- Game: Banished
- Publisher: Shining Rock Software
- Developer: Shining Rock Software
- Genre: Strategy
Banished is a city building game (although its more of a town/village) that focuses heavily on the survival aspect, and that aspect can be both harsh and challenging.
I’ve got the game, I’ve been playing it, so what do I think?
The game is set in a pre-industrical/medieval European style world which you never progress beyond. There is no overall victory criteria, no tasks or missions for you to complete (beyond the usual achievements), and the only story is that which the title implies; you are a small group of villagers who have been banished and must start a new life surviving against the elements and hunger. All of which is more difficult than it sounds.
Banished then is a purely sandbox game, where the challenge is an entirely natural one, with the difficulty setting just affecting what supplies you go into exile with. Resource management is the key to success in Banished.
Each game begins with a handful of villagers, a limited stock of supplies, some seeds and livestock (depending on starting difficulty), a new freshly generated map (based on a limited number of settings you choose from at the start) and a few months before winter sweeps in.
Once you begin you must quickly set about clearing some land, mapping out your village, and building the most important buildings. Homes for the people to live in and keep warm, a woodcutter to produce firewood, a blacksmith to make them tools so they can go about their work efficiently, and some kind of food production.
Location, location, location. Where you place each structure and building will greatly affect how much of each resource your people can produce. Build a hunting cabin too far away from your village and your people will spend most of their time walking between the two, and in winter will be exposed to the elements risking illness and death.
After you have built the basics of your town come’s the juggling act. Expanding too quickly or too slowly will lead to disaster. Too quickly and you will not have the food, tools, coats etc. to keep your villagers adequately supplied and they will slowly start dying off. Too slowly and you will have an old population that won’t have kids, which means you can’t replace workers as your people die off preventing you from bringing in the necessary resources to sustain your population until eventually everyone dies off.
This challenge is somewhat diminished if/once you are able to find that equilibrium between expansion and resources, at that point the immediate threat of the death and failure is gone and the game becomes more about the micro management of your resources.
The game does attempt to resolve this by throwing up a few random events. Longer winters, poor harvests, crops and herds becoming infested with disease, and your population can come down with illnesses such as measles and influenza.
Your workers can also die on the job; miners killed in cave ins, builders falling off ladders and hunters getting killed by boars are just a few of the accidents awaiting them. These accidents require that you keep an eye on how your workers are assigned and constantly tweak them.
However what truly sets Banished apart from other games city building games like the Sim City series is the real risk of failure. If you make a mistake, if you do not act quickly enough, or if you do not manage your resources correctly, the people in your village will die and it’s game over. It has made me truly paranoid about the number of my resources, I never feel like I quite have enough.
There are other ways that Banished is set apart from other city building games. There is no currency in the game, every building requires resources to be built, not some arbitrary price. The game begins with each building being available to build giving you complete control on how you wish your town to develop and grow. Finally there is no constant immigration to grow your population, there are the occasional nomads who will look to settle in your town once you have built a town hall, but other than them the only way to grow your population is by building houses for young couples to move into and start their own families.
The tutorial is lovely and does a good job of teaching you how to play the game along with all the different game mechanics.
The visuals of Banished are stunning, the environments feel alive and you can feel the changes in the seasons. The snows and the rains are a particular highlight.
Likewise the sounds do a good job of adding to the atmosphere. The music is charming and relaxing and fits in with the whole pre-industrial/medieval society.
Banished is a city building game unlike many others, the challenge is intrinsic, focusing purely on the survival aspect that is harsh and unforgiving with a real risk of failure. A must buy for anyone into the genre.
The main thing this game has taught me is that I should never be put in charge of running a town.