I tell you what: Give me a zombie outbreak. Give me the water wars, alien invasions and machine uprisings. But don’t for a second allow me to live in the worst possible apocalypse there is: A cold one. Imagine a future where mankind’s greatest monuments are buried in layers of snow, all liquids have frozen solid and the greatest resource is that Xmas gift you got for being a bastard: A lump of coal.
Imagine an endless winter, freezing you to the very bone and sapping you of the strength to live as salvation becomes a dwindling resource. Now imagine what kind of decisions you’d have to make in such an apocalypse, if you wanted to survive it. That’s the idea behind Frostpunk, a bleak look at a tomorrow where global cooling has dropped an atomic elbow on human civilisation and the last remnants of our species gather around an almighty furnace in a final desperate attempt to stay warm in a long and cold night.
It’s a brilliant piece of strategy on PC, as third-most handsome reviewer Alessandro wrote in his original review. It’s a tactical game where the enemy at your door is despair and incredibly difficult choices have to be made…if you have a heart that is. Me? I’ve got no qualms about flinging orphans into the furnace if they don’t obey my laws that force them into labour. Or I would if those damn peasants would stop organising revolts against my tyrannical reign.
It’s a game of micro-management, laying down the law and appeasing the masses instead of telling them to eat coal, but it’s also one that would never work outside of a keyboard and a mouse…right? INSERT BUZZER SOUND HERE: You’re wrong pal. So so wrong. Frostpunk on console is a revelatory experience, one whose design and control scheme is brilliantly rejiggered to make the most of a paltry number of inputs within which to control numerous functions in a chilly dystopia.
Right from the start, things just work brilliantly. The sensitivity on the analogue sticks hit a sweet spot, with either stick ably zipping around the screen at a mere nudge and both directional inputs working in tandem to get your eyeballs focused on where they need to be should the need arise. There’s a clever set of radial menus that track your building habits, tutorials available at the drop of an orphan overworked to near-death in my coal mines and an efficiency in how everything is put together that makes the game feel absolutely natural in your hands.
That’s what it’s all about when it comes to strategy: Efficiency. While the console versions are no match for a mouse and keyboard that happen to be manned by a gamer whose fingers can play a concerto with micromanagement, it’s still an impressive reworking of the complete game that throws mud in the eye of the assumption that strategy games can’t work on console.
That flow of function to function, the seamless hop between running coal factories and sending scouts out into the winter wasteland while you lay down the law, makes for a grim but fascinating experience. It’s a benchmark in design for a different platform and while it’s wholly suited for Frostpunk’s particular style of strategy and compromising on ideals to ensure that the sun rises once more on your ragtag community, there are some ideas here that other games could learn a few lessons from.
Last Updated: October 10, 2019