Take the average AAA city builder, remove traffic jams and district zoning and add a bit of urgency and personality. Oh, take away about four hundred years of technology as well. What’s left? That’s Banished. Shining Rock Software hit it home on this one. Not only did they successfully create a city building sim based in the middle ages, but they did it well.
There’s no story to speak of in Banished. The story is what you make of it. You start a village with some families who have been supposedly banished. Banished from where? Who knows? Why were they banished? Who cares? The important thing is they are here now, and so are you. It’s YOUR responsibility to help these people survive! C’mon, you’re just not gonna let them starve to death are you? (Maybe…) It’s up to you to tell them what to build, where to build and how to build in order to keep them sheltered, fed, clothed, healed, equipped, “religioned”… Or even dead.
The player can choose from three difficulties and three map sizes. All maps are procedural generated with the option to save a seed in case a buddy wants to play on the same terrain, which is kind of nifty. The harder the difficulty the less families and resources the game starts with. Other than that all difficulties are exactly the same. Disasters are possible if allowed and are quite devastating if one hits.
The game will get more and more difficult the longer a village progresses. The challenge isn’t to expand the colony, but to do so and continue to survive. It’ll become apparent just how quickly the population can get out of control if not watched carefully or accounted for accordingly. The larger a colony gets, naturally the more it needs to eat. Thus, requiring more villagers to hunt, gather, farm, or ranch. If the player does successfully manage to expand their village to where the map can’t realistically accommodate any more residents, then this is where Banished’s weakness really shows. Once one has built and survived everything there is to build or survive, that’s it. There’s little more left after that. In terms of end game content, there isn’t much available. On the other hand there is an ever-growing modding community, that could potentially add near infinite replayability.
By no means is Banished an ugly game. As a matter of fact it’s quite pretty in the minimalist and simplistic kind of way. There just isn’t much in the way of foliage on the forest floor, one won’t see leaves blowing in the wind, or super awesome watery physics. Though, that’s not something that’s generally looked for in a game like this. The important thing about a strategy city builder is the mechanics and intricacy of it all. The sound on the other hand is pretty decent for what few tracks are actually in the game. They’re calm and relaxing. The audio is exactly what’s called for in a game like this.
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