In preparation for a ‘The Last Autumn‘ expansion review, we’re here today with Frostpunk. From the developers of This War of Mine, 11 Bit Studios presents Frostpunk: a strategic city-building survival game. Players are tasked with managing their resources, citizens, and development in a desperate struggle for survival in an 1887 frozen hellscape. Aspects of it feel highly reminiscent of the movie Snowpiercer, with the plot alternatively centralized around a city rather than a train. Aptly combining elements of Steampunk and their chosen setting, 11 Bit Studios committed to, and coined the term Frostpunk. And I’ve gotta say, they nailed it. The struggle for survival is desperate and depraved, on a road riddled with moral ambiguity, will you survive the frost?
Now, how one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated, and should be taken with a grain of salt (this included). So let’s review Frostpunk through the lens of more objective metrics such as; Graphical fidelity, characters/story, content/length, controls & gameplay, then finally, sound design and cinematics. This product was reviewed on a 1050Ti 4Gb, 8GB Ram, with a i5-7300HQ
“We knew the cost of our journey and we’ve paid the price
A hundred times.”Narrator
Visually speaking, Frostpunk is an impressive sight. The monumental generator stands hulking over your city, breathing fire and plumes of smoke in mighty fine detail. Players can zoom in and see their inhabitants hustle through their daily lives, mining, building, eating and sleeping. The beauty of Frostpunk is in it’s details, the animated generator icon, snowy rooftops, and even your citizens intelligently creating single file paths in the snow. It’s the simple and small features that make Frostpunk so immersive in it’s aesthetics.
Once players familiarize themselves with the user interface it becomes easy to navigate, though it is a lot to manage simultaneously. Thankfully, 11 Bit gave us a pause option, though more on that later. Environments are polished, though at times feel a little bland. But I understand that there’s only so much to see within a whiteout setting. With the aforementioned PC specs, Frostpunk had no noticeable frame drops, and no screen tearing. Gameplay is smooth and performance consistently reliable at 1080p 60fps.
Characters & Story
There’s not a whole lot for characters in Frostpunk, aside from you the leader, and your citizens. Whilst the story is in concentrated segments, there isn’t too much to dig into outside the cinematics. Which, mostly establishes context for each scenario – A New Home being the main story. That being said, I absolutely adore Frostpunk’s setting, and would love to explore more of it’s plot in future content. Throughout your playthroughs, societal and moral decisions will effect the outcome of your city and it’s people. Kind or cruel, the cold waits for none. Were you able to survive the storm, while retaining your humanity? Or did citizens overwork, freeze, suffer and die, in a ‘means to an end’ fashion? The way you choose to govern with the laws you select, and the methods of control you impose will determine their fates.
Content & Length
Being a survival game at heart, replayability is ingrained in Frostpunk’s DNA. Containing a variety of ‘scenarios’ with different goals, there’s plenty to come back to, including an endless mode, modifiers, and difficulty options. It should be noted that these extra ‘scenarios’ are only available after surviving 20 days in “A New Home”. The other scenarios currently available with the base game are as follows: The Arks, The Refugees, and The Fall of Winterhome (free DLC). DLC content is additionally available through The Rifts, and The Last Autumn. The Arks see players preserving 4 separate ‘Seedling Arks’ for a pre-determined amount of time. The Refugees has constant influxes of citizens fleeing to your city. Players must be prepared to feed and provide shelter the refugees. And finally the savage Fall of Winterhome. Start with a miserable crumbling city in crisis and turn the tide in your favor. There’s plenty to do within Frostpunk, and time truly flies when playing.
Controls & Gameplay
As your city’s leader, you control almost every detail of your steam-driven frost haven. Players control nearly every aspect of Frostpunk through either mouse, keyboard, or a combination of the two. From what I can tell, every menu is accessible through the main interface, or keybound.
At the top of the UI (User Interface) players can see their resources, day and time accompanied by speeds, and current temperature. Players have the time options of paused, 1x speed, 3x speed, and 5x speed. Additionally, clicking on the thermometer (or pressing O) opens a thermal view of your occupants and city – very handy.
Near the bottom-centre of the screen players see their build options, laws and economic view, with their discontent and hope bars always available in the middle. Players can also see the number of sick/gravely ill and the hungry/starving just above. It’s all quite clean and well lain out for easy viewing and accessibility, which is essential when the acknowledgment of such minor details can make or break a city’s survival efforts.
Each game of Frostpunk begins with an unpowered generator, some citizens (workers, engineers, and children) and depending on the scenario, a handful of resources and food. Players must build their city, and become self sustaining against the increasingly cold winter, and survive the inevitable storm. Occupants are assigned to gather resources, build, research, and scout, mostly during specified work hours. The core of Frostpunk is the delicate balance that must be attained. Not enough coal and the generator goes out, meaning zones lose heat, then people get sick, discontent rises, and hope falls. Things negatively cascade very quickly. Additionally players must acquire raw food turned rations to sustain their populace, and remember to house them as well. Then there’s laws, as your city’s leader there’s a multitude of policies you can institute for the benefit or detriment of your people. Maybe you’re short on workers or engineers, so you allow child labor or 24 hour shifts. Discontent will rise, but you acquire precious resources. City simulator players will adore this title’s building and road pathing mechanics. When it all comes together, it’s just satisfying.
At first it’s overwhelming, I had to restart 5 times before it clicked. But when it does, and the interdependence of all it’s mechanics fall into place it is glorious. As an RTS player I feet right at home, but the ruthlessness of the survival influences are a steep learning curve and not for the lighthearted. There were times where I kicked myself for leaving 15 workers on raw food duty for a full day, because that potential time spent elsewhere is precious loss. The micromanagement of your city’s inhabitants is essential to your survival – thank you for a pause key. I could honestly drone on for a while about the complexity of Frostpunk’s gameplay mechanics. But the point of it is: Frostpunk blends preemptive planning with reactionary decision making to astounding effect. As previously noted, it’s all a delicate balancing act.
Sound Design & Cinematics
The sound work of Frostpunk is commendable. From the creaks and groans of the massive steam powered generator when selected, to the cold biting winds, and bustle of workers, it’s all clear and refined. An exemplary moment of 11 Bit Studio’s audio synchronicity is within the introductory cinematic, layered with a heavy, melodic track – seemingly mindful of the film 28 Days Later’s score. The entire cinematic harmonizes audio and visuals in a beautifully impactful way that makes chills run up my neck. Background music in Frostpunk is somber and sets an often grim tone with a sense of urgency. And without spoiling too much, the first time players survive the storm and see their own personalized cutscene, they’ll grin and reminisce.
From the moment Frostpunk‘s introductory cinematic closed – I was already hooked, and I hadn’t even started playing. And when I had, Frostpunk was intimidating, and relentless. Grueling in the best of ways – Frostpunk demands efficiency and attention to detail from it’s players but it pays off. It certainly won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s an exemplary survival city-builder nonetheless. I oftentimes found myself acting out of necessity rather than to follow a dedicated plan; just scraping by until the next goal was met, the next sickness cured, the next child fed. Yet by the end, I had hardly realized how the city had grown into a thriving metropolis. They grow up so fast.
Frostpunk is a solid title, and I would recommend it any day. It’s available for purchase on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC at GoG or Steam. 8.8/10
Remember to stick around Any Button Gaming and as always, don’t forget to like and join our Facebook Page/Group, and follow us on Twitter to stay up to date with all of the latest News, Blogs, and more. And if that’s not enough, why not follow us on Twitch or Instagram as well.
Exemplary city building survival
- Score - 8.8/108.8/10
+ Exquisite Attention to Detail
+ Great Cinematic
+ Satisfying Difficulty
+ Well Balanced
– Learning Curve May Be Too Steep For Some
Just a Canadian dude who’s passionate about gaming, and the industry as a whole.