I love being alive right now. Admittedly, there are many reasons for that - getting to see humanity clumsily barge its way into a new stage of evolution, being able to have pancakes pretty much whenever I want them, etc - but mostly because I get blindsided by amazing-looking new games on a nigh-daily basis. Banished, like so many others, has crept seemingly out of nowhere, set up a nice little settlement on the crisp loam of YourTubules, and proceeded to look utterly brilliant. In short, it's a small scale city builder, but that doesn't really do it justice. Money, you see, has no sway when starvation, disease, and the elements are the ones you're bargaining with. People are precious, and Banished is a game about cherishing every last one you've got.
For something that only recently emerged from the Internet's unending woods, Banished is looking excellently polished, which is a good sign indeed. Here, for those playing along on an Etch-A-Sketch, graphing calculator, ancient sacred time scroll, or some similarly non-video-equipped technology, is the basic setup:
"In this city-building strategy game, you control a group of exiled travelers who decide to restart their lives in a new land. They have only the clothes on their backs and a cart filled with supplies from their homeland. The objective of the game is to keep the population alive and grow it into a successful culture."
"The townspeople of Banished are your primary resource. They are born, grow older, work, have children of their own, and eventually die. Keeping them healthy, happy, and well-fed are essential to making your town grow."
It is, then, a game of smart resource management and growth over time - neither of which involves money at all. Instead, bartering and trading are your best bets, with professions like farming, hunting, blacksmithing, mining, teaching, and healing providing your fledgling settlement's strained yet resilient backbone.
Adaptability, however, may end up being the most important tool of all. "No single strategy will succeed for every town," explains Banished's website. "Some resources may be more scarce from one map to the next. The player can choose to replant forests, mine for iron, and quarry for rock, but all these choices require setting aside space into which you cannot expand."
Yep, good, OK. I am ready to own this now. Sadly, all we have to work with at the moment is a vague "mid-to-late 2013" release date. But, given that it's all coming from one guy, I think that's a more than acceptable wait. I mean, I can hardly even tie my shoes without a 350-person development team and years of beta testing, so more power to Shining Rock.