Russ started playing Banished again last night, and since my introduction to Clockwork Empires was so poor and I did at least mention Banished then I thought I might as well include it in my review list.
Banished is a colony building strategy game, and it is utterly brutal no matter what difficulty you play it on. You grow your town by building houses, storerooms, assigning colonists to various professions and attempt to survive what turn out to be incredibly harsh conditions which will kill off much of your population in the blink of an eye. Unlike Clockwork Empires, the feel of Banished is much more realistic with your populations’ survival dependent on life’s basics: food, shelter, warmth and once you begin to expand avoiding illnesses and accidents. Winter will be your biggest killer in the end, and until you can produce adequate supplies of clothing you will be unlikely to make it through the frosts unscathed (in fact, in reminding myself of exactly how to play I’ve lost over half my population due to starvation because I forgot to build a gatherer’s hut…).
If you manage to survive or pull through with at least a decent number of younguns who will become labourers it becomes quite satisfying to watch your colony evolve, to trade with wandering merchants to gain access to new crops, or a new animal to put to pasture and to see families live and die over time. It’s received mixed reviews from a number of gaming websites and magazines, some who think it’s great and others who feel that it’s somewhat formulaic. This is somewhat of a given as your colony must be laid out in a grid pattern; you can’t do curvy roads, you have a very limited selection of house layouts, and you can’t really adjust the other buildings your colony needs to become self-sufficient. I think that this stripping back actually works in Banished’s favour over other colony management games because it emphasises your role which is to manage the actions, the economy and the growth of your colony – not to populate it with new wallpapers or shiny decorations.
I find that most colony builders get a bit unwieldy towards the mid game but that’s mostly because I’m not very good at strategy past initial expansion. According to Russ, with Banished it does seem to run out of places to go – there is nothing occurring by this point to retain your interest, and after the brutal conditions of the early game this is quite disappointing. The difficulty doesn’t ramp up like you might expect it to, or throw you any curveballs that put your colony in serious enough peril for you to continue to pay attention. By this point if you’re on your eighth graveyard expansion, quit and try again – early game is by far and away the most engaging aspect of the game anyway.
I’m still going to keep playing Banished, one of the good things about this particular game is that it will run on my laptop, and honestly learning to tackle the harshness of those winters and survive near population wipeout is really quite rewarding so overall I’d recommend it; especially if you like a challenge.
On balance I’m going to give this a 3.5/5