Frostpunk Console Edition is a grim, bleak and depressing experience that will make you feel like a terrible person… it’s great!
Hugely popular on PC, Frostpunk takes place during an alternative 19th-century industrial revolution where the planet freezes over and humankind all but dies out.
As the leader of the last civilised society on Earth, it’s your job to keep your followers safe by building a new settlement powered by the old technology.
It’s a fascinating story that’s expertly brought to life through great writing, tough choices and deceptively detailed visuals that really nail the whole steampunk vibe.
Unlike similar games where the aim is to build a huge, thriving metropolis and manage the odd crisis, Frostpunk is purely about survival.
Success is measured by keeping the power running, the settlement warm and your followers fed, by any means necessary. Likewise, a good day in Frostpunk is when only a handful of people are taken ill and die from the cold, lack of food or disease.
It’s a challenging game that forces players to spin a lot of plates and constantly make life and death decisions.
Fortunately, however, this process is made ever so slightly more manageable thanks to the wonderful job developer 11 Bit Studios has done in porting Frostpunk over to consoles.
For starters, despite there being a complex set of systems to manage, Frostpunk’s controls are surprisingly easy to get to grips with.
The analogue sticks control the cursor and camera, the left trigger brings up your command hub – where you’ll select structures to build, technology to research and laws to pass – and there are a couple of buttons to select buildings and check on your workforce. Who needs a mouse and keyboard?
The simple controls are complemented by some fine pacing, where new gameplay elements and ideas are introduced at a steady speed.
You’ll spend the opening moments collecting resources and constructing buildings, before being encouraged to introduce new laws, research technology and set off on expeditions to find additional survivors.
Key to survival is collecting resources and keeping the workforce happy, hopeful and content. Maintaining the balance between a functioning town and a happy community is extremely difficult, although keeping track of it isn’t.
All of your resources are displayed in a self-explanatory table at the top of the screen, while hope and discontent levels are shown at the bottom.
And it’s the hope and discontent element that makes Frostpunk such a compelling experience.
Indeed, it’s remarkable how quickly and readily your morals will go out of the window when there’s a political crisis to manage.
At regular intervals throughout the game you can introduce new laws to make your resources stretch further, or to keep discontent and hope at reasonable levels.
You can establish a burial ground to pay respects to the dead, extend shift hours in order to gather more materials and even put kids to work.
But because this is Frostpunk, every new law has a positive and negative effect associated with it. Building a cemetery may increase hope and reduce the risk of disease, but it also keeps mourners from work and uses up valuable resources.
Likewise, longer shifts and child labour may keep the generator running, but neither law will endear you to the public.
Every new law you pass is more terrible than the last, and will make you feel like an awful person. Still, it’s amazing how quickly you’ll embrace these rule changes when your popularity is at an all-time low and you only have a couple of days to turn it around.
Besides, it’s not like I fed the population sawdust and forced the kids to work the mines… oh wait.
My biggest complaint about Frostpunk is that the campaign isn’t long enough, and doesn’t give you enough reason to replay.
Fortunately, there is an endless mode and a couple of beefy follow-up scenarios, so your experience won’t be too short-lived.
If you like games that make you feel like an awful person, then you’ll love Frostpunk Console Edition.
A compelling story with surprisingly intuitive controls and challenging gameplay, Frostpunk developer 11 Bit Studios proves that you don’t always need a mouse and keyboard to do the strategy genre justice on PS4 and Xbox One.