This past weekend I picked up a really great city-building strategy game called Banished. The concept is simple: You are a banished group of exiles who have to settle a new area to survive. Will you die or start a new thriving civilization that will go on for hundreds of years? If you’re me, you’ve probably died a dozen times already.
Banished looks and sounds simple on the outside. You simply have to make buildings and keep your people healthy, happy, and their bellies full of food. There’s so much more to it, though, when you realize each of those mechanics are fully developed and very close to reality.
It’s all about risk and resource management. Want to plant crops? In other games it’s only a matter or assigning land to be farmed and workers to tend the crops, but in Banished you have to worry about which crops can survive the temperatures when it gets cold or be harvested in time. An early winter will ruin your crops. Working in the snow will lower worker efficiency, cause them to become ill, and then the least of your concerns will be whether or not your pumpkins withered. Oh, and I should probably mention that if you farm in the same place for too many seasons your soil will be ruined.
Every resource requires real thought. You need firewood to stay warm in the winter. Firewood comes from wood logs. Chopping down trees is simple, but once you chop them down they take time to regrow and mature to the point of yielding good wood again. Distance matters so it’s not like you can just run to another big section of forest. Reducing your forests will reduce the deer population… and then you might starve. See the trend?
There are no skill trees. If you have the resources you can build it. Should you? Heck no. I learned the hard way that you want to spend several hour ramping up your village slowly. Focus on getting food up and running, and think several steps ahead. The first six times my settlement failed miserably because my population outgrew my ability to gather food. It was sad when Billy the Child starved to death freezing in his house.
Plan how your settlement will expand. Think about where your rivers are located and how to best utilize your population. Oh, and you can literally assign every single person individually to a job. Speaking of jobs, there are lots of them. Everything from gatherers for nuts and berries to tailors, blacksmiths, herdsman, builders, laborers, traders school teachers, etc. You can manage them all.
The UI is fantastic and simple to use. Pulling up windows is simple, and moving them wherever you want is a nice touch. The information you need is all easily available and simple to understand — the tick is knowing that you need it. I could ramble on and on about all the things you can do and the strategies you should use. I’ll save that for another time.
I’m blown away by the fact that this entire game was done by one person. Banished released for PC on Steam, gog.com, and the Banished’s official site. It’s DRM free, can be streamed/youtubed freely, and costs $19.99. I love when indie devs simply make great games meant to be enjoyed.
If any of you pick up Banished, I would love to swap strategies and ideas in the comments below.