Jeff Freezos: a diary of Frostpunk doom, part 1

frostpunk-diary

The fate of humanity, or at least a slim and freezing remainder of it, rests upon the bewildered shoulders of someone who can’t even keep a basil plant alive for more than 24 hours. Frostpunk does not forgive. Frostpunk does not have mercy. Frostpunk will kill everyone. Unless I can stop it.

I’m going to be charting my immediately catastrophic attempt to survive city-builder/survival mash-up Frostpunk’s endless winter, over the course of a diary. I can’t say for sure how many instalments there’ll be, but going on my first day’s performance, my current estimate is “one and a half if I’m really lucky.”

Full disclaimer: I did give the tutorial a half-hour spin prior to the dark odyssey (let’s try calling it that, instead of the far more appropriate ‘series of terrible decisions’) herein, just so I understood the controls and interface (just as well, otherwise everyone would have frozen to death because I didn’t know where the build roads button was), but other than that, I’m doing this snow-blind.

frostpunk-generator

Day 1: Cruel to be kind

I dread to think of the terrible journey my few-dozen settlers have had to reach this place. Their exhausted trek through shoulder-deep snowdrifts, the cold, the hunger, the fear. But here they are, at the iron place of their potential salvation. A towering generator, able to create that most precious resource in this frozen hell: heat. All it needs is coal, of which there is an apparent abundance nearby. I tell everyone to smart mining immediately, convinced that I have already assumed effortlessly masterful control of this bleak situation.

Turns out that people really like to have homes before someone makes them go and hit rocks for hours on end. And, indeed, they really like to have homes to go back to after hitting rocks for hours on end. I have blundered into immediate chaos: my shivering townsfolk’s morale begins to plummet, but they have no hope of reprieve just yet.

frostpunk-coal

I order half the dismal miners to down tools and trek instead to the snow-locked opposite side of the crater we are all huddled within, there to collect wood from which tents can be built. There is no requirement for canvas and cloth, so I can only presume that everyone donates their trousers in order to complete the tents – surely, there is no sacrifice more painful here.

And then night falls. Everyone abandons their posts  and retreats to the homes they do not have. There is no heat, there is no shelter, and so I must pass my first brutal law: granting me power to force overtime. The power to make people work, for nothing, forever, in pursuit of an imagined future of human plenty. Just call me Jeff Freezos.

frostpunk-law

By the time the first trouser-tents are up, illness – exhaustion, cold, despair – has already begun to grip my tiny, maudlin colony. We are, thank our uncaring gods, able to ignite the generator, but the momentous statement of fiery hope this represents is undercut by the immediate need to send our broken people out to gather more lumps of wood, in order that we can then create a medical tent.

It happens. The people march, miserably, to my relentless drumbeat of harsh manual labour. “I have to be cruel to be kind,” I mutter to my screen, the real world’s yellow sun warm upon my back. What a monster I am, as I destroy these people in order to save them.

Ad now, there is no food. And now, they complain of hunger. I feel a flash of sudden anger at these little people and their little needs. Is there nothing you can do for yourselves? No, no. This is not the way. I must save them. If I can.

To be continued

29 Comments

  1. Nelyeth says:

    I’ve seen many a great titles around these parts, but this. This is what plants crave.

  2. pookie191 says:

    “Monster” pfft.. When you get to the point of letting kids die in the coal mines and chopping peoples limbs off so they can get back to work then you have earned the right to call yourself a monster.

    On a side note I am available to run your town if you want me to

    • Archonsod says:

      Sheer barbarism. Civilised folk realise your much better turning them into plant fertiliser so your far more efficient automata can work in the mines. And Sawmills. And Drills. In fact the only thing you really need the fleshbags for is research, the rest of their society can adapt to service your own.

      • Carra says:

        That’s pretty much how the Arks scenario plays out. 45 engineers to open a pub, a medical station and all the rest are researching. Meanwhile all the real work is done by automatons.

    • PurpBuddha says:

      That’s cuddle-bear fun-time compared to the theocratic savagery i meted out to the discontented late in the main story.

    • daztec says:

      I got through the main campaign without putting kids in mines

      Although apparent ‘safe work’ for kids did include working outside shoveling coal in -60C temperatures

  3. Themadcow says:

    Looking forward to this. The FTL diary is probably one of my favourite ever pieces on RPS.

    • khamul says:

      You, sir, are gravely mistaken.
      In fact, the best article ,ever on RPS is this one: link to rockpapershotgun.com

      However, the game diaries generally are indeed ace, and I’m also looking forward to this sad tale of incompetence and death.

      • zaldar1978 says:

        oh my word HOW did I miss this – I have been reading this now for the last two hours – also wow I wish I had email friends to play this game with it sounds GREAT. Is their an active community around this still?

        • khamul says:

          Not ever finding any real live humans to play Solium Infernum with has been one of the great disappointments of my life. It’s an amazing game.

          It’s quite subtle, though. If you want to give it a go, I definitely recommend playing a few games against bots first, to get the hang of the core mechanics.

      • Landiss says:

        That might be the only diary on RPS ever that was actually finished. I’m surprised.

  4. darkside says:

    To be fair, Basil plants are pretty hard to keep alive. They need *so much* water that if you need to leave your flat alone for a single day, they are gone.

  5. nitric22 says:

    I just hit the comments regarding Frostpunk to say that it strikes me that AA games priced at $30 are in many ways the new “triple A model”, (i.e. games that I’ll actually buy). This doesn’t come from an aversion to AAA and a $60 price tag, but more from market saturation, endless game backlog, and a feeling that these mid-tier developers are just hitting a lot more home runs than they did even 5 years ago. Now will I be paying full price for Cyberpunk 2077? Yes, yes I will. Beyond that, keep em’ under $30 please.

  6. citizend13 says:

    loved the game. Finally got one settlement through the winter. On a side note, child labor is particularly useful early on when you don’t have as much manpower – only adults can hunt so you need the kids to cook and gather coal and wood. I mean the “hope” bar takes a hit but who needs hope anyway.

  7. zaldar1978 says:

    please please complete this – most of the diaries here seem not to get completed which is very annoying as they are my favorite part of the site! Love to here how this game goes…

  8. Biggus_Dikkus says:

    when temperature dropped behind -100 game lost me there

  9. Premium User Badge

    Earl-Grey says:

    Ahhh, the RPS diary, always a joy.
    How I longed for an end to Quinns’ Song of Onionbog.
    One day he’ll be back to finish it, just you see, any day now.

  10. Risingson says:

    Well, the comments about proud of being a monster and how convenient is the child labour: EW.

    I mean, as if our behaviour in a game did not have anything to do on how we perceive real life.

    • Kollega says:

      I’m pretty sure that a lot of people treating the horrible things you can inflict on your population in Frostpunk as just really edgy jokes are doing that because for them, it’s a complete abstraction and they never had a dystopia hit them in the face. Or they have had, but don’t realize it, if they’re living in the US. And of course, it’s easier to treat fictional atrocities as joke fodder when you don’t bother to appreciate how atrocious they are in “realistic terms”.

      I don’t know if you think that’s plausible… but I think it is, and I think it’s a problem that Frostpunk was intended to “make people think about their actions”, but flippancy seems to comfortably win over that.

      • BooleanBob says:

        Too Woke To Joke

        • Kollega says:

          You don’t live in a society where most people would turn a blind eye to you getting beaten in the street, I take it.

          As a side note for everyone else, even when I turn to gallows humor to make my existence a little more tolerable, it doesn’t feel as good as bitching about the same (when that humour isn’t thinly-disguised bitching in the first place). And people treating stereotyped Russian misery or gulag awfulness as ha-ha-hilarious is definitely not too amusing to me.

          I’m not so far gone towards “complete despair” that children being worked to death in the snow, and people trying to one-up that, would actually be funny, is what I’m saying.

    • TimePointFive says:

      god, i love the block button

  11. ammyn says:

    *Gets Savior achievement on the first playthrough* … *Humming* … What? I deserve at least bragging rights. *Quietly observing others’ attempts at surviving through large contraption with a series of lens* I’m actually very curious at what made other players lose control of their cities, for gameplay studies purposes. So far I think most of them went straight to the pot without much thought and placed a full work forces wastefully (at the hot house at the beginning of the game, for example, you just need one worker to cover all of your needs) and because of such became unable to not provide their people with vital things. The resources’ charts are your friends. Watch them carefully and stockpile as much as possible. If you have unnecessary surplus, consider moving your workforce around.

    • grrrz says:

      I think it’s funnier to hear about how people fail.
      I didn’t find the game this difficult either. Still I was going for a “good guy” run but stupidly and needlessly enabled “faith keepers” (without going further though). I still managed to avoid child labour, agressive treatment, overwork, and to save everybody in the frostland and all the refugees coming my way. also nobody died (and neither did I game over). The ending credits never aknowleged that and I got shamed for allowing the religion to take over. (and again in the arks for not saving the people from New Manchester. This one was deserved though). The hardest thing I found (specially in the later scenarios) is to go down the tech tree fast enough to maintain a comfortable heat.

      • DeadCanDance says:

        I managed to get through the final monster big boss blizzard without one body in the cemetery and didn’t permit children to work. However they were essential on helping research and the overwork was mandatory. I saw a screenshot of one child getting hurt at work and decided I didn’t want that on my playthrough.
        I think that for somethings humans have the innate sense of caring for, like not letting children die in the snow.

    • Carra says:

      My first run failed because I did not keep track of the numbers. My coal production was way too low.

      The GUI could have been improved by showing a simple up, down or equal sign next to each resource like they do in the Anno series. Gives you a quick idea of what goes wrong.

      • grrrz says:

        there’s a subtle red glow I think when your ressource is consumed faster than harvested next to the ressource indicator. not very obvious though, you do have to constantly monitor your ressources in the economy screen.
        obviously the game is addicting because even if you’re doing ok, there’s never one moment when you feel like everything is going to be fine. The actual hope and discontent meter you feel playing the game is always critical.

  12. Carra says:

    I’m enjoying this game. During my first run, my settlers threw me out. My second run went fine though.

    Tried the Arks mission after. My first run ended in failure. Knowing more, my second run went fine. Still had to reload the last few days to finish it completely.

    Next up, the Survivors mission. Sadly that seems to be all the content there is so far, I hope they add some more.

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