It's become sort of standard procedure for many medieval games for the PC to be of the real-time strategy genre. You won't find all that many that aren't about armed conflict either, in some way or another anyhow. You've got things like Age of Empires, Medieval: Total War, Crusader Kings, and Stronghold proving this point, and that's just off the top of my head. It's a little rarer to see a game of the city-builder genre occupying the harsh conditions of the middle ages however. For this reason, Banished instantly had my attention piqued from the outset. Forget the luxury of having your own choice of kingdom to rule over: you're among a group of unfortunates that have been banished from relative comfort. This isn't a game where you build prosperity - it's about pure survival. Continue Reading
Release Date: 18th February 2014
Available on: Windows, PC Download
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Banished - A back-to-essentials city-builder with a wonderful medieval twist and an highly original premise
Devoid of Condescension
You'll start out in Banished during the season of Spring, a time that's ripe for all of the planting and the building you'll be doing in the initial stages of the game in the form of mini-goals set for you by the game. The tutorial is seriously good at introducing you to the practical aspects of the game by giving you manageable chunks of information, getting you to perform various tasks like planting and managing your assets, and most importantly it lets you experience first-hand the harshness you'll be experiencing quite frequently throughout, giving you a comprehensive knowledge of what you need to do in a practical and immersive fashion.
A great example of Shining Rock Software's delightfully direct approach is having you plant and build yourself to a reasonable level during the initial Spring, Summer, and Autumn months, then showing you just how harsh the Winters can be by immersing you into a full-on freeze that is going to kill a fair amount of your crop and even your population. You simply don't get this kind of respectful treatment from games like Stronghold; it's like the developers are treating you like adults and everything.
Build to Survive
In the early stages, you'll be performing tasks such as gathering resources like firewood and food as well as building houses for your population of fellow banish-ees. It is the cycle of the seasons - a very simple idea in its own right, but one that is vastly effective at adding a new dimension to survival strategy - that is the driving force here, forcing you to be as resourceful as possible with the space that you have. You'll have to chop down trees to fit in growing areas for your crops as well as living space for your people, both of which you will be short of in the initial seasonal cycles because, well, that's how the game gets you to learn what it's all about.
This is one of the few games of its type in existence where your population itself is considered as much of a vital resource as food or firewood. If any of your population snuffs it because they were outside too long, didn't get enough food, or didn't have access to essential medicines, then the burden is increased for the rest of your population since production of resources takes a hit which in turn puts more of a squeeze on the remaining survivors.
Remember the natural disasters of legendary building sims like Sim City? They're an integral part of the cycle of time in Banished as well, only there is a wider variety of them. Diseases can spread through your population, testing the state of your population's health. A tornado sweeping through your settlement will demonstrate how resilient your population is and also how well you are able to rebuild. These disasters essentially act like random inspections by force, prodding at different aspects of your infrastructure and reminding you in the harshest of ways which bits need bolstering and which are fit for purpose. Don't underestimate them however: just because they are a test doesn't mean that a blight in your crop won't absolutely devastate your population.
The best description of the gameplau I can give for newcomers is "positively bleak", meant in the most complimentary of ways. Unlike other games where you can simply wait a while and get a comfortable quantity of resources restocked, you're always on the verge of struggling in Banished, whether this be because of a tornado, a fire, crop death, or your failure to control and increase the population numbers.
Imagine the most complex relationship of systems of any other game and multiply that by ten: this is how intricately woven the different systems and infrastructures are in Banished. You have to take the cost of everything into account as well as the risks of your actions, thinking ahead a few seasons to see how much firewood your loggers need to acquire, how much food your population needs and will need in the future, and how well you'll handle natural disasters. Banished is definitely the most delightfully morose game I've ever played, and has one of the best and the most pleasantly minimalistic building sim interfaces out there today.
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Banished is developed by Shining Rock Software.