Review – Frostpunk (PS4)

It will be a cold day in hell when a good RTS comes out for consoles. Well, 11 Bit Studios may have given us a reason to put on our North Face jackets and grab that Pumpkin Spice Latte. Frostpunk for PS4 isn’t just an acceptable port of the 2018 PC RTS, it is surprisingly great overall.

Frostpunk is a post-apocalyptic, survival, real-time strategy game. Rather than the apocalypse coming in the form of nuclear fallout or zombie hoards, this apocalypse is a second Ice Age. An extinction level change in climate that humanity was not prepared for. You are forced to leave your home and search for more livable lands, Frostpunk picks up as a community of eighty survivors try and set up what could very well be the last city on Earth.

While most Real-Time Strategies have you racing the clock against an AI or other human opponents, there is none of that in Frostpunk. Instead, you are racing the clock against the cold, illness, hunger, and various other survival requirements. If you don’t have tents or homes, your people grow cold from not having protection from the weather. If you don’t have a Medical Post, your sick populace cannot recover. You will need to research and create laws that allow your settlement the best chance to survive.

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How fortunate.. a giant generator! Let’s make camp here.

After finding a suitably large and open valley, you start the game simply with a giant generator. Not certain why it is there, but I have learned to never look a frozen horse in the mouth. This serves as your fiery friend, allowing you to survive the cold harsh nights if you keep it filled with fuel. In the beginning, you send your villagers out for simple resources such as coal, wood and scrap metal. As your requirements grow, so does the importance of how you allocate your citizens’ time. Knowing that you need housing, otherwise you freeze to death, that you need medical treatment otherwise your sick will pass away, that you need food so not only need to hunt for it, but to cook it. Before you know it, your needs exceed your limits.

Frostpunk reminds you constantly that it is out to hurt you, and in some citizens cases, kill you. Survival is paramount and will require laws and tough decisions that may cause your citizens to grow despondent and unhappy. The weather will change and require you to balance what resources or technology is needed when. The attention needed for maintaining this balance can be overbearing at first, but it also keeps you from ever just sitting, twiddling your frostbit thumbs. Your cursor is constantly hovering over some object to check on its progress and needs. One thing Frostpunk does brilliantly is making you always feel engaged with your environment, without making it feel like a micromanagement fest.

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With Photo Mode, your city only gets more beautiful as it grows and comes to life.

This choice is your real enemy in Frostpunk. You will farm required resources to erect required buildings, but things get worse before they get better. When you need to make the choice of amputating a leg with radical treatment, or to send a child to work to pick up slack, these are the choices that you are faced with. Constantly walking this moral line is what makes the game so engaging. The choices are as unforgiving as the landscape and the “best” choice doesn’t always lead to “best” results.

Graphically, Frostpunk matches its world beautifully. The steampunk aesthetic plays off the harsh and stark environment to a tee. The world acts as a canvas as you paint onto it. As the picture becomes more clear, you get more and more of a sense of the how difficult the world is. The addition of a photo mode allows you to get some fantastic painting-like screenshots. The sound also plays so well to this same environment, further completing the overall picture. Like the graphics, what starts as the beautifully harsh and empty sounds of your stark environment turns to the hectic sounds of industries ringing through your new streets.

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Man.. some people are just never happy in a post-apocalyptic winter wasteland.

From the developers of 2014’s This War of Mine, it shouldn’t be any surprise that Frostpunk: Console Edition is full of gut-checking and dark social overtones throughout. It sometimes feels more like a social experiment for college credits, but Frostpunk keeps you challenged and engaged while it forces you to check your morality meter.

 

Graphics: 9.0

Beautiful Steampunk aesthetics. What starts as a beautifully harsh empty environment becomes an equally beautiful industrial city

Gameplay: 8.5

A micromanagement game that doubles down and embraces its micromanagement. Never feels like a chore. The controls are surprisingly good for a strategy game on console.

Sound: 9.0

Like the graphics, what starts as sounds of the harsh landscape becomes the sounds of industries ringing through your streets.

Fun Factor: 9.0

Almost more social experiment than game, forcing you to make gut-wrenching choices that are never 100% correct.

Final Verdict: 9.0

Frostpunk: Console Edition is available now on PS4 and Xbox One. Also available on PC.

Reviewed on PS4 Pro.

A copy of Frostpunk: Console Edition was provided by the publisher.