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Frostpunk; fun to start, but little depth as you keep playing.

If you've heard of FrostPunk, you known it's a city-builder with a few unique mechanics, notably around changing weather and needing to keep your citizenry warm through cold winters by building better-insulated buildings, and burning coal in a giant generator in the middle of the city. It seems to take place in the 19th century with a group of English refugees running away from London to one of these generators in the Arctic, during a climate change event which is causing the whole planet to become unlivably cold. The title makes it seem like they're trying to create a whole new aesthetic, but it's basically indistinguishable from Steampunk taking place in an arctic environment.

I like city builder, and it's on Gamepass, so I decided to give it a try. I played 3 games of Frostpunk. First one was the main scenario on medium. I made some poor decisions because I didn't understand all of the mechanics of the game, so I started over. And on the second play-through I beat the main scenario. I found it a little challenging (playing on the default difficulty) but very doable once you figured out what you're doing.

After that, I was eager to get more of it, so I decided to start a game on Endless mode. And, that's where I was able to see that there isn't a lot of depth to this game. During the early parts of the game, it's a struggle to survive as you get your resource-collection economy running, and the scenario has a hard end right about when you finally get there. But on endless, you get your resources set up, and then… that's it. The game becomes painfully easy and there's really not much more to do. The city basically runs itself, and all you have to do is respond to events (typically, just clicking "Ok", or choosing the obvious option), and move scouts around if you want to (but this is unnecessary after awhile, since they mainly just bring in resources from out of the city and after awhile, you have everything you need).

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There were parts of the technology progression that I wanted to see more of after beating the main scenario. Technology advances in two different ways. The first is that you can research new tech by manning workshops with engineers (this also costs resources for each item researched). The second is the "book of laws" where you get to decide new societal policies, each branching out to new options that you can pick.

The book of laws seemed really promising at first, because you start with one set of laws to choose from (called Adaptation), but then at one point in the main scenario, you get to pick one of 2 new sets; "Hope" (which seemed to focus on religious edicts) and "Order" (policing). I thought this was really cool at first. I liked the idea of choosing from new sets of technology as they came out in the game. But I was disappointed to find out that you only get to pick that one time. Each game, you only get adaptation, and one of either "hope" or "order", and no other choices. The first playthrough I picked hope, and on the 2nd playthrough I picked order. They were also both disappointing, because you find out that every edict is basically marching your society closer to a repressive theocracy or police state respectively. Each of them has a final "upgrade" that is basically you declaring yourself an unquestioned dictator (either theocratic of fascistic) and using it to squash all dissent. It's pretty bleak.

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But the main problem is just that it is very easy to run through absolutely everything to do. You fully upgrade your tech tree, your book of laws, and you have a nice resource-gathering economy, and you're basically set with no further challenges or need to grow and improve; just some occasional maintenance.

Like I said, I liked it when I was starting, but I've already seen and done basically everything in this game, and don't feel a need to play it again after 2 and a half playthroughs.


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