Developer: 11 bit studios
Publisher: 11 bit studios
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 11/10/2019
Price: £24.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title
Being in charge of a virtual city (and, I imagine, a real city) can be stressful, but rewarding. Take Cities: Skylines for example; there’s the pressure of keeping people happy, but the fun of constructing your own city and seeing it thrive. Now, add being situated in a frozen wasteland where people need warmth and food to survive. The pressure is significantly heightened, and this is what Frostpunk is all about.
How long will you survive?
In this city-building survival game, you are trapped in a volcanic winter, not far from a frost plunged London. Situated around a generator that provides your source of heat, you are the leader of your people, and therefore their fate lies in your hands. There are four different scenarios to play:
- A New Home – You and your people have fled London, and after getting separated, come across a generator in a crater. You must keep up hope as you discover how little survivors there are, and prepare for an upcoming storm.
- The Arks – Preserving plants inside Arks, you must keep the city heated to prevent them from dying, while also making the tough decision to help other survivors or prepare for the storm.
- The Refugees – Finding you and your people at a generator intended for wealthy lords, you struggle with the clash of social classes and the choice to let refugees into your city or turn them away.
- The Fall of Winterhome – You must rebuild the city of Winterhome, half of it burnt down due to riots, eventually learning due to the damaged generator that an evacuation plan has to be put into effect.
A New Home is the main scenario, and you must reach day 20 to unlock the other three. Though the story and overall objective differ, your main tasks remain the same. Coal is needed to provide heat for your people by fueling the generator, and hunters to gather raw meat. Wood and steel can be collected to build, constructing the workshop giving you the ability to research blueprints to build things such as sawmills and infirmaries.
A beacon is also essential to send a scout team out to discover new places, hopefully with resources or survivors! And perhaps the most important, hope needs to be kept high and discontent low. At first, the amount you must do and the various symbols on the interface are overwhelming. However, there are plenty of helpful instructions about each new thing, which you can revisit whenever you like.
As well as fast-forwarding time, you can also pause it to catch your breath and organise before you dive back into the brutal world again. I found building easy to pick up as well as finding what you want to build, and you soon become a natural at assigning workers to all the different buildings without a second thought.
That being said, this is a heavily challenging game. I started out on the medium difficulty setting and had to tone it down to easy after three runs. Even this isn’t a walk in the park, like most easy settings, but I would highly recommend starting off on this mode. It allows you to learn the basics without too much of the challenges that arise. The more you play, the better you get at knowing what needs to be built without being told, and getting it done quicker! This then gives you a better chance of surviving longer.
Will you be ruthless or kind?
As a leader, you are in charge of making the decisions, which are extremely brutal. Will you turn away survivors from your city or let them in, though they may drain your resources? Will you accept the poor man’s plea to not cut off his leg even though he’ll die, or amputate it anyway? And will you keep all your promises, no matter the cost?
Every choice has its consequences, good or bad, therefore affecting the discontent and hope of your city. There is so much to juggle, that you may have no choice but to stray from the path you want to. Numerous times I made promises I couldn’t keep, as I realised I didn’t have enough materials to do it, or I was focusing on something else.
Let your city’s discontent drop too low and they will banish you if you can’t raise hope in a matter of days. This is a bleak and dark game, which doesn’t hold back! Choosing laws to sign is vital to the happiness of your people, each with their own pros and cons. There’s a lot of pressure put on you to ensure survival, and the results, if you fail, can be dire.
Despite the depressing situation and the tough gameplay, I actually loved this a lot about the game. Most of the time, failing a game and having to repeat it from the start would make me frustrated. However, I only found myself more determined to survive longer the next time, and it was fun to try out different approaches. Even though you were essentially doing the same thing in each game and each scenario, I found myself glued to the screen for hours at a time.
Stuck in a frozen wasteland…
The overall atmosphere of this game is glorious; the steampunk vibe, the frost that crawls around the edges of the screen, the illustrations in the choice making. The visuals make for excellent world-building alongside the gameplay, particularly as the buildings are so detailed. For example, you can have automatons which are essentially steam-powered robots on long legs, to help gather resources. They move so accurately and you can see the snow melt beneath them when they settle on a building.
I also loved the contrast between the orange fires and billowing steam of the city, and the white snow and ice around you. It gave the sense of home and need for survival, so when the generator goes down and the light disappears, I immediately feel panicked! You could zoom in with the camera a little but I would have liked to have gone in a little further to really appreciate the intricate machinery and see the people clearly.
The audio only adds to the atmosphere; there is no soundtrack, but you get to hear the voices of people as they start their workday. I could even hear crying some times which was very harrowing! The howl of the wind makes you feel a chill and the ‘bong’ noise that echoes as your people die or have a problem is daunting, to say the least.
The game wants you to keep trying and seeing how far you can get, there is so much room to replay it over and over. You could even try it on the harder difficulties once you’ve got the hang of it, as some of the achievements require you to complete the scenarios on the hard difficulty too. There is also an endless mode which doesn’t have the same challenges or story as the scenarios, just a test to see how long you can survive!
Rise up to the challenge!
Bleak and challenging, yet addicting and satisfying, Frostpunk is perfect for those looking for a step up from the usual simulation games. The steampunk atmosphere and survival aspect make it unique, though the difficulty and harsh story mean it’s pretty intense! I will be playing this further to see how far I can go!
Rapid Reviews Rating
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