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.


cities: sky­lines

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