Frostpunk is the latest of 11 bit studios creators, and guilty of more than one crying, of This War of Mine . Although the team has changed the third in terms of atmosphere and mechanics the essence of the study remains.
At first everything seemed simple.
The generator worked perfectly and could maintain citizens. We had left London weeks ago, fleeing the frigid climate that had taken over all of Europe. In the shelter of the generator, we laid the foundations for a new city, a more equitable and just ... we only had to survive to see the Sun one more day. The little we managed to wrench from the cold claws of the earth was shared among all. We begin to make the first important decisions; The typical London vision of dozens of children playing hide in chimneys would end. The children would not have to work, hard enough was to survive as to risk their lives.
However, soon everything goes wrong. The discouragement spreads among the citizens and all hope is lost. Some even threaten to leave the safety of the generator and return to London. The plundering begins and there is no other way but to impose a martial law . Decree the formation of a group of guards and a center in charge of combating the propaganda of defectors with government information. A famine forces us to reject several refugee groups; my neighbors come first .
In a short time I managed to crush the insurgency and the few fools like to return to London will never be welcome again. The police control everything and my propaganda appeases new movements of dissidence. Soon hope gives way to blind obedience; we may never recover our world but we can forge the new world with our will and the coal that feeds the generator. The flags of the city cover everything and work takes up most of the time. But at least the children no longer work in the chimneys.
This is Frostpunk; an urban simulator set in a steampunk post-apocalyptic world fused with the personal vision of the studio . When one faces a title of this kind, at least of the main part of its mechanics, it expects certain elements in common: to manage resources, urban planning and to try to move the city forward. 11 bit studios has taken this central core and has turned it into a game that will put us on the ropes constantly to move our city forward. Not because we are going to run out of resources or because a road is half built causing traffic jams but because running out of resources means the death, literally, of our citizens.
The setting, a world devastated by a sudden glaciation , allows the studio to constantly stand against the ropes. We are not managing any city but, possibly, the last city on Earth. Each expense must be measured to the millimeter and each new building must be the correct one because otherwise it could be the last one.
There is not much to explain in terms of Frostpunk's central mechanics that remain practically unchanged with respect to gender so that we, in the role of leader of this chink of hope, worry only about the peculiarities of their proposal; the temperature and the moral component .
Because Frostpunk is, in essence, a race against the climatology itself . The world has suddenly frozen and everything indicates that it will get worse. Humanity, or the surviving embers, has been grouped around one of the last generators built to function as the heart of this refuge. The generator will be the center of our city and we will have to keep it in perfect operation. The heat emanates in concentric circles from its center so the placement of our buildings will depend on how closely we want them; The farther cooler and more problems your inhabitants or workers will have.
However, keeping the generator running, although it seems simple at the beginning, is one of Frostpunk's biggest complications . We must ensure a constant flow of coal to keep it burning and as we increase its power or its area of effect will also increase (and much) its consumption. Here the problems begin because in more than one occasion we will have to consider what is best for the whole; That the houses are habitable or that the workers of the factory do not freeze during their shift? Moreover, do the cripples who live in the nursing home really need heating?
Each of these decisions are constant and daily in Frostpunk. We live in a permanent struggle against the climate that, surprise, will only worsen. The temperatures will be lower every time so we will need more coal or more sacrifices. In order to maintain order and create a relatively stable society we will have the power to create, on the fly, a new code of laws for our city.
These laws work, roughly, as the skills of our city. Once every certain hour (the game has its day and night cycle) we can decree a new law. These laws will shape our society not only affecting the mood and hope of citizens (two factors to take into account) but will allow us to build some buildings or others and activate different skills. We can force, for example, 24-hour shifts to workers in a building in exchange for increasing the discontent of our population or, for example, prohibit child labor increasing the hope of our society but losing a good number of workers.
During the first days of this new world our laws and management possibilities focus on pure survival; in adapting our society to this new situation. However, there will come a time when our society is at a point of no return . The world will never be as we remember it and we must adapt. It is in this situation where 11 bit studios returns to play on its moral axis and proposes two new branches of laws to choose from; or blind obedience to work or hope above all else.
Both elections will allow us to have a new law book and new buildings but they will profoundly affect the way we play ... and see our citizens. In our first long game we were forced to choose the path of order . Much of the city wanted to go to London and we could not allow it, so work, obedience and state surveillance became our weapons to maintain order.
As if this were not enough, 11 bit studios do not leave us a single moment of rest. We will constantly receive notifications and calls for attention from our citizens . Issues that we must address as soon as possible and that are resolved, in essence, in two ways: of making promises or making decisions on the fly. Maybe it's too cold and they ask us to warm a minimum number of homes. We can come up and say, as good politicians that we are, that we will not warm only some homes but all. Said and done, we will have a few days to fulfill and keep our promise and if we do not get it ... hope and discontent will run at ease. Sometimes these conversations with our citizens are resolved simply by elections in different dialogues; We may have caught someone stealing food for their sick child and we have to decide what to do with it or decide, on the fly, if we give up resources for some important research ... sometimes, simply, we receive the affection of our citizens who rejoice, for example, of not seeing their children working to earn their bread.
Frostpunk sprinkles this variation of the urban simulation with a complex, and necessary, research system that will allow us to improve our constructions and enhance the generator. This process of engineering and research will also allow us to carry out one of the most interesting elements of the game: sending expeditions abroad. We can investigate the surroundings of our city in search of survivors, resources or, who knows, some response to the sudden glaciation. However, perhaps your city is not prepared to discover some bleak truths hidden by ice.
11 bit studios has been able to radically change the third by creating a complex urban management simulator without abandoning its seal as a studio . Everything in Frostpunk works at two levels; as a strategic element and as a moral compass. Maybe it does not reach the hardness of the proposal of This War of Mine but the truth is that it is surprising the ability of the title to make us doubt with each decision. Next April 24 the cold will reach your computers ... and who knows if your hearts.
Frostpunk manages to get us on the ropes and get us out of our comfort zone constantly. 11 bits studios has not only created a solid strategy game but has managed to maintain its essence as a studio.