My newest gaming obsession is Banished, a city-building strategy game from Shining Rock Software.
It’s very Sim City-esque. Any game where I can micromanage the lives of people is a game I’ll love, and this game is definitely all about micromanaging.
You are in control of a handful of exiled travelers set out to rebuild their lives with little more than the shirts on their backs. The objective of the game is to keep your people alive and grow them into a successful community. The resources you begin with depend on which level of difficulty you decide to play on. If you start on easy, you’ve already got a couple of houses, some seeds, and some crops. Medium gives you a little less of these, and hard gives you a small cart full of food and firewood to hold you over until you can build your own houses and find your own food. Any level is going to take you a few false starts before you figure out what works best, especially on level hard. Every town is randomly generated, so that skews the difficulty of the difficulty levels. Essentially every game is slightly different.
Every resource you need must be gathered by your people. It’s not like Sim City where you build whatever houses or buildings you want as long as you have the money. There is no currency in this game. You have to send your people out to chop down wood, you have to set up foresters in the forest to replenish the trees you’ve chopped down, then you have to assign people to either chop the logs into firewood or to use them to build a house or any other building you need. If you don’t have enough houses, firewood, or clothing, your people will freeze to death in the winter. If you don’t build houses, your population won’t grow. If you build too many houses at once, your population will grow faster than you can feed it. If there’s not enough food, they’ll starve to death. You can get food from farming, hunting, fishing, but for every food gathering resource, you need people to run it. Each crop or orchard you plant requires a few people to plant and harvest. So the more food you’re growing, the more farmers you need to work the fields, and therefore the more people you need. The more people you have, the more food you need and so on and so on. It’s a vicious circle, and there’s a lot that can go wrong. If you don’t have a hospital at the ready and a store of medicine when a disease breaks out, good luck trying to build one during the dysentery outbreak when people are too busy shitting their insides out and dying to build and gather wood.
To survive and grow, close management of your resources is a must. It’s a constant balancing act. Miss one season of crops and you’re fucked. Your food will dwindle quickly and your people will die. Take on a group of nomads without enough extra materials and things will go to hell in a handbasket very quickly. Slack off on firewood and they’ll freeze to death. If citizens’ places of work are too far from their homes, it’s possible that they’ll starve or freeze during the death march back and forth. So where you build stuff is just as important as what you build. If the layout of the map allows, I like to build several small districts within the town so that people have all jobs and all resources available within close distance.
It’s hard to read the text in the above picture. You can choose the menus you want to appear on the screen. The one on the top left tells you the name of your city, how many people you have, and the amounts of all of your resources. The menu on the top right has a list of all the professions and how many people are needed to fill those positions. I like to keep it open because you can use it to change people from one profession to another when you need to.
As I’m writing this review I’m thinking to myself, “This game sounds like a lot of work!” And I suppose it is, but it’s FUN. After owning the game for only 48 hours, I had played for 21. As of this review, I have played for 60 hours.
There’s a great visual feel to the game. The graphics are great for what they are. The grass is nice and green in the summer, there’s rain, and there’s snow. It’s very pretty. There’s an annoying music track, but if you turn that off; you get the nice background sounds of rain and the little tink tink of people working away with their tools. It’s very pleasant. Most impressive about the game is that it was all designed by one person. ONE. I can’t even manage to put on pants some days and this guy developed an entire game in under two years. Impressive.
My only complaint about the game is that it eventually dead-ends. There comes a point where you have enough people that the town pretty much becomes self sustaining. You have enough people on every job and enough left over that they just automatically keep on working without you having to reassign jobs to people to keep up. You can upgrade wood houses to stone houses which requires less firewood to keep warm, but aside from that, there’s no progress. Things don’t evolve. You can’t install heat. You can’t upgrade other buildings. You don’t upgrade to horse and buggies or cars. Everything pretty much stays as it is. However, the game does hearken back to pioneer days when people worked from dawn ‘til dusk (and then some) like savages just to survive the day, and their reward was to wake up the next day and do it all over again. There were no rewards, and you never got ahead; you just survived. So, I suppose that’s reality. Either way, 60 hours is good replay value for $19.99.