Frostpunk is a survival city builder brought to us by indie developers, 11 bit studios; who also made the popular game, This War of Mine. The game takes place during a fictional steampunk 19th century where an ice age has descended upon the world creating a global crisis. In the first scenario, ‘A New Home’, you are the leader of an expedition sent from London in order to establish a colony further north. Your choices as a leader will both define and influence your experiences as you develop and expand the last city on earth. The question is will you survive?
Gameplay itself is rather similar to a lot of city builders whereby you manage resources such as food and building materials in order to keep your population of workers healthy and capable of constructing buildings. One of the major differences in Frostpunk however is the management of cold. Your city ‘New London’ is established around a central steam generator which provides both heat and power to your other buildings. Whether or not your generator is still running can and will mean the life or death of your citizens as the temperature drops further as the game progresses. In order to keep your generator operating you must supply it coal which luckily is in abundance; one of the main reasons it was decided to attempt colonising this far north in the game’s story. Keeping up with the increasing demand for coal imposed by your generator and other auxiliary heating elements is a constant concern as weather harshens and you must prepare for the incoming blizzard. Another key element to Frostpunk is the management of two independent bars, ‘Hope’ and ‘Discontent’. Hope is as you’d expect how hopeful your citizens are of their survival and their current situation. If your hope is too low citizens may threaten to leave your city in search of survival elsewhere. Discontent is a measure of how accepting of current living conditions, food rations and treatment your citizens are. If discontent gets too high workers may strike or you could even be given an ultimatum to improve current conditions in the given time period or be overthrown. As you’d expect failing this means game over.
There is a surprising amount of depth to the game with the ability to make choices. Research is an extremely important element which can be done by constructing Workshops and employing engineers to work there. There are a total of four separate categories which research can be conducted in to unlock new buildings, passive effects, and new gameplay elements. One of the most exciting researches includes the ability to create Automatons, essentially steam-powered autonomous robots which can work in the place of humans 24 hours a day. Although there are also other appealing areas which add further gameplay, such as the ability to create outpost teams capable of establishing outposts which passively provide resources on a daily basis to your colony. I won’t go into detail about all of the researches capable of being unlocked but be assured these are just a small portion of the exciting features which can be utilised throughout your game.
Another area where your choices will affect your gameplay is the Book of Laws. Briefly summarised the Book of Laws is your governing laws which will affect how your citizens live, breath and work within your city. Do you want your workers to be able to work a 24 hour shift if necessary? How should we deal with our citizens who are disabled and incapable of work? Should we add sawdust to meals in order to stretch our food reserves a bit further? These are just a small number of questions which will be answered through your choices within the Book of Laws and will directly affect your citizens, the buildings you can build and gameplay elements you have access to. Once you progress further in the game you will also have the ability to choose between two independent paths which each come with a brand new set of laws. Order, is essentially a totalitarian regime whereby citizens must serve the state. This is achieved through new buildings such as guard posts and watchtowers in addition to prisons and propaganda centres. Faith is the other path, which takes a more religious approach allowing the building of prayer houses, shrines and temples. Each path is mutually exclusive and has their own approach of dealing with the issues you will inevitably face. As a result it is up to you to decide how you want to lead your city to salvation.
There are currently a total of three scenarios currently in the game. In order to unlock the next scenario you must first complete the previous one. With each different scenario you will be faced with an entirely different objective each with their own challenges to overcome. The first I previously mentioned, involves establishing your city and surviving the increasing cold temperatures which you will face, most notably the incoming storm. The second scenario, ‘The Arks’ is rather different and involves you protecting a number of different buildings from the cold. These buildings contain various species of seeds from throughout the world and so it is imperative they survive the winter if humanity is to have even the slightest chance of survival. Your most limiting factor in this scenario is manpower, you only have a small number of engineers at your disposal and so you must create a workforce of Automatons to ensure the seeds will survive the endless winter. The third and final scenario in the game currently is ‘The Refugees’. Vast numbers of citizens from failed colonies either fleeing the upcoming storm or outcasts seek refuge within your city. Not only must you ensure you have the food and shelter necessary to support an exponentially increasing population but you must also adapt a strategy to appease the polarizing views the refugees have. Each group of refugees will be divided into different social groups which have different opinions and demand different things. As if this wasn’t enough already the majority of refugees arriving will be sick and so require treatment within medical buildings to recover.
In conclusion, Frostpunk is a beautiful game which takes the city building genre in a new direction. The cold is your biggest enemy in this world although the happiness and health of your citizens cannot be ignored if you are to survive. Choice is a huge part of the game and will define your gameplay experience either for the better or the worse. Making bad decisions can not only lead to the death of your citizens but the failure of your colony overall. Surviving the game is one thing, retaining your humanity and compassion is another. Will you make the harsh but necessary acts for the few to survive or leave no man behind in this fight against Mother Nature? Find out in Frostpunk.
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