Frostpunk – Fossil fuels are the key to saving last humans on Earth

HOURS PLAYED: 54H 19MIN

PLAYED ON: MSI – GP73 Leopard 8RE

A unique blend of city building and survival brings creates a whole new playing experience that hasn’t been fully experienced by gamers. Like Banished by Shining Rock Software LLC, you oversee a small group of people, who are needed to be kept warm, fed and remain happy about your leadership. However, in Frostpunk the stakes are a lot higher – you are the leader of the last survivors on Earth and the future of humanity wholly depends on your actions.

Frostpunk alternative universe in the late 1880s, where global cooling took over the Earth. In the best nature of steampunk, the innovative technology allowed a huge generator to be installed in the North pole (Apparently to find out why it got cold… which I find a weird decision) for the sole purpose of radiating heat. Powered by coal, this generator becomes the heart of the city, preventing it from being frozen.

Screen_20-02-2019_23-59-04
That huge structure is a generator that will be heart of your city and coal will be it’s blood.

A CUDDLED-UP CITY IS A WARM CITY

One of the creative choices of 11 bit studios is to force the player to build around their generator, which creates a round-like shaped city. This choice might at first seem odd and perhaps quite deterring for some players, as it forces you to place your buildings in a certain manner.

Cuddling Up!
Placing your buildings in a circle, does have it’s aesthetic charm. I am actually quite liking how my city looks.

Personally, before playing the game, I was bothered by gameplay design as I believed that I cannot place my building wherever I wanted them to be. Yet, I found myself enjoying this feature, as I have found that placing buildings by grid quite helpful when it comes down to planning how to disperse heat or other modifiers. In the end, the city looks like cuddled up buildings to keep themselves warm.

One of the challenges is to strategically heat working and residential areas. Unless you want your people to fall ill or catch frostbite, the positioning of the workplace and housing will determine how operation your city will be. The colder the building – the higher are the chances for people inside them calling in sick. More sick people – the fewer workers you will have to gather resources, do research or treat sick.

In the unfortunate event of the people dying, there is no way to replace them back. For some reason, people do not reproduce (perhaps they are too cold or busy surviving), hence there is natural population growth. The only way to grow your population is to find survivors outside of the city.

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You can check on a temperature map on who is cold or warm. Currently the only thing that is comfortably warm is my generator. Yellow buildings are insulated and have heaters that keep them at a livable levels. Yet, most are left to go through bitter cold.

I AM THE LAW

It falls on you as a leader to establish the rules by which you will govern your society.  Should the children do work amongst adults or live in a child-shelter helping engineers or doctors with their jobs? Would you allow doctors to cut limbs off people to let them live?  Would become an unquestionable god or a ruthless dictator for your people?

These are just one of many laws you will consider. At the start, you can pass the law every day from a, but as you keep passing them out it slows down to about a law per two-three days. In a tree-like fashion, by passing one law you open access to others.

Adaptive Branch
These sets of laws are core to your survival. I was in shortage of workers, so I had to force children to work for our survival.

Hence, you must select your first set of law wisely, as it will shape the way your society functions.  For example: passing the law to add sawdust or liquifying food into soups can prevent your city from certain starvation, but the poor food quality will upset people.

Eventually, you will be given a crucial choice between two values; order and discipline, or faith and spiritual strength. Passing these laws can make it easier to control your citizen’s satisfaction, but it can delve into a rabbit hole as laws become increasingly cruel.

Selecting Paths
Eventually people need a purpose to survive. Choosing order will lead you the path of a dictator, while choose faith will make you into a God in the eyes of your people.

Once the law is passed, there is no way to revert it. While most of the laws are beneficial to your ruling, it will have an impact on the ending of the game where you will be judged for them.

Developed City
I have established complete dominance over my city to the point where I made public executions. It reminds people why they shouldn’t fight against me.

BUILDING A RIGHT CITY IS LIKE SOLVING A PUZZLE

Many struggled (including me) to survive more than 10 days before your people banish you from anger. Frostpunk offers fours scenarios and an endless mode which all call for a different approach in your game style to complete them.

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Small beginnings for a great city. People are forced to live in tents and travel through the snow to get to work everyday.

While I will not spoil any of them, but I must commend 11 bit studios for achieving the heart-wrenching situations, shocking plot-twists and gifting a bit of existential crisis to me. I was immersed in the scenarios by being faced with challenges that make me question my morality. Each time you feel like you are standing tall on your legs, something will knock you over, again and again. The fun part is how you will pick yourself back-up.

Each time you feel like you are standing tall on your legs, something will knock you over, again and again. The fun part is how you will pick yourself back-up.

Playing through all the scenarios on hard difficulty, I was ecstatic to complete through what I found to be a fair challenge. Hungry for a bigger challenge, I ventured into a survival mode. There you cannot ‘freeze’ time and everything becomes far more severe: temperatures drop lower and more frequently, people are far more sensitive and prone to dying, and resources are far and few.

Winterhome
You can observe your citizens around the city as they work, travel and live in it. Because of it, the city feels alive as observe masses of people struggle through their daily lives.

I’ve only managed to complete one scenario on survival, and I am proud to say the mode stands to its name. After hours of replaying and frustration, my happiness was over the roof when I finished it. Yet, I have noticed a major flaw through replaying many times. By solving a puzzle once or twice, you lose any further interest in solving it again or those that are like it.

Freezing Temperatures
Despite the -100°C outside, the people are still going to work to ensure it’s survival. The heaters are giving their all to counter the freezing temperatures.

REPEATING PUZZLES IS DULL

Once you learned the Frostpunk’s mechanics well, the events and choices lose their previous weight. I found myself to be repeating actions that became a chore. Passing the same set of laws for optimal builds, prioritizing the same technologies and placing same structures close to the generator. While at first the number of choices seems plenty, you soon realize that you don’t have many options to go with. Hence, I barely played endless mode, because it gives you similar challenges that can be found in story scenarios.

I found myself to be repeating actions that became a chore.

Within 54 hours, I have realized that the mechanics are not that difficult in Frostpunk. There are essentially four issues – resources, food, medicine, and warmth. Are your people cold? Build heaters nearby, optimize coal production and upgrade generator’s power. Are your people hungry? Build more hunter’s huts or hothouses. Are many getting sick? Build more medical posts or care houses.

Frostpunk Screenshot 2019.02.26 - 23.28.08.93.png
I was struggling to prepare enough food for the upcoming storm. What did I do? I just builded more flying hunter huts and kitchens.

I was essentially solving my problems by either building or passing a law. It becomes repetitive, once you have done it all. Hence, once I completed a scenario, I found little interests in doing it again. Even on Survival difficulty. Perhaps knowing the repercussions of your choices and knowing with the struggles before they arise kills the “what if?” uncertainty. You learn what’s best and you stick to it again and again.

IS IT WORTH IT?

Frostpunk is a well-crafted city-building survival game, that has a strong emotional narration aspect to it. From a player, it demands to face up with difficult moral decisions where neither of the options is appealing.  Each scenario was a captivating experience to me; it showed me the struggles that each of my people and the impact that I had on them. Yet, the game was worth to play through each scenario once or twice before I laid it down. Regardless, I would highly recommend experiencing this game for its breathtaking atmosphere, innovative approach to the genre of city-building and gripping stories that will make you question your core principles.

I will definitely say it is worth it, for what it has got to offer!

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