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E3 2017: Hands-On with 11 bit Studios' Frostpunk

by: Nicholas -
More On: E3 2017 Frostpunk

Frostpunk was the second game from Polish developer 11-bit studios that I got to take a look at in their booth at E3. Unlike with Tower 57, however, I was not able to play a full demo, but rather was shown a demonstration of the game’s mechanics from the lead designer, Jakub Stokalski. A good analogy for this game would be The Sims meet survival games. The setting of this game is an alternate history set around the beginning of the 20th century. Enormous technological advances have come at the expense of the environment, and now the world is covered in snow, The Day After Tomorrow style.

The goal of the game is to craft a society without over-exerting your people. It is critical to keep an eye on the bottom of the screen where two meters are present: Discontent, and Hope. These are increased or decreased based on the decisions you make as a leader. One of the ways in which this is done is by creating laws that have a direct impact on your people. One of the laws that Jakub enacted was to employ children as laborers, sending them to work in places it was safe for children to do so. Even though it was a measured approach, he did get some backlash from the people in his society.

Techniques form other city-builders abound in this game, things like sending your people out to gather wood for building materials, or coal to heat and power the generator in the middle of the settlement.

The main hazards in the game are essentially the weather and occupational hazards. It’s important to keep an eye on the temperature, because as soon as it drops below a certain amount, your people will be forced to with draw from work and head inside. Should they stay outside for a bit longer, they could get frostbite, which will force them to a medical tent. Then, compounding factors will impact them further. Did you research methods of treating frostbite? Or will you have to amputate the limb, crippling the victim for life?

The game presents a constant battle of pragmatism versus moralism. Will the player do this at the expense of that? Will they continue to build their settlement, putting their workers at risk of injury and sickness? These themes are extracted after the fact, as the main purpose of the game, as far as I saw, was simply to survive.

In the demonstration, Jakub only built a rudimentary settlement, although it looked sturdy enough, surely advances and upgrades are possible in the final game, which does not yet have a solid release date.

Most of the demonstration also took place in a giant crater, but at the end, he zoomed out of the world map to reveal that there are more locations available to the player for activities such as rescuing lost travelers or linking up with other survivors to accumulate more resources.

What I saw was only a small portion of the game, but it the build I saw looked like it had come far along. Hopefully more comes along as the development process continues. Frostpunk does not have a solid release date yet.