Frostpunk – A Review

Let’s go back in time for a moment: back to the Industrial Age. It’s the late 1800s, and the colonial empires are out there doing their thing… when somehow, the Earth starts to freeze over! However, hope for humanity is not yet lost. The crumbling British Empire, foreseeing the snow-pocalypse, quickly and quietly built a series of heat generators in the Arctic as a last resort.

You, the leader of a clan of survivors, have taken one of these sites as your own. Now, you must lead your people through the endless winter, manage your infrastructure, and do whatever it takes to survive.

That is the premise of Frostpunk; a city-building simulator mixed with Snowpiercer.

Right, where do I start with this game? Well… I should mention that this isn’t a casual experience. Any number of things can go wrong early on, and the various systems to keep track of will end up drawing your attention away from anything else. Several times, I’d played straight from dinner to bedtime without even realizing it. For someone like me, who tends to lose focus after an hour or two, that’s quite something. Whether that’s a good thing or not, I’ll let you decide.

Every choice you make will have consequences, whether it’s through the laws you pass, the promises you make, or the materials you distribute. People may die, but that is a sacrifice you must be willing to make… a small price to pay when the fate of humanity rests in your hands.

How far are you willing to push the moral boundary? Would you legalize child labor if it meant having more workers available? Extend food rations by slipping sawdust into meals? Keep the people happy through brainwashing or propaganda? Between dealing with the constant resource shortages, the rapidly-deteriorating weather, and the dispirited folks who’ll rebel against your leadership, you’ll have a lot of difficult choices to make.

The main story alone will keep you busy for at least 3-4 days, and there are 5 side stories to explore as well. The Arks and The Refugees expand upon the game’s base mechanics. The Fall of Winterhome, a brutal survival challenge even on Normal mode, hands you a broken mess of a city that you have to try and save. The DLC stories, The Last Autumn and On The Edge, freshen things up with new game mechanics and world-building. There’s also the three Endless Modes, if you really want to test yourself.

And did I mention the game’s soundtrack? Piotr Musiał’s orchestral pieces are dark, imposing, and a perfect fit for the desolate setting of Frostpunk. The art for the character/landscape portraits is also top-notch.

If you’re into city-builders and you like a good challenge, then this is the game for you. I will say I noticed a few errors in punctuation and flavor text, but they’re not all that distracting… at least not nearly as bad as one particular problem I encountered several times: save file corruption. In my first playthrough of every side campaign aside from On The Edge, my most recent save file got corrupted somehow, losing me several in-game days of progress. For that reason, I am forced to knock this game’s rating down one stage.

The only reason I’m not knocking it down two is because I’ve found no evidence of this being a common bug.

Thankfully, you can create a huge amount of save files… but still:

Make new save files, and SAVE OFTEN.

Whether you run into that bug or not, it’s always helpful to have a save state to fall back on, in case you make a bad decision… unless you’re insane enough to play on Survivor Mode (Extreme difficulty, no pausing, and no reloading), in which case, may the storm have mercy on your soul.

This, right here, is how you do a frozen apocalypse scenario right. Take notes, Snowpiercer. Let the environment shape the story too, not just the characters.

Good on ya, 11 Bit Studios. I wish more games could be like Frostpunk, and I look forward to whatever you bring to the table with Frostpunk 2.

Wear and Tear

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