Geek Review: Frostpunk

Do you want to build a snowman?

The answer to that, in Frostpunk, is definitely no. The cold is the eternal enemy in this brutal world, but your fellow survivors are sometimes no better, you have to survive, no matter the costs.

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Similar to developers 11 bit studios’ previous title, This War of Mine, Frostpunk almost always have you on the ropes. The decisions that fall on your lap are universally dilemmas that will result in both loss and gain. There is no comfort here, just compromise, and you are never safe. Not from the people, the cold, or the dwindling resources that can wreck your entire community. A city-builder like no other, this is one tense ride to the end in every game of Frostpunk.

With an Earth completely frozen over, you lead your band of survivors to one of the last remaining steam generators with little to spare. At -20 degrees, you have to worry about coal to keep the generator running, wood to construct shelters, food to feed the people, and steel for more advanced construction.

At least these resources are around you, albeit in small quantities. Managing your workforce is key to survival in Frostpunk, with workers and engineers sharing the workload. But resource gathering is just the tip of the iceberg (hehe), soon you will need hunters, researchers, cooks, and many more as your community grows. People become yet another resource to manage, and your task gets harder and harder.

At the same time, heat becomes an issue. The surrounding area of the generator is only so big, and with temperatures threatening to drop with each passing day, you cannot afford to be caught unawares. Better homes or more steam hubs will keep your people happy, and more importantly, healthy to carry on working.

The way you layout your buildings is important as well, and could easily be the key to a loss or success. Heat maps will help in planning, and you have to consider the spaces and access to the various resources as you build up your city.

Paths through the snow will put considerable stress on your workers’ health, but building a steam hub might just be asking too much, it becomes a balancing act once more.

As you will come to learn, you are not alone in this struggle. Having a Beacon allows scouts to be sent out to various points of interests beyond your city, as you discover the world beyond yours. It fleshes out the current predicament you are facing, and alongside some relief and some horror, these discoveries could easily make or break your society.

As the leader, tough decisions are a daily routine. Do you want to put the children into shelters, or send them to work to improve efficiency? Are the sick survivors put into homes and take up space, or do you opt for the radical treatment that might cure them or leave them as amputees? Each and every decision you make is judged instantly, with the people’s Discontent and Hope a reflection of your management and choices.

It is these reflections that might force your hand to make some radical choices. Frostpunk wants you to feel uncomfortable, but ultimately justified when you pass laws that let the citizens let off steam in the Fighting Pits. engage in drinking and prostitution, or go to the extremes of order or religious zeal. Not everyone is satisfied, but that is the price to pay for survival.

The presence of these hard choices gives Frostpunk a whole other layer of depth and emotional chaos. The city becomes a reflection of you, and the fate of the people, your actions. Helping others might be the moral decision, but can you truly afford to, and even if you survive the cold, can you survive your guilt?

It does not help when Frostpunk looks absolutely gorgeous. The attention to detail is simply stunning, from the starting shacks to the upgraded House, and the variety of industrial buildings that keep the city alive, each is distinct with its own visual and sound design.

It almost makes the world believable and real, as you toy with the survival of the people shuffling about their business. A late-game city is a huge departure from your struggles at the start, and it is reflected amazingly as you gaze upon your work in motion.

The starting campaign of Frostpunk should occupy for at least 10 hours and more, with two more scenarios being unlocked as you survive more days. These scenarios offer a different take on just surviving, one tasks players with protecting the last seeds on Earth, while another challenges you to save an influx of refugees before the rich tyrants arrive. Suffice to say, they are not easy at all, however, there is not much difference in terms of your progression in game, once you’ve seen them once, you have seen them all.

As you fight tooth and nail to remain as a vestige of hope among the frozen wastes of Earth, Frostpunk feels like an entry point into something bigger than it offers, your community remains sequestered in its crater. It is not the glorious beginning of a new civilization, and perhaps that’s the point of Frostpunk, we can only come so far with what we have.

Frostpunk is an amazing time the first few times around, trying to learn the intricacies of its resource systems, heating, and balancing the needs of the people versus reality was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. The blend of survival and ensuing drama of the moral dilemmas gave Frostpunk much more to work with than your standard city builder, but like a cold flash, it comes and go way too soon.

Frostpunk is available on Steam for Windows for S$26.00.



A city builder that forces you to survive at all costs, Frostpunk is also a must-try game at all costs.

  • Gameplay - 9/10
  • Story - 10/10
  • Presentation - 8/10
  • Value - 8/10
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