Wot I Think: Banished

By Alec Meer on February 18th, 2014 at 8:00 pm.

Banished is an indie sandbox city building simulation, in which you have free reign to grow a nascent medieval town using only the resources gained from the land around it. You build and you harvest, and you keep your population healthy enough in order that they might breed and expand. It’s out now, and I spent the weekend with it.

It made more sense once I decided that everyone in the town had tapeworm. Their prodigious appetites and the strange ease with which they would starve to death had more reason to it then. If I became frustrated, all I had to do was picture these weather-worn medieval folk shovelling endless amounts of fish, venison, potatoes, peppers, berries and mushrooms down their brown-toothed maws, only for the grim parasite in their guts to hoover half the goodness out of their rich harvest, leaving these peons hungry to the point of collapse.

Banished is a taxing game. It might even be a vexing one. Here’s an example, from a relatively early stage of a game, although it still took a bloody long time to get there. (There’s no campaign as such, by the way: you start with a randomly-generated map, immediate access to all buildings, and keep going/growing for as long as you can.)

  • My town consists of roughly 80 people.
  • Food is supplied by 12 fishermen, 7 farmers, 12 hunters and 8 gatherers. 39 food workers total.
  • Firewood is supplied by 16 foresters providing logs to 4 woodcutters (any more woodcutters and they’d have nothing to do, lest that sound low). 20 fuel workers total.

80 people. 39 food workers. 20 fuel workers.

And yet they are starving to death. And yet they are freezing to death. There is some imbalance I can’t understand – how could a ratio of almost one food worker to every two people fail to provide enough? (Yes, I have been careful to spread fields, cabins and barns out so no-one has to make long, hungry treks for sustenance). Is everyone obscenely greedy, or is everyone extremely lazy? Perhaps the population count is representative rather than exact, and that 70 refers to an abstract grouping rather than the full total – but why, then, would the same not apply to the number of food workers?

I need to make yet more food, and I need to make yet more firewood: every two or three new citizens seems to increase demand on these key resources by the sort of degree you’d expect from a decent-size army. Everything I’m doing is with the intent of making my population grow, but making my population grow is essentially fatal to it. So I’m scrabbling to lay on more farmers, more hunters, more fishermen, more lumberjacks, but I’m constrained by landmass, I’m constrained by resource cost, and most of all I’m constrained by available labourers, builders, farmers, fishermen etc etc etc because almost everyone I have is tasked with providing the existing food supply.

Desperately I switch people away from mining and from medicine, from teaching and from tailoring, trying to find just one or two souls who will provide just that bit more food or put that new hunter’s cabin up quickly enough that no-one will perish during the wait, but as I do three people die from old age – and there’s no-one to replace them, not until the students come of age. Then a fisherman drowns. Then a quarryman is crushed by falling rock. In one sense, it’s horrible. In another perhaps it relieves the strain on the food supply.

But it doesn’t, because some of those who died were fishermen and gatherers. There are fewer mouths to feed, yes, but there are fewer hands to do the feeding too. Where else can I pull people away from? Only from food. Only from firewood. All I can do is wait for children to become students to became adults, but even those who don’t starve of freeze while I wait take forever about it, and wind up only replacing those who have most immediately perished rather than truly replenishing numbers.

I am stroppy now, but more than that I’m tired. It’s a fight. The death toll mounts and mounts, and too often I face events such as finally recruiting a new fisherman, only to be told seconds later than another fisherman has died. One step forwards, two steps back, all the time. This is a war of attrition against my patience and my obstinance, as I stand grimly against a tide which will not pause, a chain reaction of mortality. By this point – and it is a point I have faced several times, in several towns – there’s only one option left to me, and that is to go back to a far earlier savegame, if I have one. There is no rescuing this situation.

I know roughly what went wrong, and that is that, during a time of relative plenty, I actively chased expansion rather than first laying all the groundwork which would support it. I should have built field after field, fishing dock after fishing dock – but that would still leave me with the problem of where their staff come from. And with how to provide staff for firewood, and for the herbalists which stop everyone dying young of disease, and feeling too unhealthy to breed children. Where would I have switched people from? What, among the essential, was non-essential? How can I possibly reached the hallowed situation whereby there’s enough young’uns hanging around to immediately replace all those who so relentlessly die of age? How can I do that when the very presence of young’uns places such a high demand on their families’ and neighbours’ food supply that people are starving even when fully half the population is dedicated to generating food?

Children are our future. They are also our doom. In this, Banished is an unsettling allegory for human population growth. It is less successful at being a game with highs and satisfactions. It is pure chore, pure punishment.

Apt, I suppose, for the harsh, unforgiving world of base-level survival it represents. Apt, too, if it wants an audience who demands painstaking strategy and planning rather than any amount of carefree noodling when it comes to town design. But Christ, such work.

I’ve spent three days obsessed with Banished, and yet I don’t like it. I was obsessed because I was determined to find a way to break its back, to succeed even when its severity and its strange logic worked so hard to punish me. I don’t like it because it is so short on breathing room, so determined to stack the odds against me, that there is no scope whatsoever to enjoy the act of city-building. While no head turner, it is perfectly attractive, but that matters naught when it’s not paired with any excitement. I want to be challenged, sure, but I also want to be able to sit back and say ‘guys, just look at what we’ve made.’

I don’t like it because not a one of its structures or inhabitants creates a sense of joy or accomplishment when created. Whatever I might construct is another brown (or occasionally grey) shack, whose only visible effect – if I’m lucky – is to slightly slow the decline of one of the game’s many numbers. Let’s say that number is firewood. Let’s say that number was about 200 and falling fast, raised to about 400 and not immediately falling – but two or three more citizens and it will. What am I to divine from that? What does that number, changing dramatically all the time, really tell me about my citizen’s needs, and their demands? Games have forever been about the balancing of numbers, but here the numbers take over – I don’t know what 400 firewood means. All I know is that I need to stop that number from declining to sharply.

And so Banished, even during calmer times, is about the panicked, incessant second-guessing of those numbers. Once I’ve got firewood holding steady, I immediately need to turn to increasing the number of buildings for food again, or to medicinal herb-gathering again, or to quarrying again: there’s no hope of a moment of triumph, because if you’ve done well the population swells faster and doom arrives faster. There aren’t even any just-for-showing off buildings to aspire to: everything in Banished is purely about subsistence.

Which is why I admire it at the same time as not liking it. Perhaps, as I wrote about Far Cry 2 last week, this is a game that’s absolutely dedicated a single, clear ethos of suffering and danger. Go into it expecting something which gives you freedom to be playful and experimental and you’re going to get slapped down. Go into it expecting a brutal challenge, a thematic reflection of the everyday trials and agonies of a pre-technology society, and at least then you can’t be told – as I may be – that you’re ‘playing it wrong.’

I fully and happily accept that I did not go into Banished with that mindset. I did, at least, stick with it even whilst in the grip of great frustration because I was determined to work out how it ticked, how to overcome its inhabitants’ deadly growth and almighty hunger. I can see that, if I wanted to challenge myself further, to mine deep for the rarer thrill of a job expertly accomplished rather than simply a building game indulged in, it would give me that.

This doesn’t excuse the woeful interface, how it presents itself as prettily minimalist but in fact you need to manually keep open and arranged several, heavily statistical and visually tedious windows throughout, and that you will spend the majority of your time squinting at their comments rather than paying attention to anything in the game-world itself. For instance, only disaster-related deaths warrant a notification icon – starvation, accident, freezing, that sort of thing. The far more commonplace old age deaths go unremarked, and are identified only be spotting that the number denoting total adults has decreased. You then need to refer to the log window in order to find out who’s died, what their job was, and if anyone was available to replace them or not.

Important edit: I am informed that there is in fact an option to turn on additional death notifications. Whether my not seeing it is a matter of my being an idiot or the UI not making it sufficiently visible is a matter for debate.

For example, here’s an average view of Banished.

For your information, there’s a house, and a gatherer’s hut, and a storage barn, some relatively mature trees, and some rain – but nothing at all in this screenshot matters one iota – except for the bits I’ve marked with 1 and 2.

Let’s take a closer look at number 1:

The red asterisk marks what I needed to have noticed. 65/16/29 refers to the number of adults, students and children in the town. The latter two types will eventually become the former, so a big part of Banished is making sure you have that supply chain of future workers ready to step into the boots of the fallen. What’s just happened is that the first number has dropped from 66 to 65. The game didn’t tell me this – I just had to spot the change by keeping an eye on this tiny window. In order to understand the effect of it, I had to take a look at reference 2:

So, 66 went from 65 because a gatherer died. Gatherers provide nuts and berries and root vegetables, which while a lesser part of the overall food picture than wildstock and crops are still pretty damned essential – for population health as well as hunger. So a gatherer dying is a problem. Not having anyone working as a general labourer means no-one will automatically replace that gatherer – instead I’ll need to switch someone out of another, more than likely equally vital, role to cover this, or to wait for a student to come of age.

That is a lot of busywork and close scrutiny in order to ascertain one single fact: a gatherer has died and you need to replace them manually. That’s just an example of how the game’s opaque systems are unhelpfully presented, not a lone gripe. I should also note at this point that all these windows are closed and hidden by default: the game doesn’t seem to think you even need to see this stuff. You really do. Now, it’s certainly true that someone more on top of their game, a better strategist, would not have gotten into a situation whereby there are no general labourers about, and could instead rely more on the circle of life to keep things going. While I might maintain that the game is too unforgiving to make that feasible, and while I might also maintain that such a struggle is the very point of Banished, this does not excuse how poorly the information is presented, and what a fussy chore it is to extract simple but vital data from this game.

It’s not Sim City (and thank God for that). It’s a little indie thing with a fraction of the resources of a more mainstream city builder game, and wasn’t ever going to have a raft of interface designers at its disposal. But I can’t give it a free pass for that. In a game like this, UI is all, and UI is where it most stumbles. Even switching people between roles is drawn out clunky business, despite multiple ways in which to do it. I could have done it from this main grid, which is quickest but means you have no idea exactly which buildings you’re drawing from:

Or I could have manually gone to relevant buildings – for instance a quarry and a farm – and adjusted the staffing levels to suit. What I can’t do is tell who exactly I’m pulling away or what the direct consequence of it will be. Most of all, I’m just clicking tiny arrows to adjust abstracted numbers, and that is what Banished really is. There’s this patina of semi-pretty medieval farming, but it’s far too evidently a skinsuit hung loosely over dry, fiddly statistical bones. That’s what city sims are, yes, but jeez, did you have to be quite so blatant about it? And despite a nice line in randomly-generated names and, if you’re prepared to stare at that tiny, texty event log all the while, a certain bittersweetness to seeing kids come of age, go to work, have their own kids and then die, there is no meaningful way to engage with or even witness your populations’ lives. There’s only watching the numbers. And the numbers are against you.

Indeed, when you look beyond the numbers and at the people instead, with their names and genders and ages, all is totally random, at least in terms of applying logic to who’s having children, who’s coupling with who and who’s turning from child to dead 70-year-old in the span of five winters. There is, I fear, quite a lot being swept under the rug here, trying to fool us into thinking more is simulated than it really is. Similarly, or perhaps as a result, there’s none of the gonzo surprise element one would find in, say, the similarly unforgiving Dwarf Fortress: there are no people stories here, no humanity, just numbers relentlessly going down as you relentlessly fight to keep up.

Aside from interface complaints, I would not really call Banished a bad game. I would also not call it a pleasant game. It is a game about strife, and it is a game about relentlessly balancing a spreadsheet. It is a game whose internal logic is not always relevant to external logic, and it is a game which has failed to truly marry world with UI. It may be a game for you – I do expect a passionate community for form around it. I tried my best, but it was not a game for me.

I wish it was, because I really do admire it. I admire that it’s sworn such fealty to raw survival, to simply staying alive rather than thriving or luxury or capitalism or conquest. I admire that, for all its humdrum appearance, it’s such a different beast to other city-builders. I admire its brutality, and its purity. I admire that it’s clearly a labour of love, and certainly an impressive accomplishment given its humble origins. I just wish I liked it too.

Banished is out now.

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200 Comments »

  1. JanusForbeare says:

    Ugh. All that number crunching. This sounds like it would make a fine addition to the curriculum of a high school math class, but not to the library of the casual gamer.

    EDIT: As the first commentator, I want to take the opportunity to ask that all available douchebags prove their douchebaggery by replying in bold letters and telling us about how a casual acquaintance’s sister made money on the internet.

    • AzureBlu says:

      I was hyped and waiting on this game for ~3 months. Now i got to play it. Jesus tapdancing christ is it hard. And, sad to say i don’t want to play it. I don’t want to play it because i am constantly stressed out when playing. it’s an uphill battle, constantly. I knew it was going to be hard, but this is not enjoyable. I don’t enjoy playing it. i don’t feel like i’m having a good time.. I don’t play games to feel MORE stressed out..

      Dissapointed :(

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Go watch Quill18′s videos on YouTube. Start with #5 (“Sprouting of Brussels”). He knows how to play the game, and once you’ve got the knack, it really is quite relaxing.

        • SillyWizard says:

          Thanks for mentioning this. I’ll be enjoying these videos for some time to come! (They’re so long….)

          Watching Quill18 play is going a long way towards convincing me to pick the game up. Hrm.

        • Toadsmash says:

          Are you saying Robert is just bad?

          • Mrice says:

            I think Roberts is bad at the game. I don’t think that’s necessarily his fault.

            I watched those videos in the run up to playing for the first time and when i dived into the game i found it quite easy to play. Relaxing and not a struggle. Just a case of endlessly expanding and tweaking as i go along.

            But to me that just says that the game is awful at showing you how its mechanics work. Like in the article he mentions he has several fishing huts. Fishing huts are awful. Take loads of people for a fraction of the value of a hunters or gatherers hut. That’s probably a big part of his difficulty. (I only use them when im trying to start off a city in a place with lots of water and not many tree’s or flatland)

            And in the screenshots i can see several hunters/gatherers/herbalists huts in civilised places. Having lots of buildings in the area of effect for one of these food production huts makes them way WAY less efficient. To the point of uselessness. But the game never explicitly tells you this. It expects you to go read it in the documentation. Well that’s just not good. A little tool-tip over the icon wouldn’t hurt anyone.

            Edit: Or is this one alec? I don’t even know.

        • benthere says:

          Registered to thank you for the link.

          So it’s a challenging city-builder where basic survival is a major concern. And lots of numbers. And I can actually lose?

          um.. Yes. That sounds delightful.

          This may not be your thing. For me, it hits the spot.

      • frightlever says:

        Is this the Dark Souls of city builders?

      • bstard says:

        Oh sounding great. The tears of failure are the best advertisement for games.

      • kylexrex says:

        I don’t understand why you would stress about an singleplayer game. You should stop looking at the numbers and use common knowledge, and most of all just play the game! and this said by an autist. I’ve watched every single video of banished by Quill18 and I enjoyed it just as much as I am playing it right now. with my first “Village” I managed to achieve a population of 200 with it being on Hard and Large (No pun intended) I decided to quit when it got a little too easy, bored because it didnt look like I wanted it too be. lets say it wasnt autistic enough… the GUI in banished is so clean, the gameplay is so simple and easy to understand. that I cannot see why it is a struggle for you to play this masterpiece.

    • SuddenSight says:

      I would like to speak up for math on this one? I like math, my friends. I love games like Kerbal Space Program that aren’t afraid to give you the numbers and let you do a little math. I hate games that try to hide the math away, in some dusty corner, as if they are ashamed of the cold, metallic clicking that lies at the heart of every computer.

      I like thinking about games when I’m not playing them. In games with probability, like Hearthstone and Civilization, I work out averages and probability of success. In games with stats, like Age of Kings, I work out timings and try to guess at matchups.

      Math is fun my friends! Stop moaning that the game had the gall to show you a *number* (my goodness).

      [/Rant]
      In other news, I also instant-purchased Banished based entirely off RPS’s hype and Quill18′s Let’s Play, and so far it has lived up to expectations. (Based ~2 hours of play, I have to work today, mylifeissohardIhatewaiting) I will say the interface doesn’t seem that bad to me, and the game feels surprisingly relaxing considering how close to subsistence you always are. But time will tell if I continue to enjoy the experience or not.

      • JanusForbeare says:

        Oh, I have nothing against math, and more power to you for actually enjoying it. Society needs people like you.

        Unfortunately, I was one of those artsy types in high school who barely squeaked by in grade nine math class. It’s simply not my cup of tea when it comes to gaming, despite being a huge fan of grand strategy games (I aced history, unlike the aforementioned number-hell class). A game that makes it such an integral part of the experience just isn’t up my alley.

        • P7uen says:

          I love KSP, but because KSP is about maths (physics). I’m pretending to be rocket scientist and so I expect to do a fun version of a rocket scientist’s job, and I win and lose based on how well I physicsed all my stuff.

          I don’t think a banished medieval bloke got out his spreadsheets before he started his new life, I think he just went and killed a rabbit/deer/tree/bit of ground, so, for me, I should win or lose based on the more abstracted decisions, if I wanted to feel like I was that bloke.

          (edit: sorry wasn’t for you JFB)

          • lilgamefreek says:

            I’ve been playing it since release and I wouldn’t say banished isn’t as math intensive as people make it out to be, simply because there are lots of numbers you DON’T have access too. You don’t have graphs keeping track of an individual building’s production overtime, you don’t have specific stats on an individual’s hunger, warmth, tool condition, things like that.

            I’ve been loving this game because I’ve approached it as a game about anthropology. I saw a huge problem immediately with Alec’s society when he mentioned “Food is supplied by 12 fishermen, 7 farmers, 12 hunters and 8 gatherers. 39 food workers total”.

            Because from an anthropological standpoint, a society setting up there food supply to feed that many individuals doesn’t make since. My village is going strong because I’ve “graduated” from the hunter gatherer phase. As I developed, I imagined “What was the next step in human development” and I then emulated, and my society is really thriving at the moment. It’s thriving because every spring, I pull all the hunters, gatherers, fisherman, woodcutters, foresters, builder’s etc, and make them all farmers. Planting and Harvesting were huge events, were all-hands events,with huge festivals revolving around them in the ancient eras. Once the fields are planted, I switch people off farming so that they can work other tasks for the summer and when harvest comes, they go right back to farming. So when it’s summer or winter, people are out picking herbs, hunting deer, fishing fish, building houses, but when it’s spring and autumn, all hands are in the fields to ensure an awesome harvest. It’s a cycle of life that occurred in the Medieval era and it’s absolutely delightful for me to see it working in this game!

            This is definitely not a game for everyone, but I firmly believe it is not a “math” game. It is one of the best “society” games I have played, despite it not emulating the things we think are so human like relationships, emotions, dreams, and sins. It emulates the basis of our society’s survival, and it’s a wonderful game for anthropology enthusiasts like me who can use it to emulate the real world, and then go back to see what we can do different to make it better or worse.

            (Though I agree, foresters could use some rebalancing. Fuck foresters)

      • Kerbal_Rocketry says:

        Personally get on with banished quite well, most peoples complaints seem fairly innocuous to me. The UI is useable and clear, you don’t have to dig though stat pages and building tabs (SIMCITY!) to find out or build the simplest of things. (Though do note that i find Dwarf Fortress’ UI to be good in all areas other than labor assignment, and for that Dwarf Therapist exists).

        The actual Fight to survive is lovely, too many city/village building games let you slap down some houses and a farm and be fully self sufficient with no effort or difficulty. Banished meant you had to use your workers efficiently and think about how they will live.

        • Rizlar says:

          Seconded (or thirded… whatever). I’ve been having a good time with Banished so far, slowly building up my town and learning the ropes.

          The UI is actually really good. So much stuff is automated (farmers with nothing to do in winter automatically become general labourers etc), you don’t need to micromanage everything. Reassigning jobs and keeping an eye on stocks has been really easy using only the two relevant UI panes.

          I quite like the idea that supporting a densely populated town will be really difficult. I have never felt the need to immediately exploit every resource and maximise everything in this type of game.

      • Darko Drako says:

        Can we please have an auto-correct for math => maths. It is incredibly grating to see “math” written all over the comments of a Britishers gaming site.

  2. Discopanda says:

    Well. It looks friendlier than Dwarf Fortress, at least.

    • Red Tonic says:

      Crimeny, I’ve spent the last couple months getting soundly beaten by bronze titans, goblins, gigantic scorpions, and occasional tantrum spirals of dwarves — starving or freezing to death might be a positively prosaic change.

    • Kerbal_Rocketry says:

      More welcoming to new players? Yes.
      Better UI, in parts (oh my god a working Labor assignment system without 3rd party programs!)
      As many things to do? No.
      Difficulty? Different, just surviving in DF (no sieges, no monsters, etc) is easier than in banished, but DF gets hard when a Giant Acid-spitting Wombat made of Slime breaks into your food stoke pile and your only militia is 12 assorted fishery workers and cheese makers…

    • Shadow says:

      I feel I can judge Banished by its appearance more than I could Dwarf Fortress. ASCII is ASCII, from the beginning you know it can’t show more than it does, and that you have to look past it to find the game’s charm. But this is 3D, and 3D is capable of great personality. And I don’t mean high-poly models, large textures, bloom and HDR, but simply good, attractive visual design.

      I’m not surprised Banished’s gameplay is as drab as its appearance. Hell, even Dwarf Fotress has a larger effective palette! This one has what amounts to shades of literally three colours: gray, brown and green.

      “Aside from interface complaints, I would not really call Banished a bad game. I would also not call it a pleasant game. It is a game about strife, and it is a game about relentlessly balancing a spreadsheet.”

      Perhaps I’m being overly critical here, but the real question is, can it really be called a game? Or is it more like a starvation simulator? Where’s the fun in a ‘game’ in which you can’t seem to accomplish anything?

      All that said, I probably have to add a caveat to my statements, since I’m putting a lot of stock on Alec’s perspective. It’s possible the game’s just in need of balance. Maybe the devs will work on that, and will improve things in time. How much I don’t know, but it’s something. I doubt the art design ever will, but if the numbers just need some tweaking, the gameplay might eventually become at least somewhat more enjoyable.

      • Wisq says:

        This one has what amounts to shades of literally three colours: gray, brown and green.

        I’m not really sure how you can look at a realistic colonial simulator with realistic graphics and not expect gray, brown, and green. Unless you go cartoon-style, it’s not like they have the resources to go decorate all their houses with bright dyes and banners.

        Essentially, this is about as silly and meaningless as complaining that a flight simulator only has various shades of gray, blue and green. (Even the cockpit is going to be mostly shades of gray metal.)

        • JFS says:

          Looking out of my window right now, I see: gray, white, brown, brownish-red and a little ochre-to-yellow. Might be the world isn’t THAT colourful after all.

      • Rizlar says:

        Personally I really like the visual style. Seeing everything in action, panning over all the little smoking chimneys and stuff, it’s really pretty. The wild forests, with their variety of trees and tiny deer and mushrooms and stuff are really cool. And there is colour in the game – it’s the little brightly coloured people who weave about through all the other elements.

    • Thurgret says:

      I, er, found Dwarf Fortress easier, when I was just starting out, than I have found Banished so far.

  3. golem09 says:

    All I can do is wait for children to become students to became adults

  4. TillEulenspiegel says:

    I’m really surprised to see extensive complaints about the UI. I watched a number of Let’s Play videos, and now I’ve played the game myself for three or four hours now, and I completely disagree. So does Paul Younger who wrote the IncGamers review (and I quote, “The interface is excellent, and…for the most part it’s super intuitive.”).

    Visual organization? Good, no trouble except with remembering the icons on the main resource display. Mouse interface? Great. Keyboard shortcuts? Admittedly not so great. But if you need a second to figure things out, just whack spacebar to pause.

    The difficulty is overstated as well. There are plenty of mistakes to be made in the beginning, but once you understand which buildings and resources to prioritize early on, it’s pretty smooth. Unless you try to grow too fast.

    • Jumwa says:

      Yeah, those points seem to perfectly contradict what I’ve read too. Other reviews highlighted the excellent UI and casual difficulty level.

      This review is such a complete contradiction of that I’m left baffled and confused about whether to buy it.

      • Armante says:

        Anyone sitting on the fence about this one may want to check out the WTF is.. Banished by TotalBiscuit.
        It echoes the review somewhat, but raises good points and he does a fair job or pointing out why it may not appeal, but also what you may like.

        I’m liking it, and have added it to my wish list..

        And just to say, one heck of an achievement by ONE SINGLE PROGRAMMER to create the entire thing.

  5. Boosh says:

    well, this is a surprise, I’ve read nothing but gushing compliments in the run up to this release, and it was firmly on the top of my next purchase list, however I still decided to wait for early feedback. I think for now I’ll continue to wait and see how things pan out a bit.
    Awesome achievement though by the chap who made it.

    • JaminBob says:

      Yes. Surprise. I’ve bought it anyway, fully expecting to feel that i chucked 15 quid away.

      But i am DESPERATE for a new city builder. Hopefully cheats and mods will make this more fun.

    • Koldunas says:

      Actually, I think Let’s plays give you a better idea of Banished than this review. As much as I love Alec’s writing, he seems to put so much emphasis on food and fuel supply. Both are really managable if you take your time when expanding. I know, he mentioned this mistake himself. But he just shrugged it off as lack of experience with the game, when expanding sensibly is basically the game’s main challenge and focus. It’s like saying a racing is too harsh, because you can’t win a race after hitting the wall at every corner.

      I’ve only played a couple of hours, but I can tell you that 65/16/29 in population tab are pretty hard to pull-off smoothly if you are not prepared for it. Survival is not hard (even on hard start/harsh weather) if your population is small. It’s expanding while not dying, that is the real game. And that I think it should be this way in any city builder.

      Oh and there definitely ARE moments of “look at what I built” when a big town (100+) is running smoothly. And it is exactly because it is so unforgiving that this feels like a real achievment. No brightly coloured polygons and shiny sprites to pat you on the back.

    • AngusPrune says:

      You’re not getting a fair impression of the game by reading this review. As someone who actually has played the game, you can tell at a glance that all Alec’s problems are self-inflicted and come from either not playing the tutorial, or not paying attention to the tutorial.

      Basically, what he’s doing is akin to putting his residential zones next to your industrial zones in Sim City and then complaining that his city isn’t thriving. Not taking any time to ensure you actually understand the game seems like the cardinal sin of game reviews. You’d be better served finding a review from someone who at least took that first step.

  6. Sp4rkR4t says:

    Been obsessed with this game all day, plays exactly how it was pitched and the balance of those serene moment when you marvel at what you have built so far to the HOLY SHIT WHY IS EVERYONE DYING is just right in my mind.

    Only complaint I have is I’d like re-sizable windows for the info panes.

  7. hemmingjay says:

    You have described in great detail my dream game. While that may seem counter intuitive, my tastes are not for the mainstream and you have convinced me to go ahead and buy Banished immediately. Thank you!

  8. Skabooga says:

    I admire its purity. A survivor, unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.

  9. SillyWizard says:

    The shit? This game is out?

  10. pupsikaso says:

    You’re getting old, Alec. You just have to realize that and accept it. You simply don’t have the time nor patience for games like these. And giving it such a bad review because of that is simply not fair.

  11. merbert says:

    Alec,

    I take my hat off to you sir, this is a brilliantly written review.

    Were it my job to review it, I know I would have capitulated to the pure impenetrability of the UI and the sheer exhaustion of trying to “break it’s back” while knowing full well I was a hiding to nothing.

    My review would have been fulled by the frustration of what it set out to do, but failed to accomplish in its execution.

    You managed to keep a level head and acknowledge its shortcomings whilst still trying to praise its intentions.

    I think you nailed it most succinctly when you said “It is a game whose internal logic is not always relevant to external logic, and it is a game which has failed to truly marry world with UI”.

    Not only is it a fair review, but it is also an excellently crafted essay.

    Well done sir.

    This is why I visit your site on a daily basis.

    P.S. Won’t be touching it with a BARGE POLE.

    • Pliqu3011 says:

      You say stuff like
      “My review would have been fulled by the frustration of what it set out to do, but failed to accomplish in its execution. ”
      but also
      “Won’t be touching it with a BARGE POLE.”
      so you haven’t actually played it yet.

      How can you be so sure it has “failed” etc. when you haven’t even played it yourself? How do you know so surely you would agree with Alec if you did?

      • dE says:

        I won’t necessarily agree with what that person wrote, but isn’t that the point of reading reviews? You find a reviewer that shares similar tastes to your own, so you can better estimate how much you’d really enjoy it.
        So if your entire argument is basically this:

        when you haven’t even played it yourself?

        Why the bloody hell are you on a website that writes reviews?

        • Pliqu3011 says:

          You misunderstand, my problem lies in stuff like this:
          ” you nailed it most succinctly when you said “It is a game whose internal logic is not always relevant to external logic, and it is a game which has failed to truly marry world with UI”.”
          How would he know Alec “nailed it” if he hasn’t played the game himself? Is it somehow The Truth because it was written in this single review?

          • merbert says:

            If you’re going to be pedantic, then yeah, I don’t know it for a bona fide fact because I haven’t played it myself….but like dE above says, So if your entire argument is basically this:

            when you haven’t even played it yourself?

            Why the bloody hell are you on a website that writes reviews?

            I’m an experienced gamer of many years, I’ve played every variety of this ilk….and I smelt a turd sandwich off this in the various previews it received on the web….then Alec confirmed what my instincts and previous reading had suggested.

            In essence, I trust Alec’s opinion, hence the barge pole comment.

          • Pliqu3011 says:

            @merbert:
            “Why the bloody hell are you on a website that writes reviews?”
            I don’t see how this is relevant. I only thought it was weird that you talk about what you would’ve written in “your own review” about a game you haven’t played yet and talk about “frustrations” you haven’t experienced yet.

            “and I smelt a turd sandwich off this in the various previews it received on the web….then Alec confirmed what my instincts and previous reading had suggested.”
            Well that’s peculiar, because most reviews and opinions I’ve read outside of this one were actually pretty positive. From this particular review I got the feeling that Alec started out with the wrong strategy, refused to change it (or even to change the parameters of the world generation to something easier) and just got frustrated at everything after that. As many others have already said, if you watch a Let’s Play on Youtube, you’ll see that it’s actually not _that_ impossibly hard.
            I haven’t played the game myself yet, but I think it’s a bit unfair to call Banished “failed” in this or that aspect while it’s all a matter of opinion. Apparently a whole lot of people _are_ perfectly able to enjoy it.

          • aleander says:

            In essence, I trust Alec’s opinion, hence the barge pole comment.

            Had hoped to also get across why Banished is going to be very much what a certain sort of player wants

            …ooops.

    • Dux Ducis Hodiernus says:

      *Tips fedora*

  12. LVX156 says:

    I think Banished is a perfect game for those of us who think that Dwarf Fortress is just too incomprehensible, and longs for a 3d version with proper graphics and a mouse-driven interface. This is as close as we get right now, and I love it.

    • Noumenon says:

      Gnomoria’s 8-bit graphics and UI are totally satisfactory, and it keeps more of the fun parts of Dwarf Fortress like fantasy monsters and statues. The vanity stuff like marble floors is actually part of the game mechanics!

    • Nenjin says:

      Personally, I enjoy DF and do not find it incomprehensible.

      And I’m not really convinced where the fun is in this game. I like Survival, I like Sims, but as Alec said, I don’t sense the pay off. I’m not the kind of person that plays for “high scores” and yet that seems to be what this game is about. In that you’re like “Ok well I survived for 10 years…..let’s see if I can survive for 15?” I’m sure I’d enjoy this for the couple of hours I would play, but I’m not sure it’s something I’d come back to “just for a more efficient village design.”

      • hemmingjay says:

        Nenjin,

        You nailed it! The game doesn’t have the allure or payoff that DF and Gnomoria have. There is no challenge beyond feeding your population. The only mechanic that exists is a broken balance with no way to fix it. This single dev accomplished much in 3 years but he didn’t make a game and it’s certainly not the sandbox it claims to be.

        I am sure people will mod it to add features like food preservation tech to make the problem solvable but still challenging. Then I imagine they will add core gameplay challenges like raiders or insanity leading to homicide/suicide. Political struggles? Shouldn’t there be some sort of leadership in the town? What of the effects of laws/rules? There is so much that could be, but in the end all we have is a broken starvation simulator. It’s a fun toy for $7 but certainly not worth $20.

        See you on Bay12!

      • SirMonkeyWrench says:

        I agree the lack of long term objectives is a bigger turn off for me than complaints about the UI and difficulty I was really hoping (and, frankly expecting) that the ultimate goal of the game would be a large multi-generational project like the construction of a cathedral.

  13. DGatsby says:

    Yeeeeah, I think your criticism of the UI and difficulty is a little too overstated. I know reviews are subjective, but this is just a little too much. Perhaps this the ultimate case of “it’s not for me”. I’ll wager most people find the UI clean and efficient, and the difficulty, while complex, can be overcome. Indeed, figuring out how to do so provides that joy of accomplish you suggest doesn’t exist.

    I agree that the dev could perhaps do more to connect the statistics with the world, but even in its current state it’s still great; it allows the imagination of the player fill in the gaps. Some people probably won’t like that, and would prefer to be told rather than allowed to create. I think games that do that, like EUIV, lack a certain spirit of involvement and instead bombard the player with dialogue boxes about every single little thing that happens. Banished invites the player in and lets them create their own world.

    *edit for grammar

  14. sk2k says:

    I hope with the release of the mod kit it will be possible to make the game a bit more “realistic”. With realistic i mean more realistic numbers.

  15. Zeewolf says:

    “Food is supplied by 12 fishermen, 7 farmers, 12 hunters and 8 gatherers. 39 food workers total.”

    I have not yet played Banished. But I instantly notice a problem with these numbers; if it is _the_ problem, or indeed a problem at all in this game, I don’t know. But essentially what you seem to have here is a hunter/gatherer society, as the vast majority of your food production is from fishing, hunting and gathering. But hunter/gatherer societies in the real world can’t support towns. That’s why they only started appearing after we figured out how to do farming. So my guess is that if you move the food production away from hunting and gathering and into farming, you’ll do a lot better.

    • aldo_14 says:

      If that’s what’s happening, it’s doubly neat; most hunter-gatherer societies (IIRC) get the vast majority of their food from gathering. The women would gather most of the food, and the men would go hunting to try and get laid on the rare occasion they did being some meat back.

    • LVX156 says:

      The problem is that farms require a lot of farmers, so if you expand too quickly you get less food per worker, and if you get a bad harvest…well, that’s when you could have used those hunters, gatherers and fishermen. It’s difficult to find the right balance, not waiting too long to start farming, but also not expanding too quickly.

      • Philomelle says:

        Which sounds very apt, given that most medieval communities resorted to hunting/gathering at the times when bad harvests drove them to desperation or starvation (as shown by plentiful records where starved farmers were arrested for hunting on their lords’ lands because they were hungry enough to ignore local laws).

        I guess the problem Alec had is that the game imitates its time period a bit too well, then?

        • LVX156 says:

          I think it’s unfair to criticize him too much, because the game IS unforgiving and brutal, and I’m not sure it’s perfectly balanced yet. I’m looking forward to seeing what the modding community can do with this game.

        • Nogo says:

          Did you finish the article? That’s exactly what he says…

    • Noumenon says:

      Sounds insightful! Alec, did you try that on any of your several towns?

    • arhra says:

      I’d wager that the problem is in fact the exact opposite – at the start of the game, you don’t really HAVE a town. Farming right from the start is a trap, as the nature of it (with harvest cycles giving you plenty of food late in the year, followed by lean months as your crops re-grow) means you need a fairly solid buffer built up before you can start to rely on it. Early on you should be relying almost exclusively on hunting and gathering.

      Perversely, the “hard” mode might actually be easier in a way, as it forces you to bootstrap yourself from scratch (you start with ~20 people and a single cart with some basic supplies like firewood and food, no seeds or livestock for farming).

    • Xocrates says:

      I very much doubt that’s the case. In my (admitedly, first) city I endeavoured to stay small and that I had a consistent stock of surplus resources. Then my ~40 people city ran out of food even though there had been plenty last year, and half of it died without me being able to do anything, and although eventually food started coming in it was still getting consumed faster than I could produce.

      This wasn’t an isolated incident. I spent most of the game scrambling to keep some resource available despite the fact that I was doing nothing to grow the population.

      While the difficulty may be an intentional design decision, I just think there’s not enough feedback to know what you did wrong. I know what I need to get, I just have no idea how to do so in a sustainable fashion.

      • Dux Ducis Hodiernus says:

        In my experience, infrastructure is VERY important. Having properly set up markets and storage barns with roads(prefferably stone) with housing for the workers nearby. Also education gives a boost to the efficency of the workers, so you should get a school up as soon as it is practical and not ruinous to your resources. Then you also need clothing and tools, tools are very important, and clothing is needed for your workers to work for any significant amount of time outside in cold weather. You also gotta adapt to the changing situations caused by either the game or changes due to your own expanison. I.e. if you start expanding too close to your hunting grounds, then that might scare of some of the animals, meaning you should probably lower the active workers in that specific building, or close it off completely if the animals are too scarce. Read up on the ingame manual for each building before you use it to understand what the proper way is and what you need to take into account.

        Also be pragmatic and don’t let your resources or workforce go to waste. An example would be during the winter when your farmers are idling/revert temporarily to labourers due to not being able to work on the farm. Use this time to cut down trees and mine stone and iron with this otherwise unutilized workforce. So then you get(with the farmers) food during summer, and resources, like wood and stone, during the winter. This way this manpower doesn’t go to waste just because it’s winter.

    • Ravenholme says:

      Something to me (in my experience with the game) feels off about these numbers. I’m nearly at similar population levels to Alec and I’m finding that I’ve got 6 Gatherers, 4 Farmers and 3 Hunters (Who are probably going to shortly switch to fishing because I’m running out of deer, but need to keep them going until I get some sheep, because I need the leather) and have a MASSIVE food surplus. The rest of my population are students and children (Double the useless mouths, yay!), and skilled laborers.

      And I’m doing just fine. So far. Actually surprisingly well for my first attempt at the game. The tutorials gave me a good idea of how to place buildings and where to place them (Gatherers, Herbalists and Foresters are made to go together as little wilderness outposts, as the Forester’s activities bolster those of the other two), and the rest is just working around the peculiarities of your particular terrain (Mine has been encouraging a very spread out town which I’m worrying will come back to haunt me later, but I can see it coming, it won’t be unfair in any way)

    • Zeewolf says:

      Having now played the game for a few hours, I feel my initial suspicion was correct. Farming is really quite important. The game even says this, in the in-game help.

      I am really loving it so far. And I agree with some others here; it seems Alec either missed or didn’t get a few important aspects of the game, and his experience suffered as a concequence.

      I know this is the kind of comment that will probably annoy the hell out of Alec (sorry!!), but I would be really interested in seeing Adam’s take on this game.

  16. Philomelle says:

    Oh jolly. I was watching this game for a while, but its premise and name kept disconnecting from how everyone expected a relaxing city builder in my head. Good to know it’s a horrible marriage of city builders and survival sims that its name and art direction hinted at.

  17. perablenta says:

    I had to log in just for this:

    This is quite unprofessional from you, Alec.
    You are giving a indie game, that was made by a single person, a hard time about the UI and even worse about how a game about survival is hard. Not only is your unprofessional approach going to stop people from experiencing a good game but you’re are also hurting the chances of the developer to reach a bigger audience.

    You’re making a good game look bad mostly because YOU couldn’t win, finish it in 3 days.

    • Lemming says:

      I had to log in just to reply to this.

      So how indie and how few people worked on it in some way makes it immune from criticism? Alec clearly played the shit out of this game trying different tactics and getting frustrated with it. Perhaps others won’t, but it sounds like he gave it way more time as a professional game reviewer than us mere mortals would. I stopped playing Anno a lot sooner than this for similarly obtuse methods.

      • perablenta says:

        I just watched Let’s play of the game for a week and my first village has 0 problems. I know how the game mechanics work and what 400 firewood means. His professionalism must be at the bottom of the scale if he spent THAT much time and still failed so horribly that he wrote a bad review about a good game.

        • hewhosayszonk says:

          I really have to say, the whole reason I prefer RPS to any other site for game journalism is because I know that I am getting the pure and honest opinion of the writers when I read a column. And I don’t have a problem with personally enjoying something that Alec dislikes. I can enjoy a review site that doesn’t perfectly mirror my own opinions without attacking the professionalism of the reviewer.

          • philipv says:

            This, a million billion times THIS

          • frymaster says:

            Indeed, someone else said they bought the game off the strength of this negative review. If it’s an honest review, then I can easily see where the reviewer’s opinions and preferences deviate from mine and where they harmonise, and make my own personal decision accordingly.

            I don’t read a review in order for a reviewer to make my “buy/not buy” decision for me. I read it to learn if I will like the game. I have no spare time right now, but Alec’s review has probably convinced me to buy it, just like his positive review of Might and Magic X has convinced me to buy that

        • DGatsby says:

          I have to agree; a cursory glance at any Let’s Play of the game and you can figure out how to succeed. Then comes the relaxation of building.

          I actually created an account just to rely to this review; it has considerable faults.

          • amateurviking says:

            I mentioned this below but seriously, you’re both saying ‘all I had to do was watch someone else play the game and then it was easy’. That is a bad thing, objectively bad. It suggests that the game is inaccessible to the point where you have to actively spoil/cheat* to get anywhere.

            * depending on your POV

          • DGatsby says:

            Forgive me for poor phrasing, but I’m not suggesting watching Let’s Plays made the game too easy or simple to play. My villages have only had moderate success. What I mean to say is that one can learn general strategies from these videos that will help you eventually succeed, once you’ve adapted them to your own circumstances.

            If Alec had done something like this, perhaps he could have had a better experience playing the game. It’s his review and his opinion, but it just seems a little off compared to the quality of the game, and the experience that many others are having.

          • LVX156 says:

            I’d say that games like Hearts of Iron and Europa Universalis are WAY more inaccessible than Banished. Sure, it’s trial and error, but that’s how you learn the game mechanic. How fun would the game be if it held your hand and had a big flashing arrow over the next thing you should build?

            It’s not at all inaccessible. It’s very easy to get into, you’ll have your village up and running in no time at all. Thriving, on the other hand…

          • Talksintext says:

            @amateurviking

            Wait, peope DON’T watch LPs before buying and playing games nowadays? Aren’t those the new replacement for manuals?

            I can’t think of any complex games I haven’t watched an LP for before:
            A) choosing to buy (why rely on a reviewer, let me just see the thing in action and I’ll know soon enough if I’m interested)
            B) playing (because LPs are more fun than reading manuals or whatever and let me get a big picture view of the controls/interface/goals before diving in and learning all the details myself (if it’s a complex one))

          • bill says:

            I have never watched a Let’s Play for any game.

          • wwwhhattt says:

            @Talksintext
            ‘fraid not.
            I only use LPs when I’ve given up and just want someone to tell me what to do so I can see the end.

        • FriendlyFire says:

          I’m sorry, having to watch a let’s play to actually make the game work hints at an utter lack of what’s called “discoverability”. Essentially, the game’s too obtuse to actually properly tell you how to play, so you need to rely on external help to do so.

          I don’t think that’s actually a good point towards the game, really.

          • BTAxis says:

            While I agree with you, I’d like to mention that it seems unfair to level this at Banished and not also at all those games that require you to read a wiki to have any hope of getting anywhere in the game. Games like Minecraft, DF, Terraria and Don’t Starve come to mind. Yet I see surprisingly little of that, generally speaking.

          • drewski says:

            I think every time Terraria or Don’t Starve get an update, about 40% of the comments are people observing that they bounced off due to the requirement for a guide.

            Don’t think this game is being unfairly singled out at all.

            And I’m genuinely shocked that some.people think it is normal to have to watch someone else play a game before you’ll have any idea what to do.

          • LVX156 says:

            @drewski You don’t have to watch someone else play to figure it out. Just start playing and use trial and error and a little bit of brains. I find it perplexing and slightly worrying that people are asking for MORE hand-holding in games and are afraid of failure. Maybe this is the type of game you’re not supposed to be able to beat the first time you play it, and I’m fine with that.

          • The Random One says:

            I contest that Don’t Starve needs a wiki. I unlocked all the characters before I touched it, and when I did it was out of curiosity rather than necessity. 70% of the stuff in that game works the way you’d expect in real life, or a very clear gamey abstraction of so. A good bunch of the really obscure stuff is deliberately so.

            I’d even argue that Minecraft makes about as much sense, but its unapproachable 30% is front loaded, teaching players that it can’t be figured out. For instance, you might think you need an axe to get wood; that makes sense, while being able to get wood by punching trees doesn’t. Even if you get angry and punch a tree you won’t figure it out because you need to hold down punch for a while. (I haven’t played in a long time, maybe the tutorial fixes this.)

          • drewski says:

            LVX156 – it’s great that you had that experience, but it doesn’t address the mindlessness of claiming criticism of the game’s difficulty is invalid because Let’s Plays exist, which is what others have implied.

            Some commenters below have addressed how the game systems work and what Alec missed, and I think that’s great, but it doesn’t change the fact that Alec missed them and noting that is therefore a valid criticism.

    • sibusisodan says:

      Yeah, agree with that. From what I’ve played so far it’s hard but enjoyable, and watching the lets plays in advance really helped avoid some of the mistakes.

      I also can’t quite take Alec’s UI criticism seriously. There’s an icon on the gamelog which allows you to turn death notifications on or off. You can see from his screenshots it’s turned off.

      Its no more complex a UI than EUIII, and very cleanly presented.

      • amateurviking says:

        If you need to watch someone else playing the game to play the game correctly doesn’t that, in itself, say something about how accessible said game is?

        • sibusisodan says:

          Hmmm. I’m not saying the watching the vids is required. Merely that its helped me grasp some of the mechanics. That’s true of plenty of games.

          I don’t see this game as being any more opaque than, say, Caesar 3. It doesn’t handhold you through how much resource is required per person, but that data is available indirectly in game via the town hall screen.

          Its an enjoyable little sim, so far. It’s got a steep learning curve, but a good game underneath, IMO.

          • drewski says:

            Fair enough, but wouldn’t that make “I fell off the learning curve” a pretty valid observation?

            Alec shouldn’t have to write a review only for gamers with infinite patience. He bounced off; that’s a pretty good indication people are going to bounce off.

          • WrenBoy says:

            I think it’s quite embarrassing that the main example of bad UI design can actually be solved by turning on an option. Maybe the game is good, maybe it isn’t but this review can’t really be trusted.

    • philipv says:

      You seriously want reviewers to start taking the background of the developer into account when reviewing their games? Can you not see just how silly and bad an idea that would be? Assuming that people read this review in order to get an idea as to whether to spend money purchasing the game or not, it doesn’t matter at all what the background of the developer is, if the reviewer thinks the UI is poor, then the UI is poor.

    • Nenjin says:

      I had to log in to reply to this.

      No one is exempt from being reviewed. No one. You want money for a game? You want free PR? You take the risk of the feedback that is generated. Being indie or being a 1-man studio only entitles you to having that mentioned in a review. It is not a promise that reviewer will gloss over what they don’t like.

    • aleander says:

      I didn’t actually have to log in to say this:
      I actually had a blast with the game and yet have no issue with the review. It’s well-balanced, pointing out that he sees the quality in the game, but didn’t really enjoy it. While theoretically negative, you can see in the comments that it actually convinced quite a few people to play.

      • Gabrien says:

        I had to create an account to say this, and then I had to check my email to get my password, and then log in. To say this. And then I thought I’d better change the random password assigned to me before I forget, so had to locate my account options and do so… To say this. Now, what was I going to say?..

        • The Random One says:

          Wasn’t it something about your mom’s twice-removed cousin’s brother-in-law’s parrot making money working three hours a day?

    • Universal Quitter says:

      Not that I’d take it quite as far as you did, but I agree that Alec’s review seems completely out of left field. I own the game, and it isn’t easy, but it isn’t Dwarf Fortress hard either.

      None of it seems worth getting worked up over. Throwing a fit over a review seems as silly as throwing one over sucking at Banished.

  18. quietone says:

    I got this game expecting a probably darker, hopefully deeper and surely more streamlined version of the Settlers’ series.

    It was like arriving at a bishop’s funeral dressed like Big Bird.

  19. Mr Bismarck says:

    If you use the start options to turn disasters off, go for mild climate and easy starting resources I’m sure you could be as playful and experimental as you like. Unless you’re totally boned by the map seed.

    Picking the middle difficulties I’ve had a few issues, mostly caused by the middle of the map being one giant lake, which is limiting the land I have available for food provision.

    Use the easier creation settings, go slowly, build up a food reserve and then a house, not the other way around. You should be fine and stable enough then to enjoy all the experimenting you want.

    And whisper it, but as someone who spends his day, six days a week, banging around Excel using keyboard shortcuts, I really like the UI…

  20. SKapsniak says:

    Umm, errr. Really?

    I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing differently, but I’m in year 17 and I’ve grown steadily on my large map for most of the day (on a slow 2x speed) with no real alarms or excursions, to 59 Adults, 15 Students and 10 Children, and am just now in the process of building my first Pub.

    I’m midway through the process of getting everyone upgraded to steel tools and the top of the line wool & leather coats, and most of my resources (including food) are sitting constantly pegged at the stockpile limits I’ve set. For instance I’ve had to temporarily shutdown my iron mine, because I’ve got an absolute glut of the stuff, and my one Herbalist ends up picking about 6 herbs a year, because she’s always sitting on stockpile of 300.

    As long as I make sure I have decent distribution as well as production, with stockpiles and barns and road links between my mini-settlements, and keeps a few labourers free to move stuff about, it all chugs along nicely.

    I like the interface. It could do with a key to cancel whatever I’m placing — or I could do with knowing what the key is if it exists — the Trade post would work better with on ‘sweep up the surplus’ system rather than the current one, and it would have been nice if my miners had automatically switched over to coal when the iron stockpile got maxed, but those are my only niggles.

    So yeah, I seem to be having a very different experience.

  21. solymer89 says:

    I know it’s a game and that games are meant for enjoyment… mostly. However just from reading your review (I have not played the game and know only so much as the trailers have shown) this sounds like a rather great representation of life before electricity, and more specifically, life on the frontier. Hardships everywhere, all the time, in every endeavor. Solutions that were thought to work end up having unforeseen consequences, either immediately or subtly further down the line. Settlements like the one the game strives towards didn’t have any outside resources to pull from so they were forced to be self sufficient. That shines through mostly in the life and death cycle of your most needed residents, the productive ones (we face the opposite issues currently). If a settlement lost it’s doctor and nobody else was trained or had the ability, then the reality is that settlement goes on without a doctor until such a time as someone suitable can fill that position.

    There are many philosophical issues that could be discussed within the confines of this game and this review specifically. Being frustrated at not being able to figure out how to game the game will most definitely color your opinion of it, and though it can’t be said for sure, I believe that is what is going on here. As someone that has gamed for the majority of my life, I feel a bit disparaged at myself when I come across a new game and promptly fall on my face. It gets even worse the longer it goes before I become comfortable with (figure out) the game, unfortunately at times, that seems to be when I lose interest in it. Why? Because it’s figured out, the rest is just going through the motions to see it’s effect.

    Have you considered that maybe it’s a good thing that you’ve not been able to break the games back? That the point of the game may be to try to survive in such dire circumstances (as was life back then on a day to day basis) and to truly be proud of building this city that you so desperately want to build despite these issues? Now if you’ve discovered that what you want to build is impossible due to the current game mechanics that is one thing, though I’m hard pressed to believe such a conclusion could be reached over a weekend.

    Besides, every game has it’s gimmick/’s that make it tick and once those are figured out, you either stick with it because there is much more that’s being offered and the gimmicks are the foundation of the game-play, or you let it go to the wayside because it’s just not working how you expect it to (happens often to me), or the game is just not really that fun beyond that point.

    Either way it was a good write up because I was able to take away my own impression of the game even if most of your words tilted towards a negative connotation. That impression is that this is an unforgivable and relentless game of survival. Something that hearkens more towards reality than enjoyment. It’s maybe a reminder of how fragile we all really are, and how great it is that we do not have to live the way we used to. It’s also a reminder of where we came from and who those people were that were our predecessors. Not oppressed by a people, but by life itself. Electricity has amplified our foundations of life so that we do not contend with these issues anymore, I simply find it intriguing that a facsimile of that life could still conjure such a reaction.

    • shimeril says:

      What a struggle to figure out who to reply to as I don’t want to post 100 times. But this specific post I really enjoyed reading – nice work sir. Or ma’am. Hmm.

      But what I love most about Alec’s review is that there are 120+ as of now replies passionate discussing a totally non-combat based PC game about survival and city building. Gotta love RPS to see these types of discussions. I’ve been salivating over this for months and started the first tutorial last night. Kept it real slow just loving the look of the game. Wonderful stuff. And now it’s about time I actually started a game. But I’m so glad I read all of these comments first. You lot are brilliant – there is some real passion in here, and that is awesome to see.

  22. adammtlx says:

    I think it’s a great accomplishment by the guy who made it. At the same time, I don’t think it’s a game for me. I will, however, likely buy it if it goes on sale for no other reason than to support the developer and encourage him to make another game, hopefully one that suits me better.

  23. barelyhomosapien says:

    I’ve really enjoyed watching my small town (well…village) of Hulberfeld gradually grow so far. I started on hard as the idea is your town is meant to grow from a small group of banished settlers (hence name) and that setting felt right. I fully expected to horribly fail. Having played the tutorials I knew what my initial priorities were and went from there.

    Haven’t really struggled with the interface, you can keep overviews of your town’s population, and labor assignment up at all times. Every death comes with a warning sound effect and button at the bottom of the screen… as do warnings of any resources running low. So it’s easy to keep track of those situations.

    My first winter I had some deaths but those have been it. I’m in my 5th or 6th year now, and I’ve not watched any prior lets plays. I’ve actually struggled a whole lot less then I expected to thus far, and I’m hardly a mathematically or spreadsheet minded individual.

    My experience so far has been of a slow paced, relaxing town management/building sim. I’m sure as towns grow larger they get trickier to manage, but considering you seem to be able to dictate population via available housing (adults won’t move out and start families unless there are houses to move into) it seems fairly well designed for people to take at their own pace and gradually ease into. I’ve found the interface informative and easy to navigate, if a bit lacking in visual flair.

    The games closer to an Anno or settlers title than Sim City. In fact, it basically plays like an Anno/Settlers, where if you don’t provide the resources people die instead of you not being able to reach the next tech tier.

    I really like it, but then I don’t mind the art style either, winters are deceptively pretty.

    • Red Tonic says:

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Building is a little slower paced than other sims (like Zeus or Pharaoh). This quality is probably what trips up players who go in, lay down too many and poorly situated footprints, and wonder why they’re starving when snowfall starts. The game is relaxing and contemplative when you concentrate on slow, sustainable growth. Personally, I also like that the interface isn’t immediately cluttered with menus. A minute of exploring the toolbar with the game on 1x was enough for me to learn about the options not explained in depth in the tutorials. Alec’s review makes the game sound like EVE in the mud age, which doesn’t square with my experience at all.

    • Continuity says:

      Yeah well, 5-6th year is still the honeymoon period of initial expansion, just wait until you have to start being self sustaining, i.e. once your initial stockpiles of tools and clothes have run out and you’ve collected all the surface iron and stone, at that point if your town isn’t finely balanced it will spiral downward pretty quick, and recovery is slow and hard.

  24. Rufust Firefly says:

    Maybe the citizen deaths aren’t called out because there are so many of them? Might be too depressing if you saw each and every peon getting crushed/drowned/mauled by a bear. Though that is the entirety of an RTS like StarCraft.

    One nice thing about RimWorld (which is in early alpha but still fun to play) is that you have a very small number of colonists to manage and you do feel their pain. Sometimes they’re mad because they ate raw potatoes, sometimes they’re sad because their living conditions are miserable, but at least a nice bit of carpet cheers them up.

    Maybe the nice folks of Banished could use a distillery?

  25. Carra says:

    Finally, another city builder! And that’s enough for me to buy it and give it a try.

    An hour later half my village died of starvation. Mmm, time to find me some more advanced tutorials online.

    • Koldunas says:

      Please don’t take this wrong way, I’m not being sarcastic, this is a genuine concern about games-journalism I would like to raise.

      Should you really write a game-review if you can tell a game is “not for you”? I can understand there is a value in this for people who feel their tastes in gaming are closely aligned to the reviewer’s, but for every person who can understand and relate to reviewer’s frustration, there is a person who doesn’t. Can a reviewer really provide a decent analysis of a game, if he is not used to the strategic challenges it offers? Should the review appeal to “everyman” perspective, if the game clearly doesn’t?

      I agree that someone with a lot of experience in writing about games, can be level-headed and appreciate the game despite their own preferences, but does it qualify them to write an informative review? Surely, there is some line at which every games-journalist says “this is so much out of my area expertise, may be I should hold back”. Or are stories of struggling to get to grips with a game valuable to readers?

      Banished is a niche game and Alec seemed to understand it. I think a review of someone used to unforgiving Sims would be more valuable to everybody, as long as it says “look, this is niche, because A and B. If you prefer C to B, this is probably not a game for you”. I feel this way it would have been more informative for people who might actually enjoy it and the rest of us can still read on, try to relate to a different type of joy in gaming, we might not wish to experience.

      EDIT: Darn, posted it as a reply not a new comment-thread. Sorry, my rant has nothing to do with your original comment.

      • SuddenSight says:

        Re: should you review games you don’t particularly enjoy?

        I think Alec was right to review it.

        I was sooooo looking forward to this game I Instantly bought it the moment it went on sale. I had fun. So I was quite surprised when Alec didn’t. It’s a weird quirk of the human psyche that I was irked when I read that Alec didn’t like it. I even had to take a moment to question my own opinion, and wonder if I actually like this game.

        I do like the game (Banished).

        And I appreciate that Alec made an honest review. Part of the idea of a review is to get the opinion of a “random” person. While it would be nice to get the opinion of someone who knew what the game was and was able to judge it on the merits it deserves, the realities of a limited number of video game reviewers gets in the way.

        Besides, a review from someone who wanted something different is still useful. It gives and idea of the limits of the game. I have seen comments from people who wanted a more peaceful city builder with grand capstone projects. These people gain more from Alec’s review.

        I doubt the dev was hurt by his negative review either. Even though he didn’t enjoy it, Alec did an excellent job of communicating the theme of unstable sustenance that is the lifeblood of the game.

        It still concerns me when I disagree so profoundly with a review, but that may be a problem with me for expecting everyone to share my (perfect) opinions of the world.

  26. Mr. Mister says:

    Sooooooo how does it compare to, say Imperium Romanum?

  27. Continuity says:

    Is it weird that after reading the above indictment of this game, I now badly want to play it?

    • philipv says:

      Not at all. The review is excellent because it gives a really clear idea of what the game is like to play, and exactly why he didn’t like it. I’ve also bought it, because I just happen to like a lot of the things that he didn’t.

      • Martel says:

        And that folks is why RPS does a Wot I think, and not a number based review. You have to read the article and make a decision. I have this on my wishlist, read the article, and it’s still on my wishlist. And I love Alec for not only honest writing, but being so persistent.

    • Alec Meer says:

      This pleases me enormously. Had hoped to also get across why Banished is going to be very much what a certain sort of player wants – not entirely sure I succeeded there, but glad that some sense of it seems to have made it through.

      • SanguineAngel says:

        Did the trick for me too! I was on the fence but mainly after reading this I have to decided to pick it up in a couple days when I get a chance. Thanks!

        • SillyWizard says:

          Ha ha likewise…initially I was like “Whew, missed a bullet it there,” but then I ended up purchasing the game just because I didn’t buy Alec’s perspective and I wanted to see for myself.

          I’ve had a totally different experience, and the game is exactly what I’ve always thought it was trying to be.

          Pay attention to the tutorials, people!

      • Continuity says:

        Wow Alec, I have to say, after spending some time with this game your review, albeit very well written, seems to be flat wrong in many respects. I did have some problems with my first town, namely I ran out of tools around year 14 and then worked out that I had placed some of my buildings badly and invested way too heavily in agriculture. Having learned from my initial mistakes however my second town is a breeze, my main problem right now is controlling food production so that it doesn’t run out of control, if I have any more than 1/3 of my food producers jobs filled (about 1/6 of the population) my food stocks just explode, even with just 10 people producing food I’m at 8000 food stockpiled and rising.
        I even had a tornado smash part of my town but I fully recovered in a year to a position better than before (bar the lost people). I mean really the main criticisms that I think can be levelled at this game is that A) its too easy and B) there isn’t enough variety, you just build your town according to a set formula you devise, then every time you want to build a new town just do the same, though I guess you have to mix it up a little to accommodate he terrain.

  28. Thoric says:

    The statistics pane only shows what is stockpiled. To get an idea of how resources are actually moving around you should browse individual house and citizen inventories.

  29. The Random One says:

    Hm. Doesn’t seem to be what I wanted. I’ll still try it, but I think I’ll wait for a sale.

    Now, if Clockwork Empires is as underwhelming, then it will be a time for wailing and gnashing of teeth.

  30. needamir says:

    I registered an account just to say that this article was very well written.

  31. HyenaGrin says:

    Bah. The review is well written enough, and I love you Alec, you’re great.

    But first of all, you spent some time talking about the old-age death notification thing as though this were a painfully overlooked feature.

    You know what else is a painfully overlooked feature? The in-game help file. If you bothered to check the in-game help file on the Event Panel it would tell you pretty succinctly that you can toggle different notifications on and off using the little buttons at the top of the panel. The developer chose to leave old age death notification off by default, but the option is right there if you want it.

    I expect for nuances to get missed here and there. Especially where it comes to game mechanics that are subsurface. But I feel like if you are going to single out a UI feature that is missing, the least you could do is actually make absolutely certain it is missing. The in-game help is pretty well organized and straight-forward, and the tutorial makes sure you know it exists if you aren’t sure how to do something. More than that, the buttons are right there on the panel. They are in your screenshots. If you hovered over them they would’ve told you what they did.

    Due diligence. I don’t just come here for the pretty writing.

    Anyway, I’ve been loving the game. I admit, the combination survival/city-building thing presses a lot of sexy buttons for me, but it’s been great. It’s exactly as advertised. I just think the nitpicky UI criticisms are more a result of frustration on Alec’s part than actual bad UI design. I love the UI, I wish more games gave me as much control over my UI layout and put that much information at my fingertips. Are there flaws in the game? Yes, most games do, but this one has a heck of a lot fewer flaws than some of the games I’ve seen get glowing reviews here.

    • Armante says:

      I hope there will be no lost sales from this review. I feel Alec is doing it a disservice this way. He makes valid points, and certainly improvements can be made, but how many people will read through the comments to see your note about the simple toggle option for the old age death notification?

      I rather feel like we should have Alec do an update or have a WIT from another RPS writer. Looking at the outpouring of support and glowing feedback plus high sales on Steam makes me think hopeful this amazing achievement will do well regardless.

  32. doofusmagnus says:

    You can turn on notifications for deaths by old age with a button on the event screen (that it’s not on by default is a poor choice, but the option IS there).

    I don’t share your big qualms about the UI: I’ve gotten by just fine so far with the city info and event windows permanently open (again, they should be by default) and opening the rest as needed.

    I do agree that there should be more explicit statements about what the numbers mean: rough guidelines for how much food and firewood you’ll need per individual or household would be very nice.

    As for starvation: I do think people need to keep in mind that this is a survival game and as such a robust food system is a priority over erecting all the neat buildings. I think it’s also beneficial to draw your assumptions for the game from real life rather than from other strategy games: in a pre-industrial society, a large number of–perhaps even MOST–people devote themselves to food production. If you’re trying to survive off of hunting and gathering, that’s even more true. It’s not like in modern times or in combat-focused games where you have a huge number of specialists and soldiers supported by only a handful of farmers.

    That being said, there may in fact be some bugs leading to sudden starvation events. I looked over the support forum earlier today and noticed a couple people saying that one or two houses had become food sinks, consuming much more than they should have needed and leaving little for everyone else. Hopefully that will be fixed soon if it is indeed happening.

    Anyway, thanks for the review, even though your opinion of the final product is much different from mine. As others have said, you managed to give a fair enough overview of what the game is that people who WILL enjoy that sort of thing can still see that.

    EDIT: I hadn’t noticed it at first, but I just saw it mentioned on the Banished subreddit: If those screenshots (particularly the third one) are from the village in question in this article, then you have some REALLY tiny farms set up. You talk about the large number of farmers you have, but if they only have pittances of land to work like those then they’re not doing you much good.

  33. bar10dr says:

    I love this game, did you jump over the tutorial by any chance?
    I think you’re a bit unfair in your judgement but I guess it’s not for everyone.

  34. Greggh says:

    Sounds like Outpost 2 but with less guns and more oxygenated atmospheres. Good.

  35. Dickless says:

    The game is great, actually very great!
    I with it included a part where you build an army, weapons and the whole military aspect.

    I am really longing for a true Settlers 4 game, and Banished is improvement on all fronts, it is a top competitor from rest of junk games released over years to mimic the genre.
    Now Banished devs announced wide modding support.
    Way to go guys!

    • Red Tonic says:

      It’s actually just the one dude, which is impressive. I think he might have contracted for music (I’m sure it’s mentioned in his dev log, which has been a fascinating peek into the making of a game).

      Personally, I’m really loving it. I didn’t experience any of Alec’s challenges. The tutorials aren’t exhaustive, but nor are they exhausting. They explain some of the facets of gameplay which Alec stumbled over, and I recommend taking 5 minutes or so to play through them before you get started. Not only that, but there are different difficulty settings and ways to manipulate your terrain generation which can give you an easier start.

  36. Wytefang says:

    I just can’t get excited about the theme or the gameplay itself. I play games to get to do stuff I could never do in real life and/or to do stuff that I would enjoy doing. This doesn’t sound like fun, more like work staged in a really bland setting.

  37. OscarWilde1854 says:

    I’ve honestly been enjoying this game a lot. But put that aside for a second and just read this article…

    This is probably my favorite piece I’ve read on this site. In among the regular drab and witty humor I occasionally read an article that is written this well.
    “I am stroppy now, but more than that I’m tired. It’s a fight. … This is a war of attrition against my patience and my obstinance, as I stand grimly against a tide which will not pause, a chain reaction of mortality.”

    Stuff like that is just fantastic… and the entire last paragraph is perfect.

    Maybe it’s just my personal “style” that somehow “fits” with the writing.. but I really found myself being pulled through this review, whereas I usually wouldn’t read all the way through an article of this size.

    Well done Alec, well done indeed.

  38. jonahcutter says:

    It does sound a bit dry and about balancing spreadsheets. Too bad there’s no in-game modeling of personalities or human behavior under these stressful conditions.

    Now if those hungry colonists sometimes turned to theft, hoarding or even… cannibalism… I’d be more interested. Having to balance an isolated community that is low on food stocks in the dead of winter, and who may start fantasizing about each other turning into giant turkey legs, could provide some fascinating gameplay.

    That said, it seems to be doing very well on Steam so congrats to the dev.

    • PaterFamilias says:

      I registered just to tell you that there is indeed hoarding. On my first try at a game on the Hard level, I had just about enough food to go around, until one household took all 262 remaining potatoes, when they already had enough food. Then their trashy teenage daughter shacked up with the 10-year-old boy next door, stealing what was supposed to be the last house I had to build to get my entire village under shelter for the winter. Stretching the supplies for four families between five houses didn’t work and I had rolling waves of starvation wipe out three of five families and the father in the fourth. It will be touch and go whether the remaining three adults (soon to be five as two more kids are almost of age) will be able to produce enough food and firewood to stay alive. But hey, at least I have enough houses to go around.
      Great game … but sorry, no Donner Party.

  39. edwardoka says:

    I was very excited about this, the review put me off a little bit but not hugely. I perused the game’s Steam forum to see what the general consensus was.

    Unfortunately, the stupidity on display is astonishing. I suspect the reason why it’s attracted such idiocy is because it has successfully managed to dislodge the multiplayer torture-em-ups from the top spots.

  40. grimdanfango says:

    There seem to be two approaches people are taking when they start playing Banished, and it’s leading to a pretty polarised view on the game.
    I’ve seen it in a few youtube videos, some people seem to convince themselves they’re considering what they’re doing, they know how to play city builders. Based on gut instinct they start slapping down building anywhere they get the impression they should work, and then crank the time multiplier up to see what happens… and low-and-behold, things go well at first, and then fall to pieces! Cue cries of the game being impenetrable and brutally cruel!

    Having played for a full day now, I think the problem is this – you can’t just bull your way through, no matter how much consideration you think you’re giving to things when you first build them. It’s not a build-and-forget city builder!

    You need to watch… you need to take your time and OBSERVE what’s happening! There’s a lot of feedback to be found in there, but a lot of people aren’t bothering to look, because the game isn’t spoon-feeding it to them.

    For example – I had a hunting lodge, which I’d put in with the rest of my little forest-gathering community based purely on the assumption that the game considers this “wilderness” and spawns deer there.
    I started wondering why my venison supply was going down… well it turned out to be fairly obvious once I stopped and watched for a little while. That area was still full of open land, but I’d expanded over the neighboring land in all directions, and the deer simply weren’t wandering past any more. So I relocated the hunting community to a prime bit of unspoilt open-planes, and yields shot through the roof!

    Another example is with foresters – it seems at first to take a disproportionate amount of foresters to bring in a reliable amount of wood. Before I hit 40 citizens, I already found I needed two foresters guilds maxed out at 8 workers total to just about meet demand, even with very cautious building.
    Later on, I began to notice that the older of the two guilds was yielding larger amounts than the newer one, based on the same amount of land coverage and workers. The newer one was already 3-4 years old at that point, but it turned out it still hadn’t fully built up to it’s sustainable maximum efficiency. The foliage was denser around the older one.
    Later on, I slowly knocked back my forestry workers to only 4, and they were still turning in the yields that 8 had earlier on.
    It also had the knock-on effect of steadily increasing gatherer yields, as the newly planted dense forest started to age and develop far more gatherable resources. I was eventually heading towards combined yields of 3-4000 food from one gatherer’s hut, where it’d started at no more than about 1500.

    It’s a game where you have to get a feel for the way things work, by taking your time and immersing yourself in it. It’s not a spreadsheet, it’s not a math puzzle, there aren’t set yields based on inflexible game logic. It’s a game that’s simulating nature, and a lot of things in it only change over broad spans of time. Things take time to bed in, to grow, to develop, to settle.
    The problems a lot of people are having with it I think are mostly down to not seeing these broad shifts soon enough before they bite you in the ass. In fact I get the feeling some people aren’t seeing the shifts even after they’ve gone too far.

    At no point have I dared set the game higher than 2x speed… not once! There is *always* something worth doing or observing.
    Stop rushing, and learn to observe! It’ll reward you if you do.

    (Admittedly 1x game speed is like watching grass grow. Don’t worry about going that slow :-)

  41. Fumarole says:

    I suspect this review will be Alec’s Fallout: New Vegas.

  42. Hobbes says:

    Oh Alec, Alec, Alec.

    Right. First five attempts, I completely fouled up. Much like you, I was staring at the numbers, and thinking – WHY AM I STARVING.

    We are both hideously wrong. Looking at the numbers only tells you half the story. Banished is as much about looking *at the land* as it is about the numbers. The numbers will tell you to some extent where things might be going wrong, and they definitely can be helpful in telling you if there’s a mismatch in your inputs and outputs (if you’ve got a serious wood shortage and you’ve not set up a forester early on and you’ve no wood nearby, grats, you’re in trouble). But what the numbers don’t tell you are all the little visual cues you pick up by -looking at the game-.

    Gatherers work best in wooded wilderness, this seems perfectly common sense when you think about it, but if you stare exclusively at the numbers and don’t examine where in the world you’ve placed them, it won’t tell you why their yields are terrible. Foresters need wide expanses of relatively flat and steady, forested, land which have had the stone and iron already cleared away so they can get on with the job of planting new trees down and chopping down the older ones, thus creating sustainable logging output, again, common sense when you think about it in a “Visual” sense, but numerically, entirely unhelpful.

    Instead of staring at the numbers, hit the pause button, take a big step back from them, and look at the lay of the land, put yourself into your villages metaphorical shoes and think “Okay, what resources do I have, well, there’s a nice forest over there, I can raze it to the ground right away, that gets me a lot of wood immediately if I want to get some houses built in a hurry, but I could set up a gathering hut and some friends to get planting and make with the happy tree friends, that should take care of food, instead I can clear THIS section of forest which I have no use for and then use those materials to get my village started.”

    As one of the above posters has mentioned – observation and visual cues make up a far larger proportion of this game than I think people are giving immediate credit for. A well sited gatherer hut is good for 12-15 people all on it’s own, with a little surplus to spare. I’m growing, slowly mind, at around 20-25 people, but this time around I’ve got good food surplus, good supply surplus, and everyone is warm and healthy, and I have a good set of children ready to step up when the adults finally croak it. This is not a game that in any way rewards rushing, beyond the initial “get a barn up” if you’re playing the so called hard mode (which ironically might be the easiest option as it avoids the trap of setting up farms and thus starving your village before the first harvest). Play at a slow pace, watch what’s going on, and stop staring at the numbers. You’ll find things work out a lot better that way.

  43. Bitter says:

    Alec, a couple observations – you talk about not knowing why your firewood supply is suddenly dropping when new people arrive. You might want to take a closer look at the house detail windows. There’s an “Inventory” tab there. When new people move into a house they ransack your stores and stock their house up so they can endure a while on their own supplies. That means anything in your stocks would be reserves when it comes to food and firewood.

    You also mention spreading your food supplies out so people don’t have to walk far, but people don’t get food in this game directly from the farms and gatherers. They get it from the storage barn, or they get it from their own houses. If you build a marketplace they can get stuff from there too.

    Of course, if you did overlook all that, you can certainly criticize the UI for not making it clear to you – you should be fighting the game mechanics for survival, not the UI.

  44. Loque says:

    EVE: Middle Age edition ?

  45. DerAva says:

    Seriously? You complain about the game being too hard, that getting enough food is such a big and constant struggle, and your first screenshot shows your gathering hut in the middle of your village next to farms and mines. No shit, Sherlock, that gatherer will have a hard time providing any sodding amount of food with almost no vegetation around. It might come as a surprise, but a gatherer really needs stuff he can gather.
    Then you spend paragraphs ranting about the UI, while the feature you desired is simply turned off. On top of that the whole cause for your rant, replacing a worker who dies, is something the game automatically does anyway as long as you keep some unassigned laborors (which you always should have around, for obvious reasons).

    • Armante says:

      ^this

      C’mon Alec..

    • SillyWizard says:

      Ha ha ha ha pretty well said.

    • johnnyr says:

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. This “review” is completely invalidated by the fact that Alec doesn’t actually understand how to play the game. Maybe try doing the tutorials, read the manual, etc. next time, so you know how to play the game before you go and write a completely inaccurate “review”.

      You’ll notice review is in quotations because even calling this a review is a slap in the face to people who actually take the time to understand how a game works before trying to review it. And I don’t mean “how it works” like knowing how to be good at it, or win, I literally mean understanding the basic mechanics of the game, which is painfully obvious something Alec does not possess.

      It’s like sitting an 81 year old blind woman in front of a game when she has no idea what she’s doing and having her declaring it a bad game. Yeah, super trustworthy and informative.

      Is this the greatest game ever? No, don’t be ridiculous. But it’s a damn good city builder and one of the best to come out in the last decade.

  46. pullthewires says:

    This review makes it sound like one of those games that are intended to show the bleakness of poverty or depression rather than be enjoyed. Which is probably quite honest in terms of simulation of the life of a medieval peasant, but not really what most people want from a economic management game. I like these sorts of games, but mostly when managing the economy well allows you to branch out as a reward for success (build impressive monumental architecture or support a standing military), rather than endlessly cycling.

  47. azrd79 says:

    The reason this game is always on a knife edge is simple, there’s very little to do if you ever reach equilibrium. I got so stressed that I made a quick trainer to add 10+ log, iron or stone on a key stroke when things got really bad. Needless to say things got boring real fast.

  48. Koldunas says:

    Alec, I’m sorry, but based on your screenshots, your villages are absolutely atrocious. Foresters in the middle of a town, awkward hunter lodge placements, tiny fields, empty lots for no reason in the middle of town… Christ… No wonder you had a bad time.

  49. Madness says:

    Im afraid to say that you are just bad at the game, I have not experienced any of these problems in the review. I personally enjoy the game alot, its a refreshing change to have a game with no combat in it at all.

    • Shini_Otoba says:

      I agree, this game is not hard at all. No math is needed except maybe basic sums that everyone should have learned by 10. He complains about needing 40 people to feed a population of 80, the current map I am playing with the hardest settings notably mountains, harsh climate and starting conditions hard, I have 8k food and climbing with only 2 gatherers huts, 2 hunters cabins. Manning these buildings I have 6 gatherers and 4 hunters.
      The math is simple, each person in your town eats about 100 food per year, 8k feeds 80 people for a year.

      His other complaint was lumber and firewood, I still don’t see the problem here? I have towns with 230 people who were easily supplied with lumber by 3 lumberjacks(2 were plenty, I had 3 to be safe) and 3 forester lodges, you set your lodges to only plant trees, and just use your laborers to get the wood when needed, using a circle system by time I had cut down the trees in the third lodge the trees at the first lodge were fully grown, and so the cycle repeats reaping huge amounts of lumber which I sold for livestock and seeds.

      I have no problems with the UI, it works and is simple, that’s all you really need from a UI.

      I cannot agree with this review, like the tradesman that blames his tools I just don’t think he was doing things correctly I have only been playing for 20 hours and I have gotten the nack of it, so I am flabbergasted at how this critic has managed to balls it up so bad.

  50. cluster says:

    I think grimdanfango said pretty much what the game is about, and while I get why Alec didn’t like it, I think he should play the game again considering this angle. My first game was pretty much Alec experience (but I liked being challenged by a game, it’s been a while ….). Then I started much slower, taking time to observe lots of details and it was pretty amazing to realize how you can find clues, and discover interactions you wouldn’t believe are there.

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