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When Winter Just Won't Quit

End of Winter is a short action game made for a game jam on itch.io with the loose theme of ‘winter’ and a timeframe in which to work. As such, it plays more like a proof of concept than a full-blown game, though it feels like its mechanics could have been expanded into something greater.

Let’s Talk About Assets!

All taken from the default stock of RPG Maker MZ. They aren’t being put to spectacular use, but they get the job done. The game is only a few maps long, so the amount of resources needed was not especially high. Apart from typical RM squareness, it’s doing just fine.

Let’s Talk About Story!

Winter has overstayed its welcome and a hero named Ratibor is out to stop it. Normally you can’t do much about the length of a season, but in this world, they are personified in a physical body that ages as the season progresses. Long story short, if Ratibor slays winter’s avatar, the season will yield to spring.

So he sets out from a nearby village and does that. It’s a very short story. The lore implications are pretty interesting, but that’s about the most the narrative has to offer.

Let’s Talk About Gameplay!

This is the focus of the game and surprisingly tight in its design. While overworld exploration is typical of RPG Maker, there are no formal battles and there are several special movement mechanics. Ratibor is an archer and he can fire in cardinal directions to take out monsters closing in. Although he can only fire in four directions, he can move in eight. You can lock your position to turn in place, or lock your direction to strafe and continually fire wherever you’re facing. Only one arrow can be shot at a time, but they pierce any number of targets, and you can fire again once it strikes a wall. It bears mentioning that I played this on a gamepad and the experience might be clunkier on a keyboard.

Most of the gameplay is centered around moving and shooting. On combat maps, enemies spawn in around the fringes of the screen view and advance toward your position. They attack if they’re close enough and chip down your HP. No enemies are faster than you, but some of them move the same speed, so you need to use the dash feature to get some distance away from them. Stamina drains pretty fast, but you don’t usually need much. It’s best reserved for when monsters get too close or to avoid getting surrounded, which can happen with alarming rapidity.

There are three types of enemies you’ll encounter: zombies, wolfmen, and knights. Zombies are slow and only take one hit while knights are slow and take many. Wolfmen can match your speed and take a couple shots, so they are particularly disruptive. There can be a lot of monsters active at any given time, and running away could cause them to spawn in the direction you’re fleeing, so it’s necessary to decide when to make a stand.

Despite having no other battle system, there are still level-ups. Wipe out enough mobs and you’ll grow in strength, restoring your HP and stamina along with making you more durable. There are also weapon and armor upgrades you can buy in town which I assume have some function (or they wouldn’t have included them) but I didn’t find these to be necessary. The push to reach winter’s avatar is not difficult to make. There’s a wide open snowy field that leads to her cave, and the cave map is pretty large and claustrophobic, but you could clear it in under 20 minutes if you’re careful. There are treasures to collect and healing items you can use to keep your meters up, but the game is so short and easy that they are hardly needed.

However, while it is easy to break through and finish the game, the threat of the cave is quite real and it’s just as easy to get overwhelmed in its passages. It’s worth defeating enough monsters to level up a few times so you don’t get wrecked by an unlucky swarm. In a longer game, I could see the other mechanics becoming much more significant.

Let’s Wrap This Up…

To me, this game feels like a short experiment gone right. The mechanics are effective and could probably carry a longer title. It sort of has the feel of 2D Zelda games, but you only have a projectile to fight with. The premise also seems like it had more potential, and I think the shortness might be doing it a disservice. It’s a fun little curiosity as-is, I only would’ve liked to see it take the concept further. Thus, I leave it with a…


Staying warm is not the only reason to keep moving.


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Thanks for the review!

The weapons increase Attack, armor increases Defense. As the game itself says during the tutorial, Attack increase the damage of your arrows, Defense decreases the damage you take from enemies and Agility slightly increases your movement speed.

The enemies have HP and take damage based on your Attack. For example, at level 1 without a weapon zombies take 2 arrows to take down. With the Dragon Bow and at max level (5), you can take down werewolves in 1 arrow and I think knights in 2, allowing you to mow down hordes of enemies easily.

Yeah, there's not much point in leveling further once you get to the entrance of Morana's chamber, beyond just enjoying the gameplay. Originally, there were supposed to be two more stages and a boss fight with Morana at the end, but I only learned about the game jam 5 days before it was supposed to end, so this is all I had time to do.

Also, like Amarok's Howl was based on inuit mythology, this game is based on slavic mythology. The scene in the ending is based on the practice of Drowning of Morana. They would make an effigy of the goddess Morana out of straw, set it on fire and then throw it into the river to mark the end of winter and bring forth the spring. Except in this game, they instead kill the actual goddess and throw her burning body in the river instead of an effigy.

As for seeing the concept taken further... well, the sequel to this game, Under the Hunter's Moon is just that. Gameplay-wise, that game is basically what this game was originally supposed to be like. Hope you get around to playing it eventually!
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
Interesting! I look forward to seeing this game system more fleshed out.
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