Banished – PC
Developer: Shining Rock Software
Publisher: Shining Rock Software
Release Date: February 18, 2014
Genre: City Builder
Nerd Rating: 9.5/10
Reviewed by Princess Psych
How do you think you’d fare if you and your people were banished from your home and it was up to you to turn your struggling band of misfits into a thriving town? Well Banished is your chance to find out. A group of 4 to 6 families (depending on your difficulty setting) have been banished from their home town for no explainable reason. By choosing between easy, medium, and hard, you can choose how far along the villagers are before you begin guiding them; from easy having 6 families with houses and lots of supplies, to hard having 4 families and no buildings with very little resources.
No matter how your town starts, it’s your job to make sure it continues to grow and be prosperous as you design the town in whatever way you want.
In Banished the most constant issue you will face is running out of resources. You have to keep your storage of firewood, herbs, and food stocked in order to keep your people warm, healthy, and fed. Logs, stone, and iron are used to build new buildings.Tools are used to make sure that your people can work. Coats are used to make sure they can work longer, and ale is there to keep them happy. Having a lot of things to control can be overwhelming, but it ensures that you’ll never have a dull moment when playing this game. And it does seem like a lot to keep track of, doesn’t it? Well it gets worse when you break down some of the categories.
Food can be gained from many different resources. The most profitable, and what you should focus on early on, is gathering from the surrounding area using a gatherer’s hut. The people who work here will gather berries, roots, onions, etc. from the area within the yellow circle. With any building that has a circle you want to make sure that you avoid placing two of the same buildings in the area or you run the risk of over-using the area, actually decreasing your productivity rather than increasing it. Food can also be collected from the rivers and ponds using fishing docks, as well as from hunting with a hunting cabin and farming with various seeds and trees and livestock, the amount of which you start with depends on your difficulty setting. This allows you to focus on what you want to focus on. Do you want to be one with nature and simply gather all of your food from surrounding areas, or would you rather be a purely agriculture driven town that grows all of its own food? The various ways to collect food allow you to decide how your town will grow.
For tools and coats you first have to decide which type you’ll be making, choosing which materials to use in order to do so. Iron tools are made from logs and stone, while steel tools add coal and last much longer. The same goes for coats. You can make hide coats using the leather collected from the hunting cabin, or wool coats using wool produced from a flock of sheep, but if you mix the two together you’ll have a warm coat that lasts long so your workers can work in the cold longer.
You’ll notice that especially early on, you will find all the resources you need simply by collecting what is in the area. But as time goes on you’ll find yourself cutting down all the tress and breaking apart all the rocks, leaving you dry without any resources to continue building. In such an instance you’ll need to build such buildings and a forester to replant trees, a quarry to find stone in the ground, and mines to collect stone and coal from mountains. This adds a new level to Banished that many city-builder games don’t include. If you decide to forgo the forester in order to get a healthy level of wood at the start of the game you may find yourself out of wood, and with no trees left to build a forester with, leaving you stuck to watch your people freeze to death for lack of firewood. When you build quarries and mines they take up a lot of space, can’t be destroyed, and cause a lot of accidental deaths to those working in them, such as cave ins and run away boulders. This element shows the give and take of building a city, giving up a few lives and some space in order to develop another part of the town.
Depending on your difficult level, your starting population will vary. You have 19 professions as well as laborers who will transport goods, remove resources, and replace jobs when people die. And with the various ways people die, the need for replacements could become quite grand. As mentioned earlier, people can die from occupational hazards, women can die during childbirth, tornadoes can wipe out a hefty amount of people, a fire can claim its share of lives, and as usual people will die of old age. That’s one of the things that sets Banished apart from the rest of city builders; people live and die like they do in real life. People will drink if you build a brewery, they’ll go to church if you build a chapel, they’ll mourn the dead if you give them a graveyard, teens will go to school if you build one (increasing the time before they can work while teaching them to improve productivity), people will use wells and rivers to put out fires, and so forth. Everything they do mimics real life, and they’re all at your control.
More often than not, in your early games you’ll find yourself saying, “You have food (or firewood or anything) in storage, it’s right there just go get it!” But the villagers will be too far away from your storage units to reach them before they starve or freeze to death. This is where a market comes in handy. Building markets and stocking them with vendors will distribute the goods you have in storage among the different markets, allowing people to stock their houses and get basic materials closer to them so they don’t have to travel half the map to get them. And when winter starts to approach you want to make sure the houses are thoroughly stocked with firewood.
You won’t start any game with all of the things you need to thrive, those being the seeds and livestock for a thriving farm life. However there is a way to acquire these by trading with others, a feat you can accomplish by building a trading post and stocking it with overstocked items. Each item will have a value to it, from 1 gold for most foods, to 15+ gold for your coats. As the game goes on various merchants will stop by the trading post and you can buy things from food, to seeds, to materials in exchange for your own materials, but be aware that not all merchants will buy all you have to sell as merchants tend to stick to buying what they sell, something that most merchants do in real life, as a tools salesman isn’t going to be interested in buying your wool. Yet another small mechanic that sets Banished above other city building games.
Banished has a bunch of those little add-ons that don’t sound terribly important but all add up to one immersive experience. Your town hall allows you to accept nomads into your town, increasing population while also putting everyone at risk of getting a
disease that can only be healed at a hospital. The changing weather will increase or decrease productivity and the temperature will determine how long your workers can work without proper clothing. The recorded passing of years allows you to keep track of your progress and set goals for yourself.
From basic mechanics to the small things you might not think would be included, Banished truly delivers with a fantastic experience that will keep you busy for hours.
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