Wot I Think: Frostpunk

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When I signed the law drafting children into my city’s workforce, I should have felt resistance. Some sense of remorse, or an impulse to explore other options—anything but this. Instead, I was simply surprised at just how many kids lived here.

Then I sent them to the coal mines.

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Frostpunk is a ‘society survival’ game. A steampunk city builder where you control the placement of buildings, the distribution of labor, and the laws guiding the evolution of the city of New London, against the backdrop of a world dominated by cold. Menus and direct ethical decisions burst on-screen with the uneven crackle of frost (the miners want to go home and be with their families before a major disaster—will you let them?), and lights caught at the edge of view refract through a pane of glazed ice. While it can be difficult to identify specific buildings you’re looking for amongst the tangle of ramshackle, snow-dusted structures and stacks of smoke, the eerily cozy aesthetic of the game is breathtaking in motion.

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In three scenarios with differing complications, environmental layouts, and even stories, you’re given the power of life and death over a populace that alternately loves or despises you. The twin meters of Discontent and Hope represent the general opinions of your populace. Attaining basic resources for survival like food and coal potentially requires sacrifice from the living beings you serve. All the while, the world is getting colder, forcing you to make less than ideal decisions to see another dim sunrise.

You can send the massive generator at the center of your society into overdrive for emergencies, but if the generator overheats, the game ends. If everyone dies, the game ends. If Discontent gets too high, the game ends. If Hope falls to 0, the game ends. You can send scouts and outpost parties into the Frostlands to seek resources from elsewhere, learning more about the state of the world in the process, but that’s just more personnel that won’t be able to contribute to the work in the city itself. This situation seems ripe for a constant, nerve-wracking juggling of priorities, and this is where Frostpunk shines. It never fails to impress just how much panic Frostpunk can pull from you by changing a few numbers, or dramatically plunging a given meter, and leaving you to deal with the consequences. I spent much of the 9 hours it took me to finish the main story desperately clicking across minimal menus in attempts to find some way out of the current hole I was in.

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In some ways, Frostpunk plays like an extremely slow real time strategy game, where laws and heat sources are just as engaging to micromanage as colorful units. Pausing and fast-forwarding time as needed to get things just right, before finding out that your plans were so very wrong, is a regular experience. Occasionally, though, you’ll hit a point where you feel like you’re calmly tending a garden. A garden of sniffling survivors in a frozen wasteland built on shattered promises, but a garden nonetheless.

Unfortunately, the moral portion of Frostpunk’s systemic balance, though heavily emphasized, is one of the few areas where it falls flat.

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Following the example of 11 bit studios’ previous game, This War of Mine, almost every action you take can be framed as a moral choice. Turning down the range of your generator will save coal, but it also means those citizens caught at the edges of your city will suffer the effects of the irresistible cold. Decisions have practical costs as well as invisible, ethical ones, and well-meaning goals often require sacrifice to achieve on even a basic level. However, because both the considerations and consequences that accompany a decision remain on the scale of the ‘big picture’, Frostpunk quickly becomes a game of easily-quantified numbers.

To survive, you need [X], and in the situation you’re currently in, you can’t get [X] without doing [Y]. Because [Y] is done in the service of the greater good, it’s hard to feel selfish. Not executing political prisoners would mean the absolute failure of the entire colony—and on a personal level, the loss of 5 valuable hours of in-game progress. There’s always the unspoken message that, maybe, you could avoid these circumstances by playing better, but that misses a larger point. Frostpunk, in pursuing the high-level control and intrigue of managing a society, forgets the personal.

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In multiple-choice text sequences, people are referred to simply as ‘a citizen’ or ‘a woman’. You don’t get the opportunity to recognize a particular person as a trouble maker, or perhaps as being especially helpful. Except for a basic family tree, the pages of citizen biographies are distressingly blank, even when you supposedly have secret informers seeded among the population.

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Engineer Harry Mason doesn’t have a particular aptitude for medicine, making him an ideal pick for placement in a medical facility. John Smith doesn’t become a better sawmill employee after working there for some time, making his getting sick or being transferred undesirable. Aside from being token talking heads at certain set points, it would be reasonable to forget these people have voices or preferences at all.

Every worker is an interchangeable cog in the machine that is your city, so when you’re suddenly asked to consider how one person feels amongst this giant, teeming mass that needs your constant attention, you don’t have a reason to care beyond personal inclination. A personal inclination that, again, has an entire city to think about.

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After surviving the main scenario, the physical growth of your city is charted with a gorgeous timelapse, while the game addresses the moral growth of your society via a text epilogue. I had come out the other end of a long winter. Over half of New London’s population was dead. Political prisoners were executed regularly to control discontent, and heavily-armed officers roamed the streets, enforcing order. I would struggle with this course of action in any other game. However, Frostpunk, intentionally or not, creates the ultimate Trolley Problem. 200 died so that 200 would live. Instituting absolute order meant that my Hope meter became Obedience, and I would never again have to worry about that precious resource running out when I considered my next course of action. In fact, I could directly act against it, safe in the knowledge that my citizens supported my reign—or else.

I distinctly remember needing people to die at some point. I flipped the switch that controlled the heating of their homes to ‘off’, and idly noticed the sickness rates skyrocket as I attended to the other lives under my care. I didn’t know the people in that housing development as anything other than numbers, and a few randomized character portraits. They didn’t matter any less than the other people in New London—but that meant they didn’t mean any more, either.

The kids in the mines were, surprisingly, the last to go.

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Frostpunk may be one of the most tense, exciting city building survival games on PC, but for a game with such an emphasis on innate justice, and heat, it leaves you surprisingly cold.

Frostpunk is out tomorrow on Steam and GOG

69 Comments

  1. modzero says:

    Aw. I mean, I’ll probably get it sooner rather than later anyway, because it looks extremely pretty, but I did have hopes for the justice/morals part of the game.

    • dontnormally says:

      It seems like it makes its points so perfectly that the reviewer here has missed it:

      1. In times of emergency, being a pragmatic jerk might make you a savior while idealism could get everyone killed.

      2. Once you zoom out from the individual to the system as a whole, persons become people and people are a numbers game.

      Maybe these aren’t the points the devs intended to make, but as the other side of the coin from their previous release it paints an interesting and complete picture that I suspect was on purpose.

      • Massenstein says:

        That is the default state in god/mayor/leader sims, though. People are resources, happiness is a number and ruthless pragmatism is the smartest way to victory.

        It would be interesting if the game managed to make you care and then forced you to make difficult decisions.

        • Sound says:

          I agree with Massentein. That the gameplay incentivizes a certain behavior, and then calls attention to it, is part of the recipe for sure. But there’s a missing ingredient that the article author highlights: making you care, to feel the dilemma. And if the mere emotional element of moral concerns is not enough, then there should probably be some mechanical component to the moral element as well. But even if not, some sense of humanity can be gained by approaching these game situations from a more interpersonal perspective, such as highlighting the “troublemakers” names and story, for example, or making some kind of detailed fallout(fluff or mechanical) from all those executions.

          So while I’m sure the developers intended to nudge players into an inhuman direction, and then call attention to it, I don’t think that’s enough to successfully execute their vision about a morally driven game.

      • DeadCanDance says:

        I would argue that being a pragmatic jerk wastes the most precious resource you could ever have in this game: hope. In the middle game crisis when a certain faction rises up you must have hope or your society will disintegrate.

  2. kud13 says:

    Oddly enough, the tone described reminds me of the announcer voice in “Lords of the Realm 2″. That game had 2 main measures for each county’s stats- health and happiness, both of which directly affected population. You could regulate health by setting ration sizes using your limited food surplus (in fact, the joy of the game was figuring out how to set up a stable cycle of agriculture to ensure your peasants to didn’t run out of food. When I finally understood that mechanism, I began to dominate AI consistently).

    So if your province wasn’t doing well and you clicked on the health tab, the narrator would say in a grave, somewhat disapproving voice ” your people are starving, My Lord”.

    It was possible to care for these numbers, sure. But really, I had a war to win, usually on multiple fronts. And the people would still be happier with me than with the AI, which had the tendency to conscript all its peasants into mobs armed with only pitchforks (while I generally made sure my small armies were well-equipped, and usually dominated by archers).

    • skyst says:

      I can still recite most of voice lines from Lords of the Realm 2 having not played it for what, 20 odd years? A wooden palisade, a moat and bailey, a stone keep, a stone castle, a royal castle. Lets get diggin!

      Oh, and that hidden techno track in the install directory. link to youtube.com

    • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

      Feed your peasants to keep them happy and make them multiply.

      “Keep them happy” turned out to be more important than one might expect because when a province went into revolt (even it had zero population because of the sacking and starvation) it could immediately dislodge, without a battle just automatically, even the strongest garrisons from even the finest castles. Made chevauchée an attractive alternative to costly sieges; but it always felt a but weird that maintaining control of a fully depopulated province was something you could do only by frantically buying beer for the dead.

  3. Sin Vega says:

    I have to go to stupid work now but I just wanted to say I am very happy to see Xalavier’s name here! And for a game I’ve been curious about too. Looking forward to reading this tonight.

    • Pharaoh Nanjulian says:

      As was I. Not because I’ve heard of him before, but because I am pleased to see the letters ‘Xalavier Nelson Jr’ together. That means there are at least two Xalavier Nelsons, which rather makes me wish my parents had more imagination.

    • HotSoapyBeard says:

      Yesss, really enjoy your op-eds on PCgamer, Xalavier.

  4. causticnl says:

    yeah was afraid of that, you should care about the people, otherwise the highly advertised moral ambiguity of this game becomes meaningless and it just becomes a number. oh well, game moves from day1 purchase to “lets wait for an sale” pile.

    • Luaan says:

      It’s all about your approach. You can care, or you can not care. No depth of a moral system will avoid the “just a number” syndrome – the most you can do is make it “just a bunch of numbers”. For me, I have to say I probably never played a game as tense at this, it got me hanging by the edge of the seat (I didn’t even consider not going full iron-man on this – that just wouldn’t do the game justice). Even if I only played the first play-through of the first scenario, it would have been money well spent.

      The tension is very well handled overall. If you let yourself sink into the game and avoid reloading when things go horribly wrong, it’s really something. This really only works the first time and if you avoid spoilers, though – not sure what they’re planning for the endless/sandbox mode, but right now the first play-through is very special, so if you can, take care not to spoil it for yourself. And I’m someone who usually doesn’t care about spoilers at all, mind you – this is a rare exception.

      • mike69 says:

        “No depth of a moral system will avoid the “just a number” syndrome – the most you can do is make it “just a bunch of numbers””

        What about the moral system you operate on every day?

        I mean game designers don’t have to recreate real life, but I think it’s defeatest to declare that it’s impossible to introduce some kind of moral hesitance to game choices.

  5. Godwhacker says:

    Great review. How does one pronounce Xalavier exactly?

  6. TotallyUseless says:

    Tense game, or one of the best sociopath sim game out there. It’s good to be the bad guy on video games. >:)

  7. aircool says:

    I hate snow and the cold, so that’s enough to put me off.

  8. Someoldguy says:

    That’s a shame, but it is understandable when you consider that in every other city manager your people are rarely more than a digit in the total population count. Getting as far as acknowledging that some of these digits are people suffering and dying under your management is a step further than many living, breathing politicians have managed when a microphone is stuck under their nose.

    I’m surprised you can get through the main story arc in 9 hours. Was that the first, simplest of the three scenarios? At first attempt or after several failures?

  9. gealach says:

    No connection between the player and the population? You are only interacting with the system, never with the persons? You killed hundreds without caring, since they are only abstract numbers?

    To me, this sounds like the moral system is working as intended.
    It reacts to your decisions, adjusts labels and mechanics and gives you a value system that prioritizes survival above all else. The only thing that stands counter to it is your personal value system as the player. Anything else could quickly devolve into a renegade/paragon points system that you would game as well.

    What were you expecting from the system? A more severe punishment for killing people? More feedback that makes you feel bad for following the path of reason?
    I have to admit “This War if Mine” did a better job of providing connections. The moral approach is the same, but is more impactful simply by having all humans visible and animated in the regular gameplay.

    Is the system responsible for creating an emotional connection between you and the people you are affecting with your actions? Or is it on the player to seek that connection, work on it and keep remembering that these numbers represent humans?

    Nevertheless, thank you for the review, Xalavier. Maybe my next paragraph helps to alleviate the drawback of a lackluster morality system a bit:
    “You survived by killing over half of the population including children, and established a fascist police state?! You are a bad person. Try again. Be better!”

    • Someoldguy says:

      I believe the point is that games can and have done it better. It’s easier if the focus is on the micro scale but even if the scale is more macro it’s possible to do. One simple example is games in the Panzer General vein. You can have a core force of 50 units but they all matter individually because they have different skill sets, differing levels of experience and some develop unique perks. Lose one and you have to train another up from scratch and there’s no guarantee it’ll get a perk. You want to expend them wisely and protect them as much as you can.

      Because citizens in Frostpunk don’t appear to have talents, it matters less that you’re pulling kids out of school to send them down the mines. If some of them were going to graduate as qualified medics, furnace engineers and survival experts it might matter more.

      Weaving a narrative is certainly down to the player and many RPS editors have been able to conjure great tales out of games they have reviewed in the past, but it really helps if the game gives you good foundations to help your imagination take flight.

      • gealach says:

        Yes, you are right. There are many methods and mechanics to increase the connection with your people.
        Assigning efficiency parameters like talents to persons, so they track as valuable resources in the system and align with the mechanistic view is a viable workaround. It’s translating the human worth into the system language.
        Distance is a factor, and these perspectively mid-level strategy games and city builders are, to me, directly at the shoreline of visible, unique persons and abstract, general systems.

        *sigh* And to be clear, if I sound frustrated, it is not about the game or the writer. Rather about what kind of tricks we have to employ to care about other people.

        • kagechikara says:

          But these aren’t real people, they’re simulated people? The bar to care about them is going to naturally be higher…

          • gealach says:

            Yes, it is harder to care for people that are not like oneself.

            More the reason to get better. Both at designing systems that can deal with that barrier. And at learning how to lower it, or jump over it on one’s own.

          • Deadly Sinner says:

            How many Civilization units have you cried over?

          • Templar says:

            Millions.

          • Hedgeclipper says:

            Tomb of the unknown Battleship, brutally massacred by that Phalanx, again.

    • Kittim says:

      Agreed.
      I don’t think it’s a shortcoming.
      Sometimes puppies can’t be saved or people would starve.

  10. Kollega says:

    So it’s a game that intended to confront the players with the grim realities of a world where survival trumps moral concerns, and difficulties of being “the good guy” in a hopeless situation (and that has built its marketing campaign around this). And now it seems that it fails to characterize its people, turning it into an extremely bleak game of numbers rather than something more narratively-prominent.

    I admit, I would never buy Frostpunk anyway, because my actual real life is bleak and hopeless to the point of being borderline dystopian. But seeing that it more or less fails to really hit the actual intended audience with its moral side, the one that was intended to be the center of the game/the main selling point, is just… underwhelming and disappointing, to be honest.

  11. causticnl says:

    any chance of a Battletech review today?

  12. indigochill says:

    I find it interesting that people think that the morality doesn’t matter just because it’s about large numbers of people and you don’t have personal connections with any of them. Maybe it is passively revealing something about morality. “One death is a tragedy. A million is a statistic.”

    • MajorLag says:

      I think it is also interesting that the author is so intent on laying the blame for this on the game. “You should have made me care more!”. From a gameplay and engagement perspective, probably not wrong, but I can’t help but see that as illuminating.

    • mike69 says:

      But people know and understand that, it’s not a new message or something that hasn’t been done in video games a hundred times before.

  13. Discalceate says:

    So you don’t care about your populace because they are “just a number”?
    Someone’s a closet Tory!

  14. Axolotl says:

    Interesting that this game fails to actually make you care about the moral choices you make. I had the same problem with This War of Mine, where your characters would whine about everything you sent them to do. It always felt to me like cliche lines of text cheaply trying to make me feel bad about playing to win.

    • Discalceate says:

      I think that’s the point, when you are put into an extreme survival situation, not only do you have to act against your own morality in order to survive, but will become resentful of those who “try to hold onto their humanity”, seeing them as obstacles to your attempt to “win” (i.e live).

      • MajorLag says:

        It would have been interesting if the game could have made you wonder if winning is actually worth it. In the real world, we have to live in the environment we create through our choices. If the player had to actually experience life in their city when it was all over, to be ruled so brutally and callously, would they make different choices to avoid creating the kind of world they wouldn’t want to survive in anyway?

    • kagechikara says:

      Eh, it’s perfectly possible to win this War of Mine without making any of the ‘bad’ choices and by helping your neighbors whenever possible. The idea that you have to do bad things to “win” isn’t correct.

  15. kagechikara says:

    I’m okay with this, I suppose, though I do wish there was more focus on the individual people and families, as long as there is a way to win without doing terrible things (even if its hard).

    If its literally “you cannot win the game without making X number of moral choices to slaughter innocents”, then–eh, at that point, there’s no moral choice, it’s just literally the game engine railroading you along.

    This War of Mine was great about this, balancing risk and reward, making being good /cost/ something, but still letting you win the game by making good choices. Most of my successful runs, I didn’t kill anyone, helped my neighbors when I could and saved the girl in the supermarket. (I should really go play that game again). If Frostpunk can do the same thing, sign me up. If its just misery simulator 2018, I’m not interested.

    • MajorLag says:

      > If its literally “you cannot win the game without making X number of moral choices to slaughter innocents”, then–eh, at that point, there’s no moral choice, it’s just literally the game engine railroading you along.

      Is it? No one says you have to win.

      • GhostBoy says:

        All games, bar possibly a few niche experimental ones, consider “Game Over” a failure state. And Frostpunk is not one of the exceptions. So “not winning” isn’t treated by the game as a clever subversion of the setting and mechanics, but as “You done screwed up”. To say “You don’t have to win”, it like saying you can get the good ending in God of War III by never playing the game, because then Kratos doesn’t mess up the world.

        From what I have seen so far of Frostpunk (about half of the campaign), you can get through the scenario without picking some of the more obvious bad options, or deliberately killing your people as the reviewer did. But if it turns out later that the game has an in-built bias, that means you are forced to take extreme action to even hope to survive to the end of the campaign, and then ends on the “was it all worth it?” stinger, then clearly the answer is “yes, otherwise I would have never seen the end you are questioning the worth of”.

        If on the other hand, the player can answer both “Yes, I feel the extreme measures were justified” or “Yes, because I managed to remain humane despite the odds” or “No, I went too far” or indeed “No, I should have gone further to save people”, THEN it poses an interesting question. But the first case is just railroading as kagechikara says, and that is not interesting.

        • MajorLag says:

          In this regard I think the game would have made its point better without a win condition. Just an ultimately doomed struggle for survival. After all, that’s how real life works. There is no win condition you can use to justify the terrors you inflict on others, and we’re all destined for the grave in the end.

          But really, you don’t have to win the game. There are plenty of games I never won, because of what I’d have had to do to win them, the time investment, the disregard for other aspects of my life, whatever. No one is making you treat virtual people horribly, that’s a choice you, as a player, have made because winning is more important to you.

          I’m not saying the game delivers that message well… or even at all. But it could have, and that would have been interesting.

  16. r41nbowdash says:

    Too lazy to look for citations, but generally harsh environmental conditions are a catalyst for building communities based on trust, reciprocity, etc. You simply cannot afford to be a dick, if the only safety net you have is your neighbours.

    I know it’s just a game, but the jaded message the game tries to get across is kinda off-putting, and potentially damaging for someone yet figuring out how the world works.

    Brb playing “King of Dragon Pass”

    • gealach says:

      Awesome, thanks. That was what I’ve been looking for. A good example of how it could have worked better – without restorting to adding simply another type of numbers.

      Give the player an avatar, a location within the city, and a family. Like KoDP, Banner Saga or Papers, Please.

    • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

      “generally harsh environmental conditions are a catalyst for building communities based on trust, reciprocity, etc. You simply cannot afford to be a dick, if the only safety net you have is your neighbours.”

      This is likely to be true at certain scales: humans aren’t terribly good at maintaining ‘personal’ relationships with large numbers of people. “Dunbar’s number” is usually estimated at around 150; given close physical proximity and environmental incentives not to wander off in smaller groups.

      I’d suspect that in computer games, where you have relatively crude simulations of people that you can only talk with if the devs put a lot of effort into a solid dialog tree, cannot groom socially, and can’t mate with(sorry Bioware, points for effort), the number of ‘people’ you can care much about is smaller(might be interesting to see if EvE corporations and similar are closer to 150 before they start to ossify into rigid organizations, though).

      In this case; you’ve got a situation where wandering off definitely isn’t in the cards; but the population is small enough; and situation disruptive-to-established-order enough that you can’t expect fuzzy social norms to do the organizing for you(plus, if you could, there wouldn’t be much room for ‘the player’ to inject their commands); but you don’t have nearly enough people for to have a nice impersonal bureaucracy sanitize the…more regrettable…necessary prices of progress.

  17. The Sombrero Kid says:

    “Unfortunately, the moral portion of Frostpunk’s systemic balance, though heavily emphasized, is one of the few areas where it falls flat.”

    “I distinctly remember needing people to die at some point. I flipped the switch that controlled the heating of their homes to ‘off’, and idly noticed the sickness rates skyrocket”

    Someone seems to have massively missed the point :S

    • causticnl says:

      ehm no, his point went completely over your head. its fine, enjoy your preorder.

      • Christo4 says:

        I agree with the sombrero kid.

        You killed people because you tried to survive. You KILLED people because you tried to SURVIVE. What more do you want the game to do? Give you a big message telling you how a bad bad person you are for trying to survive?

        Dishonored does that for example with the karma system and other games do it too and afaik most people actually disliked it a lot, since if you wanted to get the “good” ending you had to force yourself to play a certain way.

        In this game the only good ending is surviving. How many sacrifices you make to get there is up to you.

        I actually think this makes it rather interesting and different than others to be honest.

        • April March says:

          Agreed. If the devs did this on purpose, they did good work. If they didn’t… they accidentally did good work, I suppose. Hooray for them! Let’s buy their game.

        • Deadly Sinner says:

          Did you bother to read the rest of the review? The main complaint is that the “people” are not more than vaguely human shaped. The game apparently gives you consistent and predictable results for your actions, complete with helpful meters and bars, which is not how the world works, so the game becomes a matter of incremental optimisation. And, of course, you play as Omniscient Strategy God, which makes the moral choices much easier, as you know you’re working purely in the interest of saving lives.

  18. sagredo1632 says:

    Apologies in advance. Somewhat sick and feverish today so rambling braindump follows.

    Dear Developers: Ahem. A request. Please give me less control. Or at least less direct control.

    The least interesting way you can accomplish a task is if you’re given exactly the tool to accomplish the task. Hammer, nail: boring. Jackhammer, nail: interesting. You, disgruntled hammer-wielding subordinate, nail: interesting.

    Frostpunk seems to have gone the way of so many strategy builders/planners of yore and have you managing the marginal rates of return over finite resources. This is probably what an economist’s wet dream looks like, but it’s both unrealistic and been done a hundred times already. The apparent twist here is that some of the decisions are somehow “immoral” in the same way that some decisions in the Trolley Problem are immoral.

    The joy of playing with designed systems isn’t when everything is going to plan, but when everything is working as it should but you, the player, created unintended consequences. Solidified power into a monolithic monarchy… to be inherited by your imbecile son… CKII. Reduce your bank’s marginal savings rate to generate consumption… and the savings rate increases… cultural idiosyncracy of household savings in Japan. Pressure your government to achieve a consistent 10% per annum economic growth rate… your local politicians forge growth figures and your wildly expansionary lending policies create huge opportunities for graft and wealth disparity… post-Deng China. (Though I don’t have first-hand experience, just about everything that happens in Rimworld and Dwarf Fortress probably falls into this categary).

    The point is that you, the leader, may have some objective or policy you want to enact, but the way in which your citizens, or fate, interact with that policy is the interesting bit (more so than the policy itself). If you as administrator legalized the sending of children into the mines, does that then generate a license towards other behaviors towards children that other members of the populace will embody? For every one policy that happens, an entire spectrum of only partially predictable outcomes can result (and not, for instance Hope -10, Heat +10). That’s what it really means when choices have consequences.

  19. thither says:

    Engineer Harry Mason doesn’t have a particular aptitude for medicine, making him an ideal pick for placement in a medical facility. John Smith doesn’t become a better sawmill employee after working there for some time, making his getting sick or being transferred undesirable.

    Wait, am I going crazy, or are these two syllogisms exactly backwards? Wouldn’t Harry Mason be a bad pick for placement in a medical facility, since he’s not good at medicine?

    • Harlander says:

      The phrasing’s a little strange, but I think what it’s saying is that “Jim Engineer is good at medicine and thus a good pick for a medical job” and “Jane Sawmilliér gets better at sawing, thus is hard to replace” are both things that don’t happen in the game, and they’d make it more interesting.

    • UncleLou says:

      I more or less read that as

      “Engineer Harry Mason doesn’t have a particular aptitude for medicine, which would have made him an ideal pick for placement in a medical facility. ”

      and

      “John Smith doesn’t become a better sawmill employee after working there for some time, which would have made his getting sick or being transferred undesirable.”

    • fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

      I think those two were intended as of how the citizens dont’ get fleshed out; either in flavortext or as mechanical cogs:

      If ‘aptitude for medicine’ were thing; than identifying promising Dr. Mason and assigning him to the infirmary would be a thing that distinguishes him from every other ‘engineer’ who (since it isn’t a thing) can actually be slotted in absolutely interchangeably.

      If ‘experience’/’expertise’ were a thing then having expert craftsman John Smith absent from the sawmill would be more serious and more visible than having $WORKER missing; but since it isn’t you just get ‘1 worker unavailable’ rather than having any reason to keep an eye on Smith’s progress.

      Obviously both of these changes wouldn’t magically transform the game into not being about numbers; but it’s easier to hang significance onto unique cogs with developmental trajectories than it is to hang significance onto interchangeable cogs.

  20. racccoon says:

    Looks like a nice cold game. Can not wait to freeze and play it. Lol

  21. Pulstar says:

    87 on Metacritic thus far. Think I’ll go with the hivemind on this one.

  22. Templar says:

    If you want to watch familys and loved ones die of cold and reap the horror of your poor decisions all you have to do is fire up some Rimworld.

  23. Akanaro says:

    I don’t think your inability to feel for the populace on a larger scale is because of anything the game does wrong but rather just a personality quirk. It’s one of those cases where people will have different experiences based on their own moral compasses. I’m the kind of guy who felt sorry for Skyrim NPC’s so I always found it hard to do the assassins guild story line. I’m the kind of guy who tried very hard to give my population pretty parks and a good life in Sim City. And those games had no moral impact at all. I can just imagine if I have to choose between having kids work in a coal mine or go to school. I think my cities will all starve to death while the kids get an education. Which is probably why I don’t rule the world.

  24. Don Reba says:

    Frostpunk may be one of the most tense, exciting city building survival games on PC.

    But… it bills itself as the only one. It says: “Frostpunk is the first society survival game.” Is that the joke?

  25. DeadCanDance says:

    Just logged in to say that this game has been great so far. The screen freezing and the sound of shatter of the ice forming in the edges of the screen, the people coughing from the cold. The light of the generator persevering despite the frozen hell it’s in.

    The hope the people have in their leader and the scope of moral choices you have are very good. You don’t need to be all practical in the moral choices as hope is the greates resource you could possibly gain.

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