You think you’re a good person, and then the coal runs out. everything is freezing over and suddenly you’re sending a small child out into the elements to fix dangerous machinery – you care little for their survival, so long as your generator whirs back into action. In most city-building sims you’re battling budgets and sewage issues. In Frostpunk the biggest threats you’ll face are falling temperatures and the desolation of your population. and yes, that’s really one of the gauges you need to watch out for. this engrossing, beautifully bleak sim from 11 bit Studios isn’t messing around.
you build your city out in a circular pattern from a central generator. It’s aesthetically pleasing, but it gets tricky quickly as you expand your borders. the further anything is from the central point the colder it becomes, and as the temperature drops you need to upgrade your generator or build up heat, all of which costs precious resources. Ignore it though, and work stops, people get sick and your hope gauge plummets. Victory comes from managing resources like people, coal, wood, food and steel to eventually building a self-sustaining town. different campaigns have different win rates: in one you’ll need to grow a city and survive a great storm, in another you have to keep all important seed stores from icing over. away from the city you’ll spend your time picking your way through pleasingly fertile upgrade trees, making new laws to set the priorities for your population and sending out scout parties to hunt for resources, survivors and potential outposts. take your eye off your main city for too long, however, and people may lose hope and start to leave, resources can start to run low and a cold snap can throw everything into disarray.
the sheer number of threats can be intimidating at first, and no one will judge you for fiddling with some of the scenario sliders after you’ve been deposed for the 17th time in a row for limiting food rations to soup and forcing the children to work (the tiny scroungers). Stick with it though and you’ll find it to be engrossing, forcing you to think fast and aggressively to survive some truly torrid conditions. you’re constantly pushed to make decisions about the fate of the sick, the dead and the young, and no matter what you choose someone will suffer. Frostpunk is a reminder that sometimes there are no easy choices.
listening to all of this, it might sound like a bad date with somebody studying for their degree in philosophy and history, though, thankfully, the themes never feel heavy handed or purposefully obtuse. they are just part of the greater web of decisions you need to make as your city grows, as other survivors appear through the snow, as a great storm looms and as newcomers need shelter. at its cold, frostbitten heart, Frostpunk is a game of decisions, and what makes it so satisfying is they all matter. 8/10 Verdict somehow improves a classic genre with snow and misery
The Automatons can be discovered on expeditions or built in a factory, and can replace whole teams of people at the mines, sawmills and even infirmaries.