It has been a few months since 11 bit studios’ juggernaut of a city building/survival game has been out. It was met with mostly warm responses with people praising the throwback to the golden age of city building games (such as: Caesar III, Tropico, Settler 2, Anno1404) while also adding something new.
At the time of launch what made people hesitant on dropping money was how short the game was. At the time it didn’t warrant the price tag of $30. Recently their new endless mode had come out which is a highly anticipated game type that just adds hours upon hours of gameplay. For an example I was expecting to spend maybe 10-20 hours on the game I ended up spending 60 hours on the game and quite frankly I’ve been enjoying the hell out of it. I know there are still people who are interested but unsure if they should drop money on the game. Hopefully the following portion of the review can clear that up for you.
“Frostpunk is a brand-new title from the creators of This War of Mine. It’s a society survival game that asks what people are capable of when pushed to the brink of extinction. In an entirely frozen world, people develop steam-powered technology to oppose the overwhelming cold. The city’s ruler has to manage both the citizens and the infrastructure they live in. The leader’s tactical skills face challenges that will frequently question morality and the basic foundations of what we consider organized society. Optimization and resource management often clash with empathy and thoughtful decision-making. While city and society management will consume most of the ruler’s time, at some point exploration of the outside world is necessary to understand its history and present state.
What decisions will you make to ensure the survival of your society? What will you do when pushed to the limit? And…
…who will you become in the process?”
The layers in gameplay is outstanding and all fits perfectly for the genre. The use of strategy brings it back into the days when you really had to think about your moves while the game is playing without there being a pause. The developers made it so there are multiple ways to progress in this game rather than one way working for all situations. To its core the game is a survival game in the form of a city builder all based on player’s actions and how quickly they made them. The scenarios themselves are all tricky by default but not impossible. The moral decisions the player makes outside of gathering resources for the city are key to progressing quickly to the goal or progressing slower to your goal.
The moral decisions range from setting up a graveyard for the dead to the way the medical system is going to be implanted each having positives and negatives on the people for your city. Each scenario is on a different map having the players to really think outside of the box for it to work which is such a nice challenge.
The endless mode is something worthy of getting its own special mention. This is the big mode that everyone was waiting for. The way this mode is implanted adds even more layers to the game itself. Instead of working towards the goal of surviving until an end time. This mode is just to see how long you can survive while adding or taking out conditions. The player is tasked to figure out what is the best way to survive and progress in this mode. As days go on environment gets worse (depending on the mode in the endless mode) and it becomes harder to maintain a good healthy city. Or you can see how far you can go while disappointing your city but still managing to survive.
There are so many ways you can do that. This game does so many things well in this department where it hits the whole spectrum of what the developers want to accomplish with the mechanics. The building mechanics are smooth but tricky since there is a way to build things (picking a spot to build whatever the building or resource earner is, make sure it’s along the line of a road for power and anything else to make it easier for the workers to build it). The environmental hazards on top of feeding and housing your workers adds such a nice twist to this city building game. This is the core to the survival mechanics. The skill system is quite in depth and a little overwhelming at first but plays out just right and timing with unlocking them must be accounted for when the player is trying to unlock something. Then you have the mechanic of sending hunters out to get food to cook and there is a delay with them hunting so the player must take that into account. The next mechanic which is extremely important is the scout mechanic. Where the player sends out a group to go explore an area. The area could have an encounter, trapped civilians or even a spot that you can start another little colony.
The soundtrack is perfect for all the different scenarios the player will encounter in this game. Sounds add to the immersion for both the quiet moments and the intense moments. None of the music or audio in general fill out of place. The music has its moments where it’s truly haunting but then moments when it’s just beautiful.
The voice acting is done quite well where it is believable for the theme of the game. Even for the characters that were just there to be background characters. It didn’t feel like they were reading lines off paper instead it felt like it was natural dialogue that fit with their “everyday life”. The tones in their voices really reflected the overall mood of the current play through where it’s one leaning towards “no hope” or another “They have all the hope in the world”. This mixed with the soundtrack sets for such a perfect experience.
The graphics are absolutely stunning. The detail in the scenery and character models is unfreakin believable especially for a game in this genre where usually the graphics are a little wonky. The hazards are also done beautifully. The visuals look like a lot of time was spent on them to fit the theme of “Doom and gloom”. The mixture of cool colors with dashes of warm colors are extremely appealing to the eyes. The first time I played the game I was caught off guard by how detailed things were and the colors and how they all fit perfectly like they were meant to be together like a puzzle.
The game was made to be played more than once with all the different ways you can go with progressing in the game each with different outcomes and with the scouting areas being randomized (especially in endless mode). The endless mode added a huge amount of replay value. This mode made up for the lack of content that the other modes had (Since each of the scenarios on their own are short). The difficulties + rules you can set in endless mode add for even more fun in the game giving the player beyond their monies worth.
The dialogue was written perfectly to where it wasn’t cheesy or takes the player out of the immersion. There is a decent amount of dialogue that is spoken throughout each of the playthroughs (Mostly background characters and the occasional pop up for when it’s time for moral choices). I didn’t roll my eyes once at any of the dialogue that was heard in over 60 hours of gameplay. The lore is fascinating.
Frostpunk is such a love note to the fans of the genre from years ago. It excels in everything that it strives for, is gorgeous and brings a new spin to the genre. This game is one of the few games that would be considered a masterpiece. The soundtrack adds to the immersion the dialogue fits the game (there is no cheese). There is a lot of love that went into this game and anyone who plays the game will feel it. If more developers paid attention to 11 bit studios and followed in their example we would have more games that are actually worth the money.
The best feature of this game was given to us FOR FREE (the endless mode).
You can get your hands on Frostpunk via Steam.