Bramble: The Mountain King review — Sinister storybook

Upon waking in the middle of the night, Olle finds that his sister Lillemor is not in her bed. Following in her footsteps, he begins his journey into the wilderness where he must overcome the dangers of the nordic thicket. After discovering his sister has been kidnapped by a giant troll, Olle must overcome both his fear and the bramble that crawls through the forest to rescue his sister.

The game is very much inspired by storybooks, and comes complete with a narrator that reads out the events as they unfold. This theme is constructed even further by the elegant and dreamy landscapes that Olle traverses. The mystical forest is enchanting, and feels like a children’s book sprung to life. Gentle sunbeams illuminate the mossy woodland carpet, and as Olle explores he is greeted by the denizens of this new landscape. Playful gnomes that keep hedgehogs as cattle, bumbling baby Rumpnissar, and the friendly rock creature Lemus all aid Olle as he traverses this new and exciting world. I was always looking forward to what I might find next, and while simple, the exploration and platforming felt fun to engage with. However, the forest is not without its fair share of danger, and as night falls the trees warp into a new hauntingly beautiful atmosphere rife with threats.

A strange growth of bramble and burrs crawls throughout the forest, sickening both the flora and fauna, twisting the once peaceful landscape into something sinister. Trolls and other creatures from Nordic legends roam these woods, and seek to impede Olle from finding his sister. These beasts are also tied into various sections of the woods, and as you explore you will learn more about their history and what binds them to these places. One of my favorite encounters was with Näcken, a water spirit who plays enchanted melodies on his violin to lure people into his pond. Various records of Näcken’s past can also be found in the area as well, typically being within storybooks or artifacts collected around his pond. Being able to learn more about the creatures helped flesh out the monsters of the forest, and made them feel like myths made manifest rather than run-of-the-mill creatures.

These creatures are in stark contrast to the beauty of the forest, often being grotesque and bloodthirsty. This is something that I believe Bramble: The Mountain king executed perfectly, and absolutely delivers on the classic storytelling themes the game is built on. You can’t help but be entranced by the beautiful scenery, while also being terrified by the horrors that inhabit it. There are some truly unsettling moments here, and you should keep this in mind before you dive in. Trolls butcher the fauna, shapeshifters rip the hearts from travelers, panic-stricken mothers killing their children, there is no shying away from it here. This is not a heartfelt fairy tale, it’s a gruesome journey of courage as Olle confronts the horrors of the Nordic forest, doing whatever it takes to rescue his sister. And for me personally, it’s absolutely refreshing to see a game commit to this all the way.

With Olle being much smaller than the foes he faces, much of the gameplay will involve you attempting to flee or hide from the monsters that roam the woods. However, Olle is not completely without some way to defend himself. At a certain point in the story, he finds a small stone that shines brightly in his hand, which can be used not only as a source of light, but also as a ward to hold back the beasts in the darkness. The stone can pulse to push back the crawling bramble, or be thrown to repel monsters. This mostly comes up during the boss fights, but I found it interesting to have a tool that shapes itself to what Olle needed during various moments.

On the topic of boss fights, these are some of the more action packed moments of Bramble: The Mountain King. Players will typically need to dodge attacks while waiting for a moment to strike back at a crit spot, and repeating until the creature yields or Olle is given a chance to escape. This is a pretty familiar loop that doesn’t do too much to break the cliche, but the intense set pieces and stellar boss designs often make up for this shortcoming. The most memorable fight for me was when Olle encountered Skogsrå, a beautiful yet ruthless shapeshifter that draws powers from the hearts of men she has captured. Using the stone of light, Olle is able to hit the men strung up along the trees to lower Skogsrås power while avoiding her deadly barrages of strange power.

When I say deadly, I do mean it because any attack can strike Olle down. There is little room for error in any of the boss fights or encounters with lesser enemies, meaning that you’ll always need to stay alert to stay alive. This can be a bit brutal if you’re struggling with an area or mechanic, but the checkpoint system is pretty forgiving to help combat this pain point.

With so much rich and interesting story telling surrounding Nordic folklore, Bramble: The Mountain King was hard for me to put down. Every moment felt as if it could have been lifted right from the page of a story book with the enchanting visuals and dreadful creatures. Traversing the woods while admiring its beauty and fearing its dangers was a lively experience, and I absolutely enjoyed uncovering the mystery of the bramble and Lillemors disappearance. While there are some tropes at play here, the overarching narrative makes up for it by delivering an exciting and impressive tale of courage and familial love.

Editor | Website

Corvo is a writer who loves to explore journalism through video games. Writing and editing reviews for triple-A games and indies alike, he finds his passion within expressing his experiences in a fair and accurate manner. Some of Corvo's favorite games are Destiny 2, Mass Effect, and Disco Elysium.



Bramble: The Mountain King

Review Guidelines

At its core, Bramble: The Mountain King is a storybook brought to life in the best way possible. Olle’s search for his sister is a wonderful journey inspired by Nordic folklore that is aided by magnificent landscapes, unsettling mythological creatures and an intriguing narrative that culminates in a touching tale of bravery in the face of darkness.

Corvo Rohwer

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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