Frostpunk | PS4 Review
Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Frostpunk, developed and published by 11 Bit Studios, is a genre-merging masterpiece, successfully bringing together elements of simulation, strategy and survival alongside a deep narrative creating a seamless adventure experience for the user. With the new DLC just released this week (at the time of writing), it’s fair to say that Frostpunk has a lot to offer. For the purposes of my review, I was playing the PlayStation 4 version.
Frostpunk is set in the late 1800s where climate change has wreaked havoc and absolutely decimated humanity - the few remaining humans that miraculously survived must now rebuild everything, gather resources and seek out other survivors of this tragedy and at the same time they must also survive. I think the power behind the story really brings this game to life because it really gives more of a point to the simulation and truly sets the stage for some tough decision making and desperate actions that you may have to make throughout your playthrough of Frostpunk. The graphic design of Frostpunk really supported the story that was being portrayed; the minimalist, bleak and dreary back-drop served the story well and really showcased the tragedy that everyone was fighting against really well to the extent where even one lone touch of light brought so much warmth to an otherwise freezing world. Equally the sound effects helped create an incredible immersion into living life well below freezing while the voice acting really helped add a lot to the game and really helped build a sort of connection between the player and the characters which isn’t usually found in simulation games. It’s very clear to see how much work has went into Frostpunk and it really is impressive to see and how successfully they’ve merged such a deep narrative into a simulation game really stood out to me.
I feel like it’s important at some point during my review to say this: simulation games like this really aren’t my forte. Yes, I played a little bit of Civilisation as a kid as well as brief stints on The Sims, but they are simply not something I’m good at so I generally avoid them. For someone like me, Frostpunk was quite a daunting experience at first. However even for me it was fairly accessible, but it required a bit more time to fully understand as there’s a lot of moving parts and lots of seemingly insignificant things to learn the purpose and importance of. Thankfully for me, there are various difficulty options that really make this game accessible even to people like me who would be otherwise overwhelmed, however what I really appreciated is that even playing on the easier difficulty, there is still a massive challenge involved and the game doesn’t simply hold your hand just because of your difficulty choice, all the while still getting to experience the ruthless and harsh realities that this game has to offer.
As you navigate your way through Frostpunk you’ll find yourself faced with crisis over crisis closely followed by, yes, you guessed it, yet another crisis. There is no room for complacency otherwise innocent people will pay with their lives and quickly it becomes very apparent that how you react to these crises will directly affect your colony and not every decision will be received kindly by your people. If you make enough poorly informed choices, you’ll start to find people leaving because they disagree with your choices, so Frostpunk really is a fine balancing act between keeping everyone on side with you and also managing to get stuff done. In the early days of sub-zero temperatures, I found myself really trying to grind for resources and building only essentials like a medical centre and food stores just to keep everyone alive. But in retrospect the people's morale really suffered and by the time I had all this built they were less than impressed with me and forming a mutiny from within to leave me because they clearly thought they could survive better than I could - this is just one example of the challenges you face in Frostpunk. I constantly found myself taking stock of what the people needed, what was the most important things to build etc.. and very quickly I realised the answer: EVERYTHING. No matter what I did, there was always more to do. Frostpunk is so immersive in that respect as well because survival on this level really is an uphill battle and if you stop moving for a minute, you start moving backwards again.
Probably due to my inexperience and inability to micro-manage, I often found myself floundering to quickly reverse mistakes or shortcomings in my city and making quick fixes for problems whilst I attempted to tackle the greater problems and genuinely feeling bad for the poor little people that were having to suffer through my awful choices and management skills. However, in saying that, I don’t believe this is as black and white as I make it out to be. Is it better to deal with the big problems first to make the majority happy? Or is it better to let the smaller minorities suffer whilst I deal with what may seem like a more pressing issue? I think in reality, these incredibly difficult choices will always bear fruit - both good and bad - and there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer to them which really allows you to play the game entirely how you want.
Frostpunk has the potential for you to spend hundreds of hours building and developing your city just to your preferences, because apart from the scenario based story mode, there is also what is essentially a never ending survival mode for you to simply create, build and survive. With no storyline to follow, you’re left on your own to do as you please except for surviving the cycles of storms that come through which you need to prepare for.
Overall, I am very impressed with Frostpunk and really believe they managed to tie together so many different aspects of the simulation and survival genres in a very different way than I anticipated. Rather than your colony being simply pixels on a screen, they are given opinions and feelings that directly impact your choices and are equally as impacted by your choices and no matter what choices you make, there will always be consequences both good and bad. For fans of simulation games, Frostpunk is an absolute dream of a game and I couldn’t recommend it more in that respect. For me it was a little bit too deep in the simulation side, however, that’s my own personal experience (or lack thereof) than the game's problem but I was glad to find that despite my lack of experience in the genre, I was still able to enjoy and appreciate what Frostpunk has to offer. With the new DLC just released as well, there’s so much more for me to explore and so much opportunity for me to get involved and become immersed, because despite the challenge for me, Frostpunk has really grabbed me.
If you’re a fan of simulation games such as City Skylines, Civilisation or Tropico you will appreciate a huge amount of what Frostpunk has to offer and find yourself fully invested in this frozen, barren wasteland to an even higher extent than I did. I almost felt spoilt by Frostpunk because there is a real depth to it that I really didn’t want to be lost due to my inexperience.
Lj’s Rating: 5 disgruntled inhabitants out of 5.
Many thanks to 11 Bit Studios for supplying the review code.