The latest release from 11-bit studios, Frostpunk, is a wasteland survival game. Combining a meager mess of human survivors, a ferocious frozen wasteland and the interconnectivity of a city builder, you get an enjoyable survival simulator experience. I’ve spent many hours glued to my screen. The game has me truly immersed. With the trials of appeasing my citizens, maximizing my infrastructure, there’s never a dull moment. Not to mention having to brace my civilization for that ever-looming next set of obstacles threatening to wipe us from existence.
Frostpunk is a city builder on the surface, one that really emphasizes the elements of survival and loss. It’s a breath of fresh air to a niche genre. Any fan of the survival genre should really consider checking it out. It’s simple to understand, takes practice to master and hooks you in from the start. However, it does suffer a few flaws that ultimately break its rendition of being a true masterpiece.
The Good Stuff
Behind a delightfully simple interface and a tutorial that covers the basics
Frostpunk lays down the foundation for an easy to understand yet challenging city survival simulator. You play through a choice of three distinct scenarios. Each scenario has their own set of goals and scripted events. But, the big obvious one of all, is to survive. Unlike traditional sandbox games, your main struggle is going to be protecting your citizens from the constantly increasing cold. Fighting this requires building an effective infrastructure, managing your upgrades, curing the sick, acquiring food, meeting community demands and sending expeditions into the wasteland.
But resources are only half the battle
Success requires you adhere to set goals for the scenario, this comes with balancing two distinct social stats of the population Discontent and Hope. Having high discontent and little hope will threaten you with banishment. A simplistic government system allows you to pass laws every so often. This lets you further interact with and dictate methods of your rule to your population. Your people will react accordingly to just about every law you pass, force children into labor, don’t adequately dispose of the dead, increase shifts to 14 hours and you better be prepared for discontent to rise and hope to plummet.
The beauty of Frostpunk is that each mechanic is introduced individually as simple additions to your civilization, but when brought together they form a complex web of tasks, of which striving to succeed at is often enjoyable and rewarding.
Your city is always in the process of constant change
The scenarios continually challenge you to facilitate its growth. You might have refugees turn up to your city when an approaching cold front is about to hit. Perhaps you don’t have the infrastructure to support such an increase of food consumption and that may lead you to force them away, in turn decreasing levels of hope. Alternatively, you can risk taking them all in and have some get sick while spending a bit more time building the medical infrastructure and hunting huts to tackle the problem. Just like any well-designed survival sim, managing and planning your actions, contingencies and what to do next, requires constant mediation. There’s plenty to do and just as many ways to fail if you don’t plan ahead.
The Nitty Gritty
Lack of sandbox mode
While polished, beautiful and easy to get into on the surface, Frostpunk’s few flaws cost it greatly and seem to hold it back from its true potential. Playing through the campaign and the two later scenarios take only about three to four hours each. This lack of game time and no sandbox mode for you to sit down and explore, at times leaves you saying goodbye to your city with a sense of unfulfillment.
Linear system of progression
Secondly, Frostpunk’s boon of simplicity can serve as a hindrance in terms of replay-ability. Traditional city builders often have optional divergent development paths and different ways to obtain resources. Frostpunk’s lack of meaningful development choices presents a very linear feel on its system of progression. Your biggest choices are limited to choosing which type of resource you want to specialize in, or which laws you’re going to proceed with first. You will need just about everything in the end, so finding a successful formula is often simplistically calculated along a distinguished path.
The Overall Verdict
Frostpunk is a great game. Even with its few but strong flaws and its lack of replay value it still presents itself as a fantastic, fun and unique survival simulator. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with its graphics, its immersion and constant set of challenges.
If you’re looking for something different and new in the city-building genre then this is something to look into. Frostpunk’s simplicity excels in creating an atmosphere that lets you sit back, relax and be constantly immersed in its world. Just be warned, it’s not very long; which in my opinion, is quite justified considering its price. It’s also not some sort of early access game.
For those who did get this title, you will be in for a unique steampunk take on what an apocalyptic survival city-builder is. The developers have additionally stated we can look forward to updates featuring a sandbox mode coming soon. I give Frostpunk a well-deserved 8 out of 10. A score that many big-name titles from triple-A developers fail to achieve, in my opinion. This is the first time I’ve played a game by 11 bit studios. And after how much I enjoyed this release, I can honestly say I’ll be sure to check out their next titles. Thanks for reading my Frostpunk review!