Developer: Shining Rock Software
Genres: City-builder, Management, Strategy
Released: 18th February 2014
Banished was not what I expected – well to be honest I’m not sure what I was! I’m a little inexperienced in this certain mix of genres, with the Tropico series – which are certainly not survival games! – and perhaps the Age of Empires games being the closest I’ve played. Deciding to go straight in thanks to the soothing background music boosting my confidence, my village lasted till the first winter where my people all perished from the cold.
This clearly wasn’t the ideal way to begin, but I picked myself up and have been improving with each new attempt. I’m now settled with my current save, so far surviving 147 years with a town that fills the map. With this in mind, I highly recommend that you play the game without the guidance of others, and use any failings to discover solutions by yourself, for a much more rewarding experience.
So why did I persist with a game that clearly hates me? It’s this challenging aspect that is one of the games greatest strengths. If I’d unlocked all the achievements without any problems on my first playthrough, then I simply wouldn’t have been entertained for as long as I have.
Throughout my failures I tried out a variety of survival strategies, making each experience different – and with plenty of possibilities to pursue it ensures little repetition unless you choose so.
It’s a game that requires you to play an active role in keeping your people alive. Don’t confuse it for a casual game. You may be fooled into thinking you can just sit back and watch your village grow after smugly surviving the first winter, but the game will throw plenty of challenges at you that’ll quickly change your attitude. One of the biggest difficulties is the people themselves. While they are your workers and gatherers, they can also be your doom.
A sensible control of your population is essential. Creating too many homes will result in new families with children who will consume your resources while contributing nothing. Not expanding will lead to an ageing population and you’ll find yourself with no workforce later on. If handling your own population isn’t enough, then throw in diseases, tornadoes, fires and infestations to cause you enough grief to threaten uninstalling the game. But you’ll stick with it trust me!
The interface is very simple and you’ll quickly get used to it. I found the graphic quality to be nice enough, pretty similar to Tropico actually. You will however be grateful if you survive long enough to have a busy population as you may experience some lag issues with so many people running around, which could have been worse if the game was more demanding.
I was initially disappointed with the variety of constructable buildings available, however like mentioned, there are many different strategies that you can try out using different combinations. Still if this remains a problem then the new mod support which has recently been added will no doubt offer more options.
The experiences I had at struggling made the succeeding much more sweeter. You may find the winning formula in your first attempt – you’d have to be extremely fortunate! – but there is continuous amount of adapting required if you wish to maintain your village.
As with most games, the beginning was the most enjoyable for me. While there are 36 achievements that offer objectives, unfortunately when they’re completed there is nothing left to aim for as the game doesn’t have an ending. The achievement targets are challenging enough however, and I’m still yet to unlock them all.
I’m warning you now, controlling your population by drastic means doesn’t feel too great. I did feel rather guilty about starving my population till it became manageable again… It’s not the most uplifting of games! The destruction caused by fires and tornadoes is a pain, but I just had to laugh when I saw a tornado appear and wipe out half the village I’d just repaired! Don’t worry, natural disasters can be disabled before creating a save so don’t let this put you off.
Banished is a game I have mixed feelings about, but overall deserves a good rating for the fairly cheap price tag and the amount of time it’s kept me playing. I was sucked in from the beginning. When you start to feel safe that you can put the mouse down and take a breath, you pick it up in disbelief seconds later when 200 nomads appear on your doorstep wanting a new home!
I’m not sure about its replay value once you’ve worked the game out. You do get a random map seed for each restart, with a couple of different environments available, but construction is limited unless mods are added. Don’t be deceived by the calming music!