be picking these as your main stats, as well as Willpower for the reasons described above.
  • Pacifist: The way you are expected to play the game.
    • Technical Pacifist: You eventually gain the ability to damage enemies using the Flame Princess ability. You can usually take out one or two annoying enemies, and are expected to in order to proceed.
  • Player Character: With a very vague backstory and personality, allowing the player to come up with one.
  • Playing with Fire: The Flame Princess allows players to damage enemies by burning them.
  • Power of the Void: Absences can use "Void Walk" to remove 2 PP from an enemy. So summoning 8 Absences around an enemy renders it completely obsolete.
  • Purely Aesthetic Era: On the one hand, all the people you meet, including yourself, practice a fantasy variation of Old Norse paganism, Christianity is all but non-existent, all the work is done manually and the girls are expected to marry while still in their teens. On the other hand, quite a number of women are openly lesbian or bisexual, there are printed books, the provincial shamans are familiar with the concepts of schizophrenia and psychoanalysis and also keep diaries and, when you finally see Sapphire Bay, there are skyscrapers everywhere. Don't think about it too hard.
  • Purple Prose: A common criticism of the writing. It does tend to get a bit overbearing and pretentious at times.
  • Puzzle Boss: Not just bosses, every single battle has elements of these, requiring thinking in order to survive or proceed.
  • Rape as Backstory: Five years before the game begins, the Heroine was raped by one of her father's friends, and the player only becomes aware of this halfway through their journey.
  • Religion is Magic: Played with in the form of the setting's religion, which itself is based heavily on pre-industrial Germanic paganism. See Culture Chop Suey.
  • Sanity Slippage: It's pretty bad for everyone involved.
  • Scenery Gorn: Barren wastelands and flickering shadows as far as the eye can see.
  • Scratch Damage: Having an Absorption higher than your enemy's damage output makes you invincible, so to avoid tougher enemies up ahead, you just keep spending your turns until you regenerate your EP fully, without taking any damage, or at least significantly reducing it (especially when used with Anticipation, which lowers your enemy's attack by 20% and stacks). This can be quite a Game-Breaker if you're a Weaver, who have this as their primary stat, especially at the beginning of the game.
  • Shrinking Violet: You get an achievement for crying at least 20 times.
  • Skill Scores and Perks: Gives you a wide variety.
  • Slasher Smile: During her trip on the barge, The Heroine is kept awake by a shadow standing behind her dead. The description of its facial expression is quite disturbing.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: At one point, the player attracts the attention of a man who tries to molest her.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: This fairly relaxing tune plays during the last battle in Episode 4, in which the big reveal happens. It... doesn't exactly suit the moment, to say the least.
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Father and The Father are separate characters, the latter being The Heroine's recurring hallucination of the former.
  • Stepford Smiler: The player can choose to be one.
  • Stone Wall: The Weaver class is built to be this. Their high Humor gives them Absorption, directly detracting away from damage taken, and their primary skill branches, Protection, Dispersion, and all skills to the top-left/bottom-left of the skill tree all focus on reducing damage and surviving for as long as possible.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: The Father and the canon character portrait (the one used in official out-of-game art) both have blonde hair, similar features and dull eyes.
  • Title Drop: All over the place, usually in the form of a battle's name or dialogue.
  • Took a Level in Badass: As the player progresses, the Heroine generally changes in tone, going from a cynical and downtrodden woman to becoming much more headstrong and capable.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: The player comes across one, though nothing can come of it. If the player does learn it, however, they can out it to the whole village and tarnish years of history and pretenses.
  • Viking Funeral: The Heroine's Father is burned on top of a funeral pyre. The Heroine can joke that the real victims were the wood gatherers, only to see their efforts literally burn.
  • Virtual Paper Doll: You are given options for cloths, hair, and portrait; for picture and 3D model.
  • Wham Line: Several. Right after the play first begins their journey, a Hunter tells them that if they want to get to the river they'll have to take a three week detour that many die while taking. The Player Character doesn't take it well, and it's the first of many.
  • Women Are Wiser: Except when they're not.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Played with. There's nothing specifically stopping The Heroine from journeying back home, though she decides that she was always an outsider, merely an observer, and vows never to return. Then again, she'd probably die if she tried.