If Frostpunk had a currency that was in constantly short supply, it was hope. Hope for a better tomorrow, hope for an end to the endless winter that had turned the planet into a massive popsicle and hope that your laws to pressgang children into hard labour would help you survive one more day in the savage tundra that had forced the last remnants of humanity to huddle around the last embers of warmth.
Where Frostpunk succeeded as a strategy game, was by reminding you that victory was fleeting and despair was unstoppable. There was only so much you could do to stave off the cold and keep the dreaded spectre of environmental collapse at bay. In Frostpunk: The Last Autumn, that prequel race against the clock throws another curveball your way as you face an even deadlier nemesis in the calm before the storm: Workers and their bloody rights.
The Last Autumn dials back the clock to when humanity embarked on a last-ditch effort to preserve itself with the construction of massive generators designed to keep the heat in. You’re in charge of one such project, a foreman in Greenland who has to manage not only the construction of the towering middle finger to global cooling but also the wellbeing of the workers around it.
It’s up to you to balance construction and worker wellbeing as the deadline for extinction looms ever closer, swapping resource mining for environment farming and juggling a completely new set of challenges along the way. Do it right, and progress keeps on truckin’ along. Do it wrong, and you have to deal with labour strikes and the downing of tools at the worst possible time as disgruntled workers refuse to operate thanks to your lackadaisical approach to their safety. Wimps.
Thankfully a new selection of laws allows you to appease the working class, tossing legislative cake their way in the form of allowing for unions and having a working environment that isn’t a deathtrap that would even do Batman in. With those handy new laws, a strong supply chain of new workers, a new tech tree to research and the focus being more on construction than a desperate race for fuel, The Last Autumn starts off deceptively easy and then lures you in for a haymaker of challenges that are thrown your way at the eleventh hour.
It’s not too long before you’re juggling a number of obstacles, sacrificing ideals and watching your goals topple like a neatly arranged row of dominoes before you as you royally cock up along the way and hit the reset switch to try again. There’s only so much that you can do while sticking to your belief that treating the common worker with decency will lead to victory, but there’s something to be said for tossing your moral compass into the sea and embracing your inner Jeff Bezos and working the proles to the bone.
The true challenge of The Last Autumn comes in the form of a question: Just how many people are you willing to sacrifice for the greater good once Armageddon knocks on your door? Equality and mercy only gets you so far in the game, while a ruthless cracking of the whip as the manager from hell will ensure that humanity survives its new winter status quo.
Even if it is a future built on blue collar bones. Easier for some to make a hard choice a little too quickly I suppose (Hi mom!) but a sobering experience for people with more humanity inside of them as their hearts bleed for the corpses that rack up on the path to salvation.
Last Updated: January 28, 2020