City builders usually come in a pretty package with the only real stress coming from your ability to manage money and keep people happy. I mean, come on, Sim City used to have disasters as a fun distraction from the normal gameplay when you wanted to destroy your town. Well, Frostpunk: Console Edition is here to throw all of your sunny days out the window.
This city builder tasks you with building up the last city on Earth during an ice age apocalypse. Trust me, it’s a lot less easy than it sounds. Having found massive success on PC, the title now makes it way to PS4. Does it stick the landing, or should we leave this game to freeze in the eternal winter? Let’s find out.
Weathering The Storm
Frostpunk: Console edition offers several different modes, including a main story and several side scenarios, in addition to an endless mode. The game places you in the shoes of a leader who is tasked with building up the last city on Earth.
The world has been cast into an endless winter, so your decisions will make or break the future of the human race. No pressure. In all seriousness, the game does a great job of setting up its world in a rather epic opening cutscene with some powerful narration.
As you get into the mechanics of the game, the characterization and story doesn’t leave like you would expect from a typical city builder. Instead, you’ll face various scenarios and decisions that weigh heavy on your conscience.
Once you’ve built a beacon, you can also send out expeditions that come across various ruins and small groups. These also offer opportunities to dive deeper into the game’s world. I would expect nothing less from the developers of This War of Mine, but it’s still great to see so much attention given to the development of your people and the world the game takes place within.
Story aside, Frostpunk: Console Edition is all about survival, and it does not come easy. When you first start, you’re given a massive generator at the center of your city that provides warmth to the people and buildings surrounding it. It’s a nice gesture, but it’s range is limited, and the cold is a harsh mistress.
To keep it running, you’ll need to send out workers to gather coal. A nice feature is the ability to press the touchpad to see a heatmap that illustrates the range of your generator. When the temperature drops (something the game indicates in a forecast meter), you’ll need to crank up the heat or place the generator into overdrive. Again, a simple solution, but if you leave it in overdrive too long it will explode.
All of this illustrates one tiny aspect of Frostpunk. In true city builder fashion, you’ll need to manage a lot of moving parts to succeed. The game’s tutorials offer a lot of reading material and guided tours of the basic buildings, but with how much the game throws at you, I would have liked to see more advanced tutorials, even if they were optional.
Gathering resources like coal, steel, wood, and food, along with establishing the basic buildings won’t pose too much of a problem. However, Frostpunk: Console Edition goes beyond management and also tasks you with keeping your people happy and healthy in an unforgiving world.
To this end, there is both a discontent and hope meter at the bottom of the screen. If the discontent gets too high, or the hope gets too low, your game will come to an end. Without any autosave to speak of, it’s advisable that you save manually whenever you can.
The people of the city will often come to you with demands that you can deal with accordingly. An example would be asking for more housing so people don’t have to sleep in the streets, or more medical facilities.
These often come with a timer, so if you don’t make good on your promises, you can expect discontent to rise.
Throughout all of this, you’ll need to research new buildings and technology if you want to last in the long-term. Even something as simple as turning up the heat on the generator requires you to learn the skill first.
One thing you can do to stop things getting out of hand is a mechanic that lets you sign laws into effect. These often come in pairs, with two ways to approach the situation. There is a cooldown on it, but you can make decisions like extending work shifts or focusing on faith above an iron rule to keep things in check.
While you’re managing the city, you can also build an early building called the Beacon. This allows you to create an expedition team. Sending this squad out into the world helps you find supplies, new technologies, and even other survivors. It’s a nice way to break up the pacing that allows you to manage something outside of the city in front of you.
With all of these moving parts, the biggest question is how does it play? On a PC, these things could be managed with mouse and keyboard, but the controller is a far different beast. The development team knew this, and the game earns its Console Edition moniker with flying colors.
As someone who has played his fair share of PC ports, Frostpunk: Console Edition is a masterclass in how to translate everything over. Radial menus are a given, but the organization of the various categories makes things move much faster than thumbing through a larger list.
Shortcuts on the controller, combined with a quick menu that you can use on any interactive building also let you accomplish critical tasks quickly. Everything that’s mapped onto the DualShock 4 feels natural, to the point where I don’t know what the PC version would look like.
Perhaps my only real qualm with the port is the text. As someone who plays on the couch with a 65-inch TV, the text is incredibly small. This is not a new issue, or exclusive to Frostpunk, but it does become tiring when the game involves a substantial amount of reading.
The experience in Frostpunk: Console Edition can certainly be overwhelming, but the moment-to-moment gameplay is both engaging and incredibly well designed for a controller. Things like autosaves, larger text, and maybe a few more tutorials would have been helpful, but those who have been waiting for this port have absolutely nothing to worry about.
The Machinations of Survival
While I’m certain the team had to make some cuts to the graphics as part of the porting process, Frostpunk: Console Edition is a gorgeous game on the PS4 Pro. The physics of the snow as worker plow through new pathways to resources, combined with the level of detail on the generator and buildings really makes the city feel alive.
I also particularly loved the art used for the menus, cutscenes, and decision-making moments. Superbly detailed characters and rich environment portraits do a lot to make the game feel like more than just a resource management sim (which, of course, it is).
I failed a lot in Frostpunk: Console Edition. It’s not an easy game, but it is an easy one to recommend. If you have even a fleeting interest in city builder titles, this game is a must-play. Not only is it a standout in its genre, but it’s also a perfect example of how to properly port a game from PC to console.
Final Score: 9.0/10
A copy of Frostpunk: Console Edition was provided to PS4 Experts for review purposes.
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 10/11/19