So Frostpunk has been out now for just over a year and I have to say that from the day it launched it has intrigued me. Annoyingly though, I only just got round to playing it yesterday. What do I think of Frostpunk? It good, but also bad, but also kind of perfect. Let me explain…
Frostpunk is a game about it being a bit chilly outside so everyone goes further north for some reason. In Frostpunk the aim is to keep your community of refugees huddled around a big coal generator alive in the face of ever dropping temperatures, while desperately trying to build better shelters, find enough coal to keep the fire going as well as enough food to keep everyone from starving in the world wide winter apocalypse. The core mechanics lie in the construction of buildings, assignment of workers and a series of difficult decisions that drive the narrative forward.
First of all, I love the setting and I am always a fan of a good city builder, which this is… for a time. At first establishing a new town in the harsh environment of Frostpunk is exciting but, after a while, the city building elements of the game get a bit old. There just isn’t enough variation in the buildings and at some points there just really isn’t anything to do. Also some of the buildings have so little character that a couple of times I couldn’t recognise the buidling I was looking for and had to click through several to find the right one. I probably don’t need to tell you that this is not an ideal use of time when everyone is freezing to death.
So why is this game good if it isn’t a good city building game? Well it’s because Frostpunk isn’t a city builder at all. It just looks a bit like one. Frostpunk is a choose your own adventure book for the 21st century. But, unlike the transformers pick your own adventure book that I had in the 90s, the story is actually really engaging and at times shows off some of the most powerful story telling I’ve seen in a game. This is a particularly impressive considering that Frostpunk is, at heart, a city building simulation. It is all too easy to become completely immersed in Frostpunk with the way that the story, the theme and the mechanics (which are largely based around difficult decision making) blend together into a single emotional rollercoaster of a game. And then it ends. And all too suddenly at that. Or at least the main mode of the game ends. To be honest the ending is a bit lackluster and came along so early that initially I didn’t realise that it was ending… You resolve a particularly difficult event and then some music plays while you get to see a brief recap of some of the highlights of your game. So the ending is maybe a bit disapointing but then maybe that’s okay.
Frostpunk is a great game, it really is. It is an incredibly engaging storytelling experience that I really struggled to walk away from. I can’t deny that parts of Frostpunk genuinely moved me which is a tall task for any game, let alone one masquerading as a city builder. I guess that’s why I played it right through to the end of the main story so quickly and I suppose that’s also why I sat down and wrote this the minute I finished. Part of me feels that Frostpunk is too short, but I don’t think that’s really true. Too often games swamp us in so much content so that we keep playing until we get bored and find something new and exciting but, for me at least, this is precisely why no games ever get finished. And it’s important to remember that the reason for this often isn’t because more content makes for a better game, but rather because as players we demand more content. But I would argue that we, the players, don’t always know what’s best for us. Frostpunk offered something that not much games give nowadays: closure. It may be a relatively short experience but that’s why it works. That said, there are other scenarios but I’m not sure that I want to risk tarnishing the experience by risking it becoming repetitive. Frostpunk is a game that I just really don’t want to risk getting bored of.
Frostpunk is available from Steam and Humble Bundle for EUR 29.99, and it is on sale (at the time of writing) on GOG for just 17.99! If you have any thoughts in your head then I would like to read them so you should type them into the comments below. If you liked this post, you might want to check out my thoughts on the fourth backers build of Phoenix Point or, if you fancy something different, you could read about some cider I drank. Have a good one and all that!