I planned to write this review three weeks ago, but my therapist said it would be better if I would leave Banished be for a while. Now that I have come to peace with the game and myself I can finally tell you what I think of this new city-building strategy game.
Genre: City-building strategy game
Developer: Shining Rock Software
More food please
As the name suggest is Banished about people whom have been exiled from their homelands and arrive with not much except the clothes on their back. You as player will start with nothing either. No tutorial, no introduction, no objectives. It’s you and your people against starvation, the cold and other more unexpected death causes.
I started with a game on easy which means you start with a little bit more food, a couple of houses and seeds for sowing. I made food my first priority and made several farm fields to grow wheat and beans on. I also chopped down half the forest and build some extra houses. All seemed to go well: my people were busy, well fed and procreating. Then winter set in. The food supply from the harvest was gone before the first snow came down and during that winter four people died. Sad, but that would just mean lesser mouths to feed right?
It also meant a smaller workforce which still had to produce enough food to feed themselves and their children. Which I actually managed! No one died from starvation the next year and with the children growing up, I would soon have more people to work on the fields. But doom was lurking. One should not forget that in Banished winter is actually coming every year and you have to make sure no one is freezing. My people did freeze because they would not burn normal logs, only special chopped firewood. Spoiled exiles. twelve people died and my town was down to four people.
The Dark Souls of city-building games
I decided to abandon these people and the predicament they were in. I started a new game with a new flock of exiles and managed to keep them alive for 5 years this time. After few more tries I managed to have a growing population! But then a house caught fire and the whole place burned down. After I starved, froze and burned about 120 people to death from various towns I was about to give up. This game is too hard. It is the Dark Souls of city-building games.
I started a new game and this time on hard difficulty, I mean it could not get that much harder. Right? Well it didn’t! On hard difficulty you start without any buildings and most importantly: without seeds. This means you will have to manage with hunting and gathering as main sources for food for the first 5-10 years or so. Hunting and gathering is far easier to manage and less risky than agricultural food sources. There was now food in abundance, all because of starting a game hard and having to resort to other sources for food. Not that this town of exiled managed to stay alive. In this town the people became unhappy and stopped procreating, so the town just emptied because people died of old age.
The sweet spot
I managed to overcome aging and got my population up to seventy. At that number I hit some sort of wall and could not produce enough food to keep the population growing. I started to think that Thomas Malthus was actually right and that sooner or later population will be checked by famine and disease.
But then it happened, my demographics rocketed to hundred and seventy people in four years time. Not only that, I also had enough food, firewood and houses for them! They were well fed, happy, healthy and warm. I did it! I hit that sweet spot where everything is just right. It is for exactly that moment that you play these kind of games. Now I just have to keep everything balanced and fill the huge map with exiles and their offspring. Although I had the feeling that sooner or later I would lose the balance and people were going to die again.
Banished throws you in at the deep end and is very difficult. It is therefore an excruciating experience most of the time. But when you get it all right, it is just as rewarding. It is a stunningly simple but amazing city building game, which any one who loves this genre and does not mind to be punished for their mistakes will absolutely love.