After dragging ourselves away from our responsibility as the leader in a frozen world, it’s time to write the review of the mixed genre game Frostpunk. With aspects of a survival, city builder and strategy game Frostpunk surely stand out. However, let see how our leadership made the survival of the last mankind possible.
A new home
The moment we divided into the main scenario of Frostpunk a cutscene appears, telling us all about how the world changed because of the frost. But, not just the world as the focus lies on the citizens of London who, pushed by hope, went on a journey to build the last city on earth. Just as This War of Mine, another title by 11-bit studios, the game takes places in an emotional world and the cutscene directly sets the tone.
As usual with survival city-builder games the beginning of the game consists of gathering enough starting resources by sending our citizens to gather them from the piles lying around. With these resources, we had to build the standard buildings: tents, a cookhouse, hunters for food, a gathering post to let them gather faster and a workshop. However, the first quest asked us to gather enough coal to start up the generator, which is the key to survival.
As coal is needed for the generator the other resources; steel and wood are used for building as well as researching. When we build the workshops we were able to research new buildings, upgrades for already existing ones and for the generator. The technology tree is divided into four trees: Heating, Exploration and Industry, Resources and lastly Food, Health and Shelter. However, they are then divided into five levels, which we had to unlock by researching them and spending a lot of resources.
While the generator is the only hope to survive, researching plays a huge role because without, our citizens are doomed. In addition, the goal for the main scenario is to survive the huge storm where the degrees will truly drop to a life-threatening cold. For us the job to lead our citizens to survival. However, with the help of automatons, some of our workplaces were able to work 24h a day without the help of citizens.
Sacrifices for the greater good?
Yet, Frostpunk is more complicated than giving your people the basic necessity of life, as hope and discontent play a huge role. Because of this, there is a law-book where the first page is called Adaption. In here we could decide to choose for child shelters or let them do safe jobs. Also, we could sign public houses, where, with another law, citizens can get booze after their work shift. Yet, each law gives its own advantages or disadvantages by raising or lowering hope and discontent. For example; when we unlocked the emergency shifts and decided to use it, it increased discontent but didn’t affect hope.
But in our mind, we rather had some unhappy people for a while then people starving from the cold due to the lack of coal! Halfway through the gameplay, an event got triggered leaving our people in total panic, at this moment we were able to pick the Path of Order or Path of Faith. As we played both we can tell you it doesn’t matter much. Yet, it all depends on your moral vision as a leader. When hope falls you will be given an ultimatum as a leader, which might result in people overthrowing you. Gladly, we haven’t experienced it yet.
Fairly into the beginning, we had to build a beacon so that the citizens we lost during the journey could find us. When the beacon is finished we were able to send our scouts out to the open to find resources and more survivors. In addition, we were able to decide what to do when we found outposts or survivors. So yes, you can leave them to their own faith which sometimes is necessary. Because it’s better to sacrifice some strangers to let the city survive, right? These moral decisions will haunt you during the whole game and at the end, you might wish you did it all different. We at least did…..
Keeping track of everything
If managing your scouts, resources, laws, research and citizens aren’t stressful enough for a leader, pop-ups from citizens will randomly appear on the screen. These pop-ups are time-limited and either consist of happy citizens thanking you or more dilemmas. We had to make the decision to either ignore the matters, promise to fulfill them or to only fulfill just a part of their needs. So for example, at one point our citizens wanted us to build an infirmary. We could choose between ignoring them, building one or threat around 50% of the citizens. While we decided to just build an extra one, as we already had two standing, keeping the promise gave some hope to our citizens. Yet, breaking the promise will decrease hope and raise discontent.
Gladly the UI of the game is so designed that it’s fairly easy to track everything. At the right bottom, we were able to keep tracking of all our people and how many were idling. While clicking on the generator gave us an overview of the heat of all the buildings. Because of this, we were able to make sure a lot of people at least had a living condition. Also, the economy management shows exactly how efficient all workplaces are working, how much resources we produced each day and how many are used. Besides that, it also shows the number of tents/houses or bunkers we had and which people are undergoing treatment.
With two additional scenarios, the replay-ability of Frostpunk also lays in the use of different laws, strategy on how to survive, hunting of steam achievements, surviving on different difficulties and the different endings. While we managed the get the good endings for both the Path of Order and Faith, survival doesn’t directly mean you won’t trigger the bad ending. For this reason, we can add a lot of hours into the game before the developers are ready with additional content. Because, even when managing the city lets you panic at times, Frostpunk made sure to let us forget the time. Which might not be a good thing when you have plenty of real-life work left.
Besides the good gameplay, the scenery of the game in combination with the music gave us goosebumps. Each building has a lot of details and the scenery just gives another meaning to the story. While the music during the cutscene sets the tone for the serious job we have to do, during the gameplay it kept use soaked into the cold world of Frostpunk. Even when at moments, we were too busy to even notice the music. While we talked a bit about the story in the beginning, its time to dive a bit more into it. During the gameplay citizens react on the decisions you make and with each morning we noticed a few chat boxes on our screen. These small reactions from citizens as well as the moral decisions tell a bit of the story of their older life.
In addition, when scouts are on their way they will write about the locations they explored in their logbook. We certainly enjoyed reading these little notes as each time we got a little more insight into what happened in this part of the land. Yet, most of these notes aren’t exactly lighthearted, giving us again the feeling we have to do everything to keep our citizens from the same fate.
Frostpunk is exactly what we wanted from the survival/strategy/city-builder game and surely fits in the list of one of the best building games from the last years. The music, scenery and reactions of the citizens will draw you into the game while hours are passing by. As there are plenty of ways to replay Frostpunk, if you like setting your own goals, it should be easy to put a lot of hours into the game which sells for just 30 euro. While you get soaked into the game it’s also possible to play jus a few minutes of it as you can save anytime you want.