|Developer(s)||11 bit studios|
|Publisher(s)||11 bit studios|
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One|
Frostpunk is a city-building survival game developed and published by 11 bit studios. Players take on the role of a leader in an alternate-history late 19th century, in which they must build and maintain a city during a worldwide volcanic winter, managing resources, making choices on how to survive, and exploring the area outside their city for survivors, resources, or other useful items. The game features several scenarios to undertake, each with their own stories and different challenges.
The game was initially released for Microsoft Windows in April 2018, but was later made available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in October 2019. The game received generally positive reviews upon release and sold over 1.4 million copies within a year of its release.
The player, known simply as "the Captain", starts out with a small group of survivors that consists of workers, engineers, and children, and several small caches of supplies with which to build a city. From there players harvest coal, wood, steel and food in order to keep their society warm and healthy in the midst of constantly fluctuating temperatures. Weather conditions and political turmoil can cause citizens to not want to work as hard. In most scenarios save for "On the Edge" the entire city is centered around the generator, a coal-reliant steam engine that produces heat in a circular radius, which can be extended and intensified throughout the game, requiring greater coal input. The game emphasizes the need to prioritize buildings depending on the heat they require; houses and medical facilities will require close placement to the reactor, lest the player face outbreaks of frostbite and illness. While houses can be insulated better throughout the game, medical facilities will need to be kept above -20°C, or face being inoperable. Workplaces will also need to be insulated, which can be achieved through gathering posts or steam turbines, or completely circumvented with the introduction of machine labor, or "Automatons".
The player has the option to use laws to regulate the productivity of their society at the cost of possibly raising discontent, e.g. allowing child labour or forcing temporary 24-hour shifts, but also laws to develop better healthcare like prosthetics or extra rations to the sick. In most scenarios, the player also has the option to increase the citizens' support either by "Order" which includes buildings and laws to enforce security, or by "Faith", which includes buildings and laws that implement a religion. These two paths can be continued to the point of fanaticism, with the "Order" path leading to a militaristic autocracy, while the "Faith" path leads to a total theocracy. With the final law on either path, the Captain is proclaimed absolute ruler, and the hope mechanic is replaced with a constant value. In addition, a platform is constructed to execute "enemies" or "unbelievers" by scalding them to death with steam from the generator; the player may schedule an execution to lower discontent in their city. Adopting any of the last three laws of both paths will lead to the "Fanatic" ending, should the city survive, where the game remarks how humanity crossed the line and forsook its values in the quest for survival. 11BitStudios have mentioned multiple times that the Law system was designed to force players between the choice of survival or retaining humanity, creating a moral dilemma the game is based around.
Technology is another gameplay feature, with the ever colder environment forcing the city to adapt with better insulation, stronger reactors, better industrial output and more efficient machinery. Building a workshop structure allows the player to research technology and buildings that will make the city more efficient. The city can also construct a beacon to scout the surrounding frozen wasteland for additional survivors and resources.
The game is set in an alternate 1886 where the eruptions of Krakatoa and Mount Tambora, the dimming of the Sun, and other unknown factors caused a worldwide volcanic winter. This in turn led to widespread crop failure and the death of millions. This event roughly lines up with the historical 1883 eruption of Krakatoa, a volcanic event that led to global cooling.
In response to this, several installations called "generators" were built by the British Empire and United States in the coal-rich North, designed to be city centers  in the event that dropping temperatures force mass migration from the south. In all scenarios, the player is the leader of a city around a generator, and will have to manage resources to ensure the city's survival.
The game launched with three scenarios, each with different backgrounds and storylines. Three additional scenarios were added as DLCs, one free to all players and two as part of the Season Pass. Endless Mode was also introduced in a later patch that eschews narrative elements to focus on surviving for as long as possible while weathering intermediate storms.
- A New Home
In the main scenario, the player is the leader of a group of explorers who fled the cold and the hunger of London in an expedition to find supposed massive coal reserves in the North. Instead, the group gets separated from the main expeditionary party and discovers a massive heat generator in a giant sheltered crater and settles there, establishing the city of New London. The player begins to face the issue of the people's dwindling hope as they find out, through exploration, a city similar to theirs called Winterhome has been destroyed, leaving few survivors. The player has to make hard decisions in order to help the people find their purpose and stay hopeful, as well as prevent an uprising by those who wish to return to London. The player later also has to prepare enough supplies to make sure the city survives the ever decreasing temperature, starting at -20C, and slowly decreasing, with some spikes, to an average of -70C. After a certain time, and the conclusion of the Londoners Arc, refugees will arrive, warning of a "Great Storm" incoming, acting as an Endgame. The player will have to stockpile resources, collect refugees, and recall scouts and outposts before the Storm arrives. Coal mines become effectively inoperable due to the cold, the generator struggles to heat the people, frostbite becomes rampant, and hope falls as the temperature falls to -120C in the eye of the storm. Surviving the storm with at least one citizen will result in a "victory", though the consequences may vary. It is suggested that the severity of this storm, and its seemingly huge scale, means that New London is the last city on Earth.
- The Arks
In the second scenario, the player is tasked as the leader of a group of scholars from Oxford and Cambridge responsible for establishing a self-operational city for the purpose of preserving seeds and plants from around the world from the volcanic winter. They settle around a generator located in an ice crevasse. During the gameplay, the player will be presented with the issue of a neighboring city struggling with resources, and will have to make a choice whether or not to help them prepare for the incoming storm.
- The Refugees
In the third scenario, the player is set as the leader of a refugee group who have taken over a generator reserved originally for a large group of wealthy lords. The people had intended the city to be a place where everyone is equal, but in time the people will begin to divide into two separate social classes. The player will also have to deal with constant waves of refugees seeking shelter in the city, including the overthrown lords. The player will have to decide to accept them or reject them while also minding the limited resources they have access to.
- The Fall of Winterhome
Released on September 19, 2018 as a free DLC, this scenario takes place just prior to the main scenario and centers around the city of Winterhome. Through ineffective management by a neglectful leader, resources ran dry and the city fell into anarchy and rioting. Hundreds die in the fighting, starvation, and cold. The player is tasked to rebuild what is left of the city and its residents, but after getting things under control, the player learns that the city's generator is damaged beyond repair, and has only a few days to put in practice an evacuation plan before the generator explodes.
- Endless Mode
Introduced in Frostpunk's 1.3.0 patch, Endless Mode is a highly customizable scenario where players endeavor to build a city to survive for as long as possible. Unlike all the other scenarios, there is no major story or quest objective beyond surviving each winter storm as they come and the scenario only ends when the player loses (either the generator is destroyed or all the people die). Players can choose between two primary sub-modes and one of several different maps, each with different challenges players have to take into account while planning their city. The Endurance sub-mode features fewer available resources and harsher weather while the Serenity sub-mode grants the player most of the earlier technologies and enjoys shorter blizzards. An additional Temporary Hazards setting will also randomly plague players with severe setbacks that inhibit some aspect of their city for a limited time.
- The Rifts
Released on August 27, 2019 as a DLC included in the Season Pass, The Rifts add a new map to Endless Mode and a new building - "The Bridge" - to cross over canyons.
- The Last Autumn
Released on January 21, 2020 as a DLC included in the Season Pass, The Last Autumn is a prequel scenario set just before the onset of the global winter. The British Empire has created the Imperial Exploration Company to scout across the Atlantic Ocean to Canada for sites to construct generators; the player is the overseer of one such location, "Site 113", for the intended evacuation of Liverpool. While constructing their own generator, the player will also be called to investigate the loss of contact with Sites 107 and 120 (destroyed by shoddy workmanship and a syndicalist revolt, respectively), leaving the player's construction site as Liverpool's last hope. If the player takes too long in construction, they risk being fired by the IEC and sent home, ending the game. As the scenario progresses, the first snow begins to arrive and the sea freezes, cutting the site off from the supply ships, and the player must continue to work on the generator and wait out the freezing weather until an icebreaker can arrive to take them home to England. The scenario includes new technology trees and resources, new buildings (including a telegraph station, labour unions, and docks), new Books of Law to determine societal changes moving forward, and new threats to the settlement, including toxic gas leaks and worker strikes. The DLC also includes "The Builders", a new sub-mode for Endless Mode, which involves rebuilding a destroyed generator in winter conditions.
- On The Edge
The final DLC content of the Season Pass, released on August 20, 2020, On The Edge is a sequel to the main scenario, including new challenges and game mechanics. The player is the leader of "Outpost 11", set up by a scouting party from New London near an abandoned army warehouse uncovered by the Great Storm. The outpost is forced to satisfy increasing demands for resources in exchange for food, reaching the point where the workers revolt and declare the outpost's independence from New London. Unlike other scenarios, the outpost has no generator (forced to rely on coal-fired braziers for heat, similarly to the later stages of The Last Autumn) and limited ways to produce resources locally, so they must must depend on trade with other settlements they make contact with to make ends meet. Later in the game, the outpost is informed that New London is in a severe crisis and must choose to provide aid and save the city, or leave it to its fate and prepare for a wave of refugees. The DLC also includes the option of including outposts and trading in all sub-modes of Endless Mode, along the option of triggering random events that will hinder the city's progress.
The game was announced in August 2016. The developers were initially targeting a release in late 2017, but it was delayed until 24 April 2018. The game was released for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One in October 2019. The game was developed using 11Bit Studios internal game engine named Liquid Engine.
Frostpunk received "generally favorable reviews", according to review aggregator Metacritic. It was nominated for "Best Strategy Game" at the Game Critics Awards, for "Best Visual Design" and "PC Game of the Year" at the 2018 Golden Joystick Awards, and for "Best Strategy Game" at The Game Awards 2018. It won the award for "Strategy Title of the Year" at the Australian Game Awards 2018, and was nominated for "Strategy/Simulation Game of the Year" at the D.I.C.E. Awards, for "Game, Simulation" at the National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards, for "Music of the Year", "Best Original Soundtrack Album", and "Best Music for an Indie Game" at the 2019 G.A.N.G. Awards, and for "Narrative" at the 15th British Academy Games Awards.
As with many other titles by 11 Bit Studios, Frostpunk places more emphasis on its story than sandbox features. While the plot and soundtrack have been greatly praised, some have criticised the lack of re-playability, citing the predictability of the story upon repeat. Frostpunk does have endless game modes, where the player can build and expand their city with dynamic challenges, however many still feel there is missed opportunity in sandbox features.
Inspiration and realism
Frostpunk draws its inspiration from the Steampunk genre, envisioning a technologically superior late industrial revolution. This is evident from the heavy reliance of fossil fuels such as coal, mechanical airships and early computing. With the invention of the Steam Core, a device capable producing immense power, although the explanation of such a device varies within the game. The Steam Core's invention led to a "Golden Age" for the British Empire and Western World, catalysing scientific advances and Imperial expansion at the cost heavy coal reliance and a continuation of class division and poverty, another key element of Steampunk.
Actual gameplay also draws heavily from Steampunk, with crowded cities, a huge coal generator, poor living conditions and a end goal of progress at any human cost.
The Ice Age the game displays is unrealistic, but has been theorised to be entirely possible by many scientists and meteorologists. Volcanic Winters are a real phenomenon, with a recorded fall in temperatures after the Eruption of Krakatoa in 1883. The idea of an entire Ice Age being caused by the Yellowstone Caldera is based upon the Toba catastrophe theory, with many theorising that a volcanic eruption of enough magnitude could create enough ash to cover the entire atmosphere, causing global cooling due to lack of sunlight. Global temperatures could drop, feasibly dropping by 1°C or 2°C, however while the environmental effects of the explosion could be catastrophic, leading to mass crop failure and deforestation, most sources on such a theory note that this would last for 6 to 10 years, and it appears as though temperatures of -150°C are unlikely, if not impossible. The game suggests that events such as the Sun dimming, or irregularities in the Earth's orbit, or just natural weather patterns are to blame. While it is unknown what could have enough power to push the Earth further away from the Sun, the slow decline in temperature does support this theory, and a temperature drop to -80°C, while significant, is still possible in the Polar Caps at around 1.5 AU. The Great Storm, however, appears to be an completely unknown phenomenon.
A Frostpunk board game designed by Jakub Wiśniewski and Glass Cannon Unplugged and loosely based on the video game was sold via Kickstarter in October 2020. The Kickstarter campaign achieved €2,496,308 in sales.
- Pickard, James (2019-07-11). "Frostpunk plummets to its lowest price at Fanatical". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2019-08-05.
- McWhertor, Michael (2016-08-30). "Frostpunk is a steampunk survival game set on a frozen world". Polygon. Retrieved 2019-08-07.
- Hood, Vic (9 March 2018). "Frostpunk release date pushed back to April". PCGamesN. Retrieved 10 March 2018.
- "11 BIT STUDIOS S.A. - Zmiana daty premiery gry "Frostpunk"". parkiet.com. 15 September 2017. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
- bankier.pl (August 13, 2019). "Premiera gry "Frostpunk" na konsole Xbox One i PS4 ustalona na 11 października". Retrieved August 13, 2019.
- coderunknown (April 1, 2020). "What game engine the game?". Retrieved April 1, 2020.
- "Frostpunk for PC Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
- "Frostpunk: Console Edition for PlayStation 4 Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
- "Frostpunk: Console Edition for Xbox One Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 25 March 2020.
- "Game Critics Awards: Best of E3 2017 (2017 Nominees)". Game Critics Awards. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
- Hoggins, Tom (24 September 2018). "Golden Joysticks 2018 nominees announced, voting open now". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 October 2018.
- Sheridan, Connor (16 November 2018). "Golden Joystick Awards 2018 winners: God of War wins big but Fortnite gets Victory Royale". GamesRadar+. Retrieved 16 November 2018.
- Grant, Christopher (6 December 2018). "The Game Awards 2018: Here are all the winners". Polygon. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
- Doublejump staff (20 December 2018). "All the Winners from the 2018 Australian Games Awards". Doublejump. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
- Makuch, Eddie (10 January 2019). "God Of War, Spider-Man Lead DICE Awards; Here's All The Nominees". GameSpot. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
- Lagumbay, Emmanuel (14 February 2019). "2019 G.A.N.G. Awards Finalists". Game Audio Network Guild. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
- Fogel, Stefanie (14 March 2019). "'God of War,' 'Red Dead 2' Lead BAFTA Game Awards Nominations". Variety. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
- Newhouse, Alex (30 April 2018). "Steam's New Hit Game Frostpunk Has Already Sold A Lot Of Copies". GameSpot. Retrieved 30 April 2018.
- Taylor, Haydn. "Frostpunk sells 1.4m units in first year". GameIndustry.biz. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
- Oppenheimer, Clive (2002-08-01). "Limited global change due to the largest known Quaternary eruption, Toba ≈74kyr BP?". Quaternary Science Reviews. 21 (14): 1593–1609. Bibcode:2002QSRv...21.1593O. doi:10.1016/S0277-3791(01)00154-8. ISSN 0277-3791.
- Hall, Charlie. "Board game based on hit video game Frostpunk brings in millions on Kickstarter". Retrieved 29 October 2020.