Given that I am not a happy-go-lucky German factory worker or civic planner, given that the phrase Ich bin ein Anno-holic! is alien tongue to me, I am not a particularly huge city-builder aficionado. But I’d hazard a bet that Frostpunk probably isn’t the best city-builder out there.
To BS for a moment: it doesn’t have the painterly freedom and modding community of Cities Skylines, or the exacting mechanical complexity of something like Banished. Disregard its reputation and appearance – this game is generally not afraid to pull its punches, and is generally exploitable enough that its balance and challenge can be quickly undermined. The very moment you see the discontent meter as an inverted resource to burn via emergency shifts, you can quickly start to get ahead of the tech curve and be set for life.
But Frostpunk does have one really great idea, tucked away in the alternate scenarios.
The “Winterhome” scenario essentially gives you some bumbling oaf’s save file and tasks you with rescuing it. The moment you load this scenario, you will find a city constructed by the Devil – or more likely, his 6-year-old nephew. The roads make no sense. The children are getting an early start in the coal industry. The many corpses are placed handily in a heat zone, soon thawing out and putrefying while the actual housing lies in the furthest, iciest regions of the playable area. Most of the useful space is taken up by ruins that will take days to clean up and dismantle.
The humble city planner is forcibly pushed from their comfort zone – now, they have to invoke every rotten trick in their book just to tread water. They have to take rapid, decisive action and perform triage, when before it was fairly easy to avoid such things by starting off strong. And just when you think you’ve gotten on top of things, the game quite expertly throws you out of the bathtub again – the generator is fucked and is going to explode soon. Now, you pack your city back up as you gather the materials for a quick evacuation, the whole lot soon shrinking down to a tiny ring of truly unlucky people left behind around a cold generator.
In an ideal world, there would be a massive repository of absolutely fucked save files for any game where it makes sense. Never mind 100% completion. Never mind the best ending. Give me the worst start.