Please don’t run out of coal before the night ends. *Generator shuts down* Nooo!
Type: Single Player
Genre: Society Survival
Developer: 11 bit studios
Publisher: 11 bit studios
Release date: October 11, 2019
Frostpunk brings us to an alternate universe where progress was stopped due to a great frost suddenly rolling in during the 1800s. The world that once used to filled with lush nature and innovation is now bone chilling cold with snow covering almost every inch. You’re the leader of a group that decided to leave their home in London behind to find a better place to survive. With hope pushing them forward for months, your group finally found a place that they could have a high chance of surviving at. Your new home is a crater with a generator set in the middle to provide heat. Now, it’s all up to you to keep everyone alive… or at least most of them, and to find the rest of your group that was cut off by a blizzard.
As the leader, you’ll be in charge of managing all the resources, assigning workers to their stations, city planning, and keeping everyone alive. Arriving with barely enough resources to stay alive for a day, your new home thankfully has some resources scattered around that can hold you over till you can build machines to extract more. First and foremost, you’ll need coal to turn on the Generator, which serves as your heat source. Of course, you’ll have to make sure the Generator has a constant flow of coal. You’ll also have to gather resources to build buildings that will serve a multitude of purposes. From building enough homes so no one has to sleep out in the cold, to building Medical Posts for the sick or Hunters Huts to get food.
If you want to survive, you also have to put focus on research. Building a Workshop allows engineers to research buildings and improvements that are vital in your survival. You won’t be able to harvest resources, or have heaters, or even have steam hubs (or essentially mini generators) without researching it first. You also won’t be able to know what’s happening outside your city without building a Beacon.
The Beacon lets you send out scouts so you can find out what’s happening outside your city while also serving as a way for other survivors to know that you’re there. This will take away some of your workforce, and temporarily some resources, but it’s a fair trade. You can send a scout team to various locations, more being revealed as they explore more, to gather more resources or more survivors to add to your workforce. Not to mention that scouting is the only way to get steam cores so you can build heavy machinery or automatons. Of course, you need to recall the scouts to actually get these resources. Some locations can also have an Outpost built to get a steady stream of their resource specialty in exchange for more workers and resources to set it up. The resources you can get from scouting can honestly save you. In my most dire times, I crossed my fingers hoping my outpost team with coal will arrive before the Generator shut down before the workday started or banking on my scouting team to arrive so I can get everything back on track.
You can’t just focus on keeping everyone alive and making sure you’re planning ahead when placing buildings. You also have to keep track of your city’s Discontent and Hope. Discontent and Hope will either raise or lower depending on your decisions. If you kept your promise of building something, Hope will rise while breaking it will lower Hope and rises Discontent. The Laws you sign also affects your levels of Hope and Discontent. Adaption Laws will often have you choose between two choices that will have its own perks, but the citizens favor some over others. Do you want children to work with the downside of hope lowering and the possibility of them being injured or going with putting them in Child Shelters so hope will rise, but you’ll have to build a Child Shelter? Do you want to establish a cemetery so the dead will be respected, hope will rise, and you can lower hope loss due to deaths later on, with the downside of each burial keeping people from work, or will you instead go with a Snow Pit so later on you can harvest organs so sick citizens can get better faster and use corpses as fertilizer, but hope will lower and discontent will rise in response? You’ll also have Purpose Laws, which require you to choose between an Order or a Faith path. While they’ll differ in approach, Faith focusing on religion and Order focusing on keeping everyone in line. Both give you ways to raise hope with their modifiers, but they have advantages that the other doesn’t have.
If Discontent is too high or Hope is too low for too long, the game will end in either you being banished or executed based on your efforts.
However, your ordeal isn’t over. No matter how great your city is doing, there’s an upcoming storm. Estimated to be the worst one yet, it’ll wipe out anyone who isn’t ready. Your city’s survival depends on how much you stockpiled beforehand as well as making sure homes and needed facilities will be properly heated. Not getting far into research, not having enough coal to fuel the Generator, and not having enough food to last the whole storm. Also, I just have to say I love the visualization of the storm slowly inching towards your city day by day.
There are three other scenarios you can try out once you survive at least 20 days in the main story (A New Home): The Arks, The Refugees, and The Fall of Winterhome. Each of these brings along a new challenge and without spoiling anything, has a surprise event that puts even more pressure than what you were previously tasked with. The Arks revolves around you needing to keep seeds stored in Seedling Arks from freezing. As well as building enough automatons so the city can run itself even if every human there dies. However, you only have Engineers to work with. Next, The Refugees revolve around, well, refugees that were sentenced to die, but they took ships meant for the lords instead. Not all of you made it to the Generator at once, so you’ll have to deal with groups of refugees arriving over time.
Lastly, we have The Fall of Winterhome. Taking place before A New Home, this is meant to show you how Winterhome fell by putting you right in the middle of it. This scenario has to be the hardest one (and is weirdly my favorite). You don’t actually start with a fresh city ready for you to put down your first building. You actually gain the leadership roll well into the city’s development after the Winterhome citizens became frustrated with the old leader ignoring problems. So your city is pre-built with half the city burned, has laws already signed, and has some research already completed. You’ll have to prove that you were a good choice to restore Winterhome and then deal with the Generator malfunctioning.
Also, the old leader’s city planning hurts me. Even I wasn’t that terrible with city planning my first run (and trust me, my first run went downhill fast).
If you want more challenge than customizing everything to be on hard difficulty, Frostpunk has your back as each scenario has a Survivor Mode. Survivor Mode makes the game even more difficult than what you will come across in hard mode, the game will only save when exiting so every decision is final, and there is no active pause (so no pausing to assign workers or to redesign your city).
In addition, if you want a run that lasts longer than a scenario allows, Frostpunk does have an Endless Mode. Endless Mode will first let you choose between two modes depending on the difficulty you want. You can either choose Endurance Mode has sparse resources, bitter cold, and frequent blizzards. While Serenity Mode is more casual as it has plenty of resources, has mild weather, some research is already complete, and has short blizzards. Though, don’t think Serenity Mode is too casual as you can easily run out of coal or have low hope. In addition, you can also choose what kind of map you want and thus the difficulty you’ll have when building your town (like the Crags map have rocks messing with your city plans). What’s pretty interesting about Endless mode is the blizzards and the scout map. Considering scouting locations are the only way to get steam cores and more survivors when disregarding scripted events, what happens when you scout every location? Well, it turns out that you don’t have to worry about it. The frequent blizzards in Endless wipe out all your scouting process (just remember to recall them or they’ll die). Lastly, Endless brings along new buildings under a Public tab. Most of these are just decorative, like building a city square serves as a place for workers to socialize, but there is an Archive. When scouting, you can come across relics and if you bring a relic back, the Archive will show lore on the item.
Considering that Frostpunk was originally developed for PC, I don’t blame anyone for wondering how this game will play with a controller. Before I jumped into Frostpunk‘s console version, I did check out a video giving out tips for beginners and afterward, I was more skeptical on how good the controls will actually transfer. Well, 11 bit studios surprised me! While I never played Frostpunk on PC to compare, the console controls are so good it’s almost like Frostpunk was originally a console game. Once you get used to the controls, there’s no doubt that it’s just as quick as playing it with a mouse.
Frostpunk‘s new console UI is built on circles, drawing on the fact that Frostpunk has you trying to survive in a circular crater and that your city basically grows in a circle around the Generator. One hit to the left trigger brings up your Command Hub, with the most used menus accessible by just clicking the corresponding button so you don’t have to go to it with your stick. From what I can tell, most of the menus don’t deviate from the PC version, but there are differences where needed. The Construction menu is the biggest difference as it uses your bumpers to navigate through tabs that have a big circle in the middle to tell you what tab you’re on and information on the building you’re hovering over. The Build Streets and Dismantle Buildings/Streets are available on each tab, easily accessible with a button. When going into buildings that require staff, you may notice the lack of the ability to quickly employ the max amount of workers or employ none and you’ll have a different tab for building actions/abilities. Well, hovering over these buildings and pressing the right trigger will open the express menu so you can quickly access these building actions/abilities.
Completely redesigning Frostpunk around a controller was definitely worth it as controlling Frostpunk with a controller is incredibly smooth and quick.
Before I jumped into Frostpunk‘s console version, I did check out the subreddit as well and heard that the PS4 version was known to crash. So, I kept that in the back of my mind and decided to track my crash count. I’m not sure if there was an update before I got around to Frostpunk, but if there was it does seem the crashing problem is mostly dealt it. It turns out that Frostpunk only crashed on me three times: once in the A New Home scenario, another in the Refugees scenario, and the last in Endless Mode. I’m not sure where everyone else’s crashes happened, but for me, it seemed to crash when the city was decently developed and two of the three happened when I was doing something in the middle of the game autosaving. Like, one of my crashes happened when I was coming back from the map (which I did go into when the game was autosaving). So just in case, I do recommend going into your options and setting how often you want your Frostpunk runs to autosave (personally I went with autosaving every day). That way, you don’t have to worry about a bunch of progress or your best run yet to be completely gone in a flash. Granted, this makes Survival runs really shaky till these crashes are definitely gone, but be assured that crashes aren’t that frequent as it may seem.
When Frostpunk originally released last year on PC, it was definitely on my radar, but I wasn’t too sure if I would enjoy it. I don’t necessarily play city building games after all and I kind of forgot about Frostpunk as I was more interested in other releases I was waiting for. Once I heard there was a console port, I was down to finally trying this game out and ready to deal with the downside of porting controls that were obviously meant for a mouse. Little did I know, I would actually enjoy Frostpunk as I find days quickly turning to nights. Wanting to stay up till the next in-game day only to force myself to stop since I know I’ll end up spending a couple more hours playing. It also comes with a nice surprise of the port actually feeling like it was originally made to be on consoles with how well 11 bit studios integrated controllers.
I’d say if you’re interested in trying out a city building game that puts you up against the bitter cold and has you manage its citizens, Frostpunk is a great choice. And considering that each scenario has you choose between different choices, it does give you some replayability other than trying out different difficulties.