Recently a game was launched on Steam that caught my eye, called Banished it is a city-builder that takes a different step from games like SimCity or your average Facebook side game, by teaching the player what to do within the game in an eloquent and efficient manner, Banished is a game that can be easily picked up and given the go ahead for a couple of hours.
By using a clean and minimalistic interface that is completely customisable, the basis of Banished is something that can be played easily without the need of even touching the tutorial, and thanks to the lack of interfering pop-ups and external interruption, Banished is simply a breath of fresh air when compared to the other more highly produced games.
And it all gets better when you actually start playing the game, when its mechanisms and techniques make the game both easy to understand but still with a hint of difficulty. This difficulty isn’t from the usual time limits or invasions, but instead from the various rhythms of play, expanding to quickly will mean that you will run out of food in a shorter space of time, or even running out of supplies of firewood could mean that your citizens die from freezing in the winter.
There is one problem with this method however, and Banished can sometimes become a little too difficult at times, with even the largest of villages sometimes becoming too hard to manage, and quickly deteriorates.
In terms of the actual gameplay, Banished is set in a pre-industrial Europe that wouldn’t be too far from the villages of Skyrim, couple that with beautiful weather graphics and impressive architectural styles, that makes the game almost entrancing even in a longest of game sessions.
When that first spot of snow or rain drops on your recently completed city, the environment quickly becomes gripping enough to keep going for longer, the sound design in Banished is also something to behold, with an unobtrusive and charming style, that plays along as you do.
The story of Banished is one that never reaches a point of equilibrium, leaving the player always stuck to their city, and never reaching the feeling that they are actually done with their town. Because the story is one that is always collapsing, you are forced to constantly expand your city in order to build upon your population, but in doing so you also need to build upon the town behind it, making sure that all of your population is housed, feed and at work, creating a constant balancing act.
When balancing this act you must also consider the placement of the infrastructure, as if you place a workers home too far away from their place of work, your workers will become inefficient, thankfully the games design actually allows for you to do that with humongous map sizes, as well as allowing you to place things like supplies and food from one centralised location.
In order to gather these supplies and food banks, the player must place buildings for things link hunting, gathering, finding medicinal herbs from forests, and placing workshops where your citizens will gather firewood, and even tame the forest around them.
However get into one or two bad winters in a row, and you might find yourself with a lack of supplies that causes famine and quickly destroys the city you have spent all that time on, match this with the problem of a high children to labourer ratio and this causes even more problems, as children don’t work within your cities and simply eat food all day, you end up with way to many mouths to feed.
However both of these things aren’t a bad thing, I actually found this to create a storyline that motivates you to keep chugging along, making sure that you constantly have more supplies than you need, and its all ready in the right places.
There a couple of problems with Banished, the first of which is that there’s not much else to do after you have built up a massive town, leaving the feeling that you don’t really have to complete a play thorugh, and often simply start an entirely new one.
On top of that, Banished scenery can often get boring if stared at for too long, I would have preferred it if the game offered the chance to upgrade the buildings within your town to different eras, maybe even implementing new technologies that will make a longer play through more worthwhile.
Overall however, Banished is one of the most compelling city building games I have ever played, combining overwhelming charm with wonderful gameplay that is greatly enhanced with excellent graphics, beautiful sound and story that keeps you going.