In Frostpunk, you and a small group of people gathered around a massive mechanical heating pillar called the Generator. The world is in the midst of an endless winter that arrived (and stayed) after a devastating event at the end of the 19th century. As the group’s leader, you have to command your people to gather resources and create “the last city on Earth” in order to survive. This is 11 Bit Studios’ Frostpunk, and it’s not just a city-buildling game. It also combines social experiments and survival mechanics to keep you on your toes as your city grows.
Shelter From The Storm
Money isn't what dictates success in the game. Instead it's the general mood of the public, which consists of Hope and Discontent, that will keep you in power. A large gauge for both moods is displayed at the bottom of the screen, and most of your major decisions, whether it's building a specific structure or enacting a new policy, will dictate whether people have more hope or growing discontent. The main goal for us throughout the demo was to keep people alive as the temperature around them plummeted to negative double digits.
In order to keep the population from freezing to death, we had to gather coal from the outskirts of the city. Because it was a vital resource, we assigned more than 15 people to bring coal back to the Generator. With enough fuel, the Generator was up and running, and because the machine emitted heat in a circular pattern, we had to erect buildings around it in a similar layout in order to keep each citizen warm throughout the night. As we researched new technologies to improve the Generator's effective heating range, we could build further away from it to help out the survivors.
Coal wasn't the only necessary resource. Our food stock was running low, which meant we had to create new structures such as the beacon and hunting lodge in order to find more resources and people to gather them, respectively. We increased our workforce to assign more people to mine steel and chop wood so that we had the necessary ingredients to create these special structures. Even though I had people gathering resources, the amount of coal, steel, wood, and food flowing back to the city still wasn’t enough. In addition, our gatherers worked only during the day, which wasn’t efficient. This was when we enacted our first social policy via the Book of Laws.
Depending on the choices you make in the Book of Laws, you can have a city where everyone is cared for or where the weak and dying are abandoned in order to save the population at large. Other choices in the Book of Laws included the creation of a fighting arena to keep spirits high, or the implementation of child labor laws so that children can have a safe work environment. In the case of our resource gathering problem, we implemented emergency shifts, which allowed some citizens to continue working at night. This decision didn’t sit well with those sent out in the middle of the night to gather more coal, and their displeasure raised the overall Discontent of the city.
However, the extra hours were worth it. The Generator continued to heat the city through the night, and by the next morning, everyone returned to their normal work shift and gathered more resources. Then we were hit with another problem: People were getting sick. We didn’t have medicine, so people were slowly dying, and the rest of us could do nothing about it.
The eventual loss meant a reduction in workforce. We had to implement additional emergency shifts at night so that we could create new buildings and gather more coal. Eventually, more of the population turned for the worse as the illness spread. We tried to keep the city alive for as long as possible, but with more people dying and not enough food to go around, the people’s Discontent was at an all-time high. We were eventually booted out of our leadership position, and our time with the game ended.
Learning From Mistakes
Even though we wanted our city to grow into a massive metropolis within the freezing wasteland, the main objective was survival. We weren’t just gathering resources to make more buildings; we had to give the people hope by keeping the Generator lit and the food supply intact. Unfortunately, we didn’t succeed. Frostpunk as a game seems like it will, though.
The constant juggling between resources, managing Discontent and Hope, and creating new policy in the Book of Laws kept us busy. The addition of survival elements made it even more intense, but it never felt overwhelming. We left the booth disappointed at the outcome, but if we had a few more hours with the game, we could learn from our mistakes and create a better living environment for the citizens. We’ll try again when Frostpunk arrives later this year.
|Type||City-building, Survival, Simulation|
|Developer||11 Bit Studios|
|Publisher||11 Bit Studios|
|Where To Buy||Steam|