11bit Studios can be considered veterans when it comes to pushing players on emotional decisions that can affect the outcome for better or worse. Since 2014’s This War of Mine, 11bit Studios have been in a lot of talks with their outstanding game design based solely on player perspective.
Frostpunk PS4 Review
And now the Polish indie game developers are back to push your decision-making skills to its limits with their 2018 title Frostpunk’s Console Edition. It is up to you to either feel like a terrible person or a great leader that is successfully maintaining his colony to survive the ice age.
For those of you who don’t know, Frostpunk is a survival strategy game that takes place in an alternative 19th century where you, the leader, become humanity’s last hope as you try to maintain your colony in an oppressing ice age. After the frost has come without a warning, tides have changed for humanity no matter wealth or class. While the overall feeling and setting of the Frostpunk are grim and depressive, the gameplay makes up for it. And let me be clear when I say depressive because Frostpunk is definitely not the game you should play if you want to see rainbows and sunshine.
Get the generator working and build your new home
From 11 Bit Studios
To start things off, I want to point out that there are multiple difficulty settings the player can choose with the customizable scenario feature. I used the default settings, so my experience might differ from a lot of the players as 11bit Studios opens up possibilities for different difficulty settings. Although Frostpunk has a difficulty curve, I don’t think it should be hard for any player to get used to it as the menus and objectives are clearly shown and understandable. Basic tasks on start like collecting coal and getting the generator working is elementary level when considered to the later stages. But I should point out that I had some question marks in my head due to the complex mechanics Frostpunk provides, but they quickly disappeared after the first few hours or so.
Even if you experience difficulty curves when getting used to Frostpunk, 11bit Studios make sure that they wouldn’t last long. As the game progresses, developers show how much of a fine job they did with the steady pace of introducing new mechanics. New gameplay elements and ideas easily complement each other thanks to the trackable pace of Frostpunk. Differences between spending resources on new buildings or research technologies might not create a huge difference at the start, but Frostpunk punishes wrong decisions after reaching a certain level of progress.
Can you adapt to survive? Who will you become in the process?
These are the two main questions that fuel up the Frostpunk’s gameplay. While the overall design relies on survival and city-building elements, there is a huge yellow line that sets Frostpunk apart from other city-building titles -Frostpunk’s people. From political decisions that can shape your colony in a religious way to banning child labour, Frostpunk offers a lot of options with its tree of mechanics. Even the slight differences that can be created through basic labours like how many workers will you send to collect coal can create gaps experience-wise.
Passing the law for the long shifts might increase your resources, but it can quickly turn the public against you. Fulfilling your healthcare promises might change the colony’s verdict towards you but it might cost resources. And when it comes to decisions like these, Frostpunk’s Hope bar helps the player. Managing your colony’s moral and positivity is one of the most unique gameplay experiences I’ve had in a long time. Although some of the outcomes of my decisions made my Hope bar act crazy on a level to nearly feel unfair, every decision became much more meaningful after figuring how to capitalize on it.
Though the decision making cycle I previously mentioned captures the player on a grand level, it makes the Frostpunk feel too short if the player is experienced. Average playtime for Frostpunk differs from 6 to 15 hours on a single playthrough. While your first time may last 15-ish hours, your second playthrough on the default difficulty settings might butcher your experience down to 6-ish hours.
Some of my friends who also played the game suggested to me that I should try higher difficulty settings after my first playthrough to extend my playtime. But valuing replayability solely on the difficulty curve might be Frostpunk’s biggest downsides. For instance, I might want to play Frostpunk on one of my off-days for a fun time. But the problem is, why would I start on the same difficulty setting if it means to spend my time playing nearly the exact experience I had in my first run. Which brings me to the lack of sandbox mode in Frostpunk. Having to boot up the Story Mode every time I want to play Frostpunk is not so fun after a while. There are 2 customizable scenarios you can check out after your first playthrough but neither of them offers anything superior to what base story of Frostpunk can offer.
The art style of Frostpunk
The Frostpunk kicks-off with an outstanding cinematic animation that perfectly sets the tone. While the cinematic helps the player to catch on what has happened to humanity, it is a pleasure to the eyes. Plus the connection between the cinematic and actual gameplay is direct thanks to the creative path 11bit Studios took with their graphical choices. The dominant greys and pale blues help Frostpunk on its quest to create a depressing landscape with its colour palette. Watching your workers carve their way through the snow to build the city under the illuminating lights coming from your buildings paint the perfect picture of a crumbled society on a mission to survive in cold.
Frostpunk is one of the best survival games that came out in the last decade. After spending a year on PC and gathering a considerable fan base, Frostpunk is now finally available to all console players to enjoy. Although its strategic focus on gameplay might not attract a lot of players, the unique design and varied elements of Frostpunk hosts a piece for every player. From beautifully created decision trees to managing your colony, Frostpunk is an amazing must-own title for every fan of the genre with its only downfall being the lack of replayability.