With highly polished mechanics and amazing atmosphere, Frostpunk delivers on everything you could hope for from a city-building survival game.

An apocalyptic winter is covering 1886 England. Your group has left a frozen, uninhabitable London in hopes of finding a new place to start over. The only thing keeping you and your people from freezing to death is a large generator.

To survive, you have to build an entire city in a crater around the generator to make sure it doesn’t turn off, and to protect your people from the blizzard.

The most crucial part of Frostpunk is learning to manage and plan your city according to the heat distribution of the generator. Your city is designed in layers around it, with each layer getting colder the further it is from the generator.

As in most survival games, resources are always scarce and you are always struggling to meet the requirements for survival. Resources such as coal, wood, iron, and food can be gathered by assigning workers to gathering posts and mines.

You can also send scouts to explore the frozen wastelands around the city. The scouts will bring back supplies or survivors and are the only way of expanding your population or getting large amounts of supplies quickly, making them a vital part of your city once you unlock them.

But even when you establish mines and outposts to generate more supplies, you are always faced with new challenges. Events like temperature drops or theft of precious supplies always keep you on your feet.

That is why you need to pay attention to your people’s “hope” and “discontent” meters. Both measure how hopeful your people are for the future, and how unhappy they are, respectively. You can affect these meters by listening to requests or enacting new laws.

Frostpunk review

A big part of your job as the leader of this new city is establishing laws for your post-apocalyptic society. Throughout the game, you will face opportunities to enact new laws, many of which force you to make tough compromises. You can choose to allow child labor instead of establishing child shelters, or administering aggressive treatments to frostbitten citizens (which might result in amputation) or letting them rest in the medical outpost until you research better medical facilities.

Whichever law you choose to uphold, you almost always make it work with the proper management. However, I felt like several rules were too extreme and you can very easily lose the game if you pick the “wrong” one.

Visually, the game is absolutely stunning. Not only does the game looks great, the attention to details is very impressive. During my first few hours with the game, I spent most of my time in-game staring at the way my people are carving their way through the snow during the day, only to have the snow pile back up in the night.

The effects that pop up on-screen to alert you to changes like such as temperature drops also look great and add a lot to the pressure and atmosphere of the game. Sound plays a major part in the atmosphere of the game. From the announcer informing the workers about the end of the workday to the very subtle music in the background – it plays a fundamental part in the experience of playing the game.

Frostpunk review - rules

These little touches are what helps convey the sense of hopelessness and despair the game is going for. Frostpunk is very grim in general. It reminds me a lot of 11 Bit Studios’s previous game, This War of Mine, which isn’t very surprising.

Frostpunk is one of those games where you have to keep losing to learn from your mistakes. Despite that, I enjoyed my time with the game and felt like the high difficulty and steep learning curve are both rewarding.

That’s also why Frostpunk isn’t as frustrating as a lot of other resource management and survival games, which makes it the perfect game for players new to the genre. The atmosphere is enough to appeal to new players, but the gameplay is the real reason to continue on in spite of the failures you’ll undoubtedly experience along the way.

As you progress through the campaign, you’ll unlock new scenarios. You can then play on with slightly different rules and goals, and a whole new backstory for the group you’re leading.

Frostpunk review

Frostpunk kept me on the edge of my seat from the very beginning, with a lot of close calls and hard decisions. It’s one of those rare strategy games where you feel like an integral part of the city you are building and can relate to the people you are managing and their everyday lives.

Despite the game never focusing on a story beyond “the Earth is frozen now, so try and survive”, I was kinda hoping for a bit more closure by the end. But all in all, I was not disappointed by how intense and dramatic it was.

Fans of This War of Mine already know what to expect from Frostpunk. The rest of you should know this is one of the best city-building survival games out there. You’re going to have a hard time with this one, but you’re going to enjoy every second of it.

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