Frostpunk (PlayStation 4) Review

By Josh Di Falco 30.05.2020

Review for Frostpunk on PlayStation 4

While city-building simulators tend to take on the more relaxed approach to growing a new society, Frostpunk by 11 Bit Studios opted to raise the stakes to a matter of life-or-death. Set in the frozen wastelands, a group of survivors have fled London to seek a new life. With four lengthy campaigns, Frostpunk tells the story of how humanity can rebuild into a better future. Unlike most other city-building simulators, this experience is one that revolves around trying to survive from the tundra. Every passing day is a fight for survival, and all the hard work is only one harsh mistake away from being wiped away. After a positive look on the original, PC version, here's an even more positive one, this time for the PS4.

At its core, Frostpunk is a harrowing survival game where every decision can have dire consequences. The aim is to sprawl outwards and build a thriving society around a huge steampunk-esque generator. This device is the heart and soul of any town that can be built in Frostpunk - and this is due to the wintry weather that grows even colder by the day. As the days grow colder, combating the winter by ensuring there is enough heat being produced by the generator is paramount to ensuring a healthy and prosperous community. There are only four campaigns that tell the story of how the world came to be in Frostpunk, and these do a fantastic job of expanding on the narrative and filling in the lore. Sure, four campaigns do sound like too little, and this is such a great experience that it is a real shame there isn't another four campaigns to sink more time into. However, the four campaigns that do exist are quite expansive and rich with story and duration that makes these stages feel like arduous journeys.

For context, the first campaign titled 'A New Home' can last just over six hours, and that is providing it's done successfully on the first play-through. This story covers the journey of the survivors who have fled London, with the hope of building a New London. Rather than being a city-builder with simple objectives, this campaign weaves the objectives into a large narrative that has many layers. 'The Arks' focuses on a group of engineers who must protect the seeds of plants from across the world to ensure a green world when the great winter is finally over. The third campaign is titled 'The Refugees,' and this story centres around a group of commoners who fought the wealthy to a generator, in a bid to build a haven for everyone, regardless of their prior class status. The fourth and final campaign is titled 'The Fall of Winterhome,' and this serves as a prequel to the first campaign, revolving heavily around the ruins of Winterhome, with the prequel campaign fleshing out how exactly the events had panned out.

Screenshot for Frostpunk on PlayStation 4

Each campaign has its own maps, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, which forces for four unique strategies for each campaign. One story may see the town be surrounded by plenty of resources for building tents, while another story may only have a finite number of engineers who must be kept alive to allow for progress in various research and technological fields. However, the difficulty they each have, share the same key theme: the generator must be powered for the campaign - or the story will come to a short and grisly end. These generators require coal to be powered on, which some campaigns may offer plenty of, while others require a mighty sharp discipline of when to turn on the generator to allow for longevity. Should the generator blow up due to overheating or the coal supplies run out - then there is little to no hope for survival.

Wood and steel are the other two main resources in Frostpunk, along with coal. The former two are used for creating buildings - starting with the primitive structures and slowly advancing to the more technologically sound buildings. Other resources are raw food, which can be turned into food rations - however these require hunters to go out at night and bring back animals, while chefs in the kitchen cook these into edibles. The more citizens there are the more food needs to be hunted and cooked to allow for everyone to be able to eat. The real enemy here, though, is the cold - and with each passing in-game day, the temperatures get colder.

Screenshot for Frostpunk on PlayStation 4

At the beginning, building tents may suffice to keep citizens warm, however advancements must be made to allow for the building of houses to combat the colder and harsher temperatures. Further advancements can even allow for heaters to be built into the more sophisticated buildings, though these do consume even more coal, which the reserves must be balanced against. Having the cold as the enemy is a genius move for Frostpunk. While most other sim-city builders focus on keeping the population happy, here it just isn't enough. Sure, a happy town means an easier time, but the cold doesn't wait for anyone. The cold is not an arbitrary game mechanic to push along advancements, it's a real danger that can destroy hours of hard work if not planned for properly. This, however, leads to one of the downsides of Frostpunk: prepare to lose a lot. Trying to plot the right path forward can mean having to replay the same campaigns over again, especially as new story elements come to light. Perhaps in one play-through there wasn't enough preparation for the upcoming mutiny that was going to happen - and if it comes at the wrong time of the city-building aspect, then it can be extremely difficult to recover from.

Trial and error, like many other titles, is the absolute key here. Getting things exactly right on the first go just won't happen unless extreme luck or genuine foresight in the narrative plays a role. However, the frustrations of replaying the same campaign for over 15 hours also brings with it rare moments of absolute triumph - while also allowing for flexibility upon which to build the town. Frostpunk isn't just about keeping civilisation warm - there is also politics and law-making that comes into each and every decision. For example, workers can only mine coal and other resources during the regular 12-hour workday. However, there are laws that can be brought in to extend shifts to 14-hour or even a 24-hour cycle, though this will upset the populace, with the flipside of extra resources. However pushing these shift-cycles can lead to major depression, which can lead to workers pushing themselves too hard and into an untimely death - or they might even get frostbite, and may no longer partake in the workforce. Of course, frostbitten civilians will die unless they get amputated, though passing the law of prosthetics allows for these amputees to return to the workforce.

Screenshot for Frostpunk on PlayStation 4

Every decision, from leaving people to collect resources too long, to overworking them, to passing laws that offend the population, can lead to extreme reactions. However, there is a pro and con to every decision - and there is no 'wrong' decision. Various strategies can all succeed if performed right, whether the town is run like a dictatorship with inhumane laws such as allowing for child labour, a fighting arena, to pushing an entirely new faith on people, while alienating or killing those who choose not to follow the new path of "righteousness." There are many deep-seeded issues that can arise from passing certain laws that may not take effect until much later in the campaign - the butterfly effect. Choosing to bury the dead with a ceremony may seem like the right thing to do to allow people to grieve for their loved ones and increase their hope for the future, while building a snowpit for the bodies can allow for future organ transplants to better heal those in need, though hope and discontent of the population will fall.

Frostpunk is a fascinating experience in governing a town that is trying to remain hopeful of survival in the face of the damning winter. However, human issues also threaten to strike blows into the chances of survival, from religious zealots pushing their faith onto others, to choosing to enforce order with the use of guards and watch-towers to keep the citizens in line. There is no right or wrong - any path can lead to survival and success, despite the human costs of lives along the way, and determining whether to choose the more humane laws to keep people happy cab lead to setbacks that may be incurred elsewhere in the economy. Again, there are only four campaigns. These four campaigns are packed with narrative, twists and turns in the overall story of Frostpunk. Alone, these can amount to over 30+ hours of intense city-building experiences. However, there is an Endless mode for those who want to build their city beyond the narrative constraints of the campaigns, with 'Endurance' allowing for scarce resources and harsher cold weather, while 'Serenity' is a more laid back experience with resources in abundance and mild weather effects instead.

Screenshot for Frostpunk on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Frostpunk is quite simply one of the best city-building experiences on the PlayStation 4 with a highly detailed narrative written for four huge campaigns. The sadness in there only being four campaigns is a true testament to the team at 11 Bit Studios, as they have crafted such a memorable experience, with gut-wrenching decisions at every turn. The savagery of the game can have long-lasting effects that can carry into the subsequent play-throughs, as the memories of what arose from making previous decisions can sway future decisions down other pathways. For those who wish to experience a more laid-back 'Sim City' like experience, then this title may not be the right title to jump into. However after experiencing this, it will be easy to feel anxious to see whatever the team behind it has in store next.

Developer

11 Bit Studios

Publisher

11 Bit Studios

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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