What if you were the person responsible for the survival of quite possibly the last civilization on Earth? What if you need to keep everyone from freezing to death in the frozen wastelands of the old world? That is exactly what you have to do in Frostpunk from 11 bit studios. How exactly does it all stack up as a game? In one word: great!
Frostpunk has you leading one of the world’s last civilizations in the middle of a frozen tundra. You start with only a handful of supplies and a heat generator to provide warmth to your society. With the generator as the nucleus of the city, you have to slowly revive humanity while fighting food shortages, preventing poor health conditions, and, worst of all, dealing with temperatures dropping below freezing conditions. You have to find a balance between keeping people warm and well fed, gathering supplies, and keeping that generator running! The better you do, the more hope you provide for your civilization. When things get worse, hope starts to drop lower and lower, affecting morale and the overall mental state of the people.
When things get hard, you can resort to drastic measures and sign a multitude of laws that can help solve many problems. If you are in a crunch for supplies, then you can pass a law that increases the workday from 8 hours to 14 hours. Each law is designed to help you out, but some are short term fixes that can lead to a potentially bigger problem if left unchecked. People succumbing to death can force the player to make one of two choices: either pass a law to build a cemetery to hold a service for their dead or designate an area to throw all of the dead bodies into. The former will halt work for several hours in the day while the latter is a faster fix, but will cause more people to lose hope and become further discontent with their living conditions.
You have loads of resources to work with and through R&D, you can slowly gain even more. For example: you use sawmills to gather more wood, one of the valuable resources vital to survive along with food and coal for the generator. Other investments include extra heaters to keep working environments more humane when temperatures drop and resource storehouses so that workers don’t have to travel all the way back each time they get a bundle of valuables. There’s even a homing beacon to send out scouts to search for other places with people to rescue or resources to gather.
The game has a bit of a steep learning curve and will have you restarting a few times to get that perfect run. You may find yourself drowning in coal without worrying about the generator going out at all, but realize you’re out of wood, so you can’t build any more houses for the group of refugees you just let in, forcing them to sleep outside. Then they’ll get sick from being out in the cold for so long without a roof over their heads. Since you can’t build any more hospitals so into that newly built corpse pit they go! Or maybe in your next game you have enough wood and coal, but now you can’t feed anyone and you don’t have enough people to go out to hunt for more food. This leaves your people to slowly starve to death unless you pass a law to place additives into what little food you have left. You can also start serving sawdust soup, leading to people getting sick or sicker than before.
It feels like every time you’ve got an answer for how to fix everything in your new play through, another problem rises up and you have to try to account for that as well. You have to tough it out and come up with solutions to overcome the odds through any means before the townsfolk turns their backs on you and potentially leave the city. Or you can go back over and over again to see what you can do to get it right next time around. It’s highly addicting once you get into the groove of it. It does take a little while to get used to unless you feel right at home with strategy games like Civilization or Starcraft. Otherwise, you’ll be one of those guys who restart over and over until they get used to the controls.
You can gauge how your city is doing via a temperature view that you can toggle on and off. Once you turn it on, the game shows the city in an infrared view so you can see exactly which areas are getting adequate heat and which areas need extra heat and attention. If areas are too cold, they cease all functions until the temperature rises. Anytime you play on normal vision, you can watch as your city grows and can even zoom in to see some of the details of your city, even right down to your citizens. The amount of detail is pretty amazing, even to the point where you can follow individual people throughout the city. The details in the sound is equally as interesting as well. Not only does the music itself sets the tone perfectly to the mood of the struggle to survive from day to day, but going through each of the buildings you make will give you a hint of how each one is doing. There was a moment where citizens shouting overpowered all of the other sounds until a prompt appeared informing me that a protest was triggered because of my actions.
Frostpunk can’t be recommended high enough. Once you get started, you’ll keep playing again and again until either your society stands tall. Or you’re ousted from the town you’ve helped to sustain if the heating doesn’t stop first and the town freezes over. If you’re a fan of civilization building, or even a fan of 11 bit studios’ previous games such as This War of Mine, then Frostpunk is a must buy for sure.