Frostpunk Review - You need hearts of ice to survive the winter of the century
The developers from the 11 bit studio had a hard time. In 2014, the Warsaw team released This War of Mine , achieving a gigantic success and reserving a place among the absolute top independent bands. What's the problem? Well, the 11 bit thus set the bar very high for future projects.
I was wondering - as probably many other players - whether the Warsaw studio would not turn out to be the star of one hit, especially since the idea of Frostpunk did not convince me very much. But I was wrong with the titanic size - and I am very happy about it. Frostpunk , although a game of a different scale and much more complex mechanics, is a work of as high - if not higher - quality as This War of Mine . Chapeau bass!
The time of the frosty apocalypse
Frostpunk is a title that is hard to classify. Calling it unequivocally a strategy, survival or a game focused on managing society does not fully reflect the specificity of this production. The main mechanics are taking care of the mood of society, building more and more advanced buildings, and ensuring that our subordinates survive the next day - but there is also simplified exploration, space management, and legislating. All of this works together without any serious glitches and you absolutely don't get the feeling that the player should be a member of Mensa to get the hang of it.
Well, the beginnings are almost trivial. When the temperature is still around 30 degrees below zero, and the generator standing in the center of each campsite gives enough heat to provide all residents with decent heating, there are simply no more serious challenges. And here is the first problem of Frostpunk - although it is a great production as a whole, sluggish, repeated start and the slow introduction of new obstacles may alienate those who like titles with a high level of difficulty . However, it is worth getting through the first few days to wait for bitter frosts, social unrest and waves of refugees - because then the game shifts into fifth gear and does not take its foot off the gas until the finale.
Developers from 11 bit once again managed to create a work that not only engages in gameplay, but can also be emotionally involved - albeit in a completely different way. Just like in This War of Mine, we tried to survive for a few units, here the goal is to save the city, which is the last bastion of human civilization. To do this, the player has to make really tough decisions once again.
Frostpunk constantly confronts us with events that compel us to choose between the will to survive at any cost and what is right. During more than twenty hours spent in this frosty world, I chased children to work, amputated sick legs against their will, led religious militia to the streets of the city, pacified demonstrations hostile to me, forced my subjects to hard work 24 hours a day and threw the bodies of the dead into mass graves. The game never holds us accountable for these decisions - it is up to the player to evaluate his own behavior. And after the increasingly terrible choices, probably everyone wonders what can be done in the name of survival.
It is also worth defining the basic problem mentioned by everyone who spent more than a few hours on This War of Mine . The biggest problem of the great hit 11 bit was the very limited number of locations, random events and playable characters with different skills, which meant that subsequent approaches aroused less and less emotions. Frostpunk may be a bit similar in this respect, because at the moment the game offers only three scenarios . Each of them, however, can be developed in a different direction, focusing on technology, exploration or implementing extremely different laws, and completing one story takes a good few hours. It is probably not a title that will keep us occupied for weeks, but the production of 11 bit studios offers enough content to devote at least a few long evenings to it.
Frostpunk presents an alternative vision of our globe, according to which the climate suddenly cooled at the end of the 19th century and the whole world was covered with ice. The cities froze completely, and the survivors set out to find places where they could wait out the apocalyptic winter. Several dozen people, some resources and a generator that gave heat were their only possessions. At the head of one of these escapades is the player in the role of captain and manager, who must ensure the survival of his people ... and at the same time stay in power.
The strategic layer in the 11 bit work is primarily the development of the settlement. People must be provided with food, adequate temperature and shelter, and at the same time not forget about the development of technology. As we progress, the frost begins to intensify - then it is better to have generator improvements, heaters in the workplace, hospitals capable of dealing with diseases and frostbite, as well as efficient mines and machines that allow you to extract raw materials without a moment of rest. At the same time, we need to delegate the right number of people to work in the facilities we have built - after all, hospitals, kitchens and factories will not serve themselves. All this means that in Frostpunk there is always a shortage of resources, and the player constantly has to decide what is his priority.
To survive the winter of the century ...
There is also a simplified exploration in all of this (groups of scouts sent to various places can collect valuable resources for us or bring new survivors to the camp), establishing external outposts to extract resources and a really solid technology development tree that can scare newbies with its size. But the sheer volume of these elements never bothers you, and it is thanks to this - and the city's limited resources - that completing each scenario is an engaging and thrilling experience . Frostpunk can be finished - it's not one of those survival titles in which we play until the snow apocalypse wipes us off the face of the earth.
And fortunately, because thanks to this, the stories created by the player are properly coherent and the goal is always clear. It is a pity that the subsequent approaches to all three scenarios lack some major variations - the number of random events and tasks turns out to be quite poor, so after a few hours of sessions the game loses the element of surprise. However, he can still engage - just choose a different path of development or decide on a different approach to the established laws and you get a new plot. Which - it should be added - we mostly add to ourselves. The texts displayed on the screen provide quite rudimentary information, which allows the player to let his imagination run wild and complete the narrative on his own. I liked this solution, because Frostpunk's world asks you to create new elements yourself, deepening its already unusual atmosphere.
... it takes a heart of ice
Of course, not everything works perfectly here. Any attempt to build a street leading to an unfortunate building is a torment - the system of their construction is not very transparent and it has never been clear to me when exactly my facility is connected by a path to the generator. Some buildings would also benefit from changing the design to a slightly more expressive one, because at the moment in the maze of buildings it is hard to find out where we have built a hospital and where the hunters' base is. There are also occasional bugs that sometimes drastically affect the gameplay. In one of the sessions, I had to bring the hope of the public back to a certain marked level within a certain period of time, but even when I did, the game failed me and I was overthrown by a desperate crowd.
It's also hard not to get the impression that looking at the same board all the time and listening to a few sad melodies on the cross in the end must result in weariness. For now, Frostpunk has not overeated , although after more than twenty hours, the same images of snow covering the beaten paths and workers working on the streets at the construction of the streets provoke a weaker reaction in me . But who knows - maybe after a few days' break, the view of the city in the heart of the frosty storm will impress me again. Because the visuals are really good here, and although it does not have spectacular detail or diversity, it also has a role in creating an extremely depressing atmosphere.