Review: Frostpunk

Set in an alternate steampunk version of 1886, Frostpunk is a city-building survival game that has the player don the role of “the captain” whose purpose is to lead an expedition to flee the bitter cold. Temperatures dropping fast, the expedition crew find themselves in a desolate area with only their generator and what little resources they can muster.  It’s up to the captain to accrue resources, send scouts to search outside the city, delegate research, construct buildings, and most importantly, keep everyone warm. This simple but challenging city builder has players make difficult decisions for the sake of survival and 11 Bit Studios (creators of This War of Mine) made sure every choice can drastically help or hurt the citizens of this new winter home.

The game starts out with a lone coal-powered generator sitting in the middle of what appears to be nowhere. Wood, steel, and coal wreckages are scattered around the area and it’s up to the captain to order workers to salvage them. Coal is used to power the generator and keep the area warm while wood and steel are used for research tasks and build buildings. As the first few days pass, the populous will make requests for housing or faculties like a medic’s hut or a cookhouse. Laws can also be established that can enact child labor, force people to eat soup to cut food expenses, or decide how the dead should be buried.

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All of these promises being made/broken, and laws being enacted have an effect on the citizens’ collective impression of the captain. If promises are being kept and the laws ensure an easier life, hope will rise and workers will be more effective. Otherwise, if too much discontent is sown into the fabric, everything can spiral out of control until the citizens turn their backs on the captain and the game ends. Where things get interesting is how much the player needs to ride the fine line between keeping the peace and ensuring there are enough resources for the future as every good idea always comes with a cost.

Farther along, players are struck with a realization that they are the only expedition that has so far managed to survive. With fear in the hearts of the city, a group called the Londoners want to trek back to London under their assumption that it should still be standing even in the shivering cold. It is up to the captain to use either faith to win the hearts of the people back or order to force them into submission. Food and resources might be stolen by the Londoners to assist in their journey back, but the biggest fear the player might face is losing too many to their ideals and a decent chunk of their workforce with it.

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