By Nathan Collier
For our Podcast episode covering Frostpunk‘s PC version, please use this link. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/september-2019-frostpunk/id1372647464?i=1000451160980
For the review covering specifically the console version of the game, please read on.
Right at the top I’ll lay it out. This is the best example I’ve seen of bringing a strategy game from PC to the console medium.
Of course this genre has always existed on consoles in some form or another, but it almost always feels too tightly connected to the console experience. It’s hard to enjoy a game on console knowing that it isn’t really intended for that space. I love ramen but I won’t eat it on the train, that’s not the right time or place.
From the days of Civilization and Sim-City it’s been clear that the strategy/world building genre is a paintbrush best used on the canvas of PC gaming. This genre is typically filled with a massive number of button commands, a world made for mouse and keyboard. There’s almost always a large map area that requires a free roaming mouse to maneuver over. The genre excels on the mouse and keyboard, but playing a strategy game with a controller in your hand has always been a painful experience, until now.
Frostpunk began freezing PC’s a little over a year ago, and since that time they’re looking at 1.5 million units sold and a great bundle of post-launch content. By almost any metric you want to use, Frostpunk is a success. From there they hunkered down and made a true console version of their game, which isn’t a typical thing to do.
My point is, they didn’t have to do this.
The “typical” company would look at their success, then take their PC game and port the thing to console ASAP. Thank the frozen Gods 11 Bit Studios isn’t your typical company.
From the initial announcement of a console version, 11 Bit made it clear that they had lofty goals. They wanted to make Frostpunk a true “console experience” which means they were taking on a challenge multiple other studios have either failed at or neglected to attempt. The result is a gaming experience that feels natural on PC and also feels natural on console, what a golden-truffle rare treat.
The treats, thankfully, don’t end there. The console version of Frostpunk will land you ALL the additional post-launch content as part of your purchase. My particular favorite (and a favorite of the fan-base) is the new “survival mode” which is an absolutely brutal test of the limits of your resource management and leadership skills. Survival-mode chest thumping is now a regular occurrence within the fan base.
Compared to the PC version of the game, the biggest change comes in menus and navigation which is as it should be. Everything is a crisp short number of clicks. I particularly enjoyed using the L and R bumpers to speed and slow time, even to a stop. My point is, it’s a game that feels good to navigate.
Strategy/ world building games can be hard on CPU performance. There’s an insane number of calculations to run/manage. 11 Bit did have to downgrade a couple of relatively minor texture/shadow related elements but these changes are difficult to perceive if you don’t know to look for them. Even with a slightly downgraded graphic set I found myself preferring the console version of Frostpunk over the PC version. That isn’t that strange however as I’ve tilted toward console my entire life.
Finally, I’ll note that 11 Bit has promised full and ongoing support of the console version of the game moving forward. It’s insane to say that many PC to console games don’t get that same attention and love.
Frostpunk: Console Edition is what happens when a company has true pride for their product and won’t settle with a sub-par experience for the sake of making a few extra bucks.
If you haven’t heard our podcast episode on the PC version of the game, head back to the top and click the link, and please leave a rating if you can.
Nathan is the co-host and co-creator of the Splash Damage Bros. Podcast. He’s needs a coat after playing this game. @thenatejc @splashdamagebro