Set in an alternate 1886, the eruptions of both Krakatoa and Mount Tambora, the dimming of the sun as well as other unknown factors plunges the world into a volcanic winter leading to crop failures and the death of millions. Searching for a new home in the North, it is your job to build a surviving city with an initial small band of survivors, keeping them alive against the elements as well as hunger and discontent in your decisions you make. Most of which will always have consequences in one form or another.
Now, for any of you history buffs out there, Krakatoa did actually erupt in 1883 and did cause the earth to cool due to the amount of stuff thrown into the air and the sun couldn’t reach the surface to warm it. Luckily it did clear and life continued as normal. Frostpunk takes on the idea of ‘what if?’.
The first thing you do notice when heading into the game is the slight lack of explaining a lot of things about the game to you. There are on screen prompts to guide you on the way, but doesn’t fully explain how you go about researching things or the games systems. You are charged with finding out the game mechanics yourself and for the first few attempts at playing the game I ended up banished from command and the settlement with my tail between my legs. Slowly however, I did start to get used to what I was supposed to be doing and when you conquer that issue the game does become great to play.
The initial idea is to build a city in a crater that can produce enough coal to keep the main fires burning. The temperature plays a huge part in just how much coal is needed. You start by sending out some of your survivors that you are leading to gather resources that are needed and start the main towers fire burning to produce enough heat to keep your band of merry men, women and children alive. You soon have to expand on that and build other buildings to prepare food that has been gathered which is in short supply, medical buildings etc etc, but each new building needs survivors to have it run efficiently enough and those survivors are in short supply so there is an element of moving people around between jobs they have been allocated.
Throughout the game the people within the game will frequently stick their noses into your business and offer advice or demand certain things, completing set tasks for them all works in your favour and keeps the discontent levels down and the hope strong with everyone. If the discontent rises too much, people will start to loose hope and eventually it will be game over for you. The game in general is a fine balance throughout the board of everything you do. People will start to die of the cold, its inevitable but then you are tasked with building cemeteries. Surely at that time of man and situation at hand, bodies would just be left on the ground, frozen and covered in snow? After all, even in this day and age there are dozens of bodies atop of Everest that will never be recovered, frozen and lost to a deep covering of snow. No doubt climbers will walk over the bodies and never even know it. 11 Bit Studios do seem to have gone a little too far with some aspects of the game for me.
You can force laws upon the people to increase their working days to produce more resources, or to make sure that children who work are given extra rations and many other things, but yet again, these laws have their own consequences; it’s impossible to keep everyone happy. I would have liked to have been able to adjust the amount of moaning from the people somehow just to shut them up if nothing else.
The game is hard, there is no two ways about it. The main storyline is rather compelling and over the course of 12 hours playing you will face so many challenges either from the weather or from citizens and politics of leading a city ever on the brink of death that you will be happy just to take a break from it to give yourself time to gather yourself ready for another attempt. Stick with it and the end is well worth your time, but believe me, you will be starting numerous new games.
The game does have issues. The main one is game crashes; they were a little too frequent for my liking and the game does not offer autosave. Being a few hours into a campaign and the game stops presenting you with that lovely blue screen is seriously annoying. You load the game up and have to start right back at the beginning. Make sure that you go into the games settings before you start, under the general options you can alter the autosave interval to daily, every 3rd or 5th day. This was a feature that should have been set from the start in the game and you can be given the option of adjusting it yourself.
Other than the main campaign, there’s not really much else the game has to offer other than a couple of scenarios once you have completed the main story as well as an endless mode, but it’s all the same principal involved.
In summary 11 bit studios have done a lovely job with this game porting it over to consoles from the initial PC release a while ago. If you are looking for a fun city builder like Tropico 6, this isn’t the game for you. It is brutal and unforgiving at the best of times, however if you are looking for more than just a challenge snap yourself a copy while the game is still hot. The replay value of the game is there but it’s not the same when you know what’s going to happen and there is little deviation between any playthroughs you do take on.
The game easily is worthy of a solid 8/10 however, but please 11 bit studios, work on those game crashes they are inexcusable.
**PLEASE NOTE: AIR Entertainment were supplied with a review copy of the game. This has in no way influenced my views on the game as per our Review Policy**