Game Review: Banished

I’m mixing things up a bit today with a computer game review.  Few people are aware of my crippling video game addiction (mostly because I spent too much time playing therefore I had no social life) so today I’m outing myself and putting this problem to good use.

It's a whooper of a game. Copyright Shining Rock Software

It’s a whooper of a game.
Copyright Shining Rock Software

Banished is the indie game brainchild of one man, Luke Hodorowicz, the founder of Shining Rock Software.  There isn’t a specific back story to the game; all you know is that you were banished (for an unknown reason) to a remote area and it is up to you to plan the city and keep your villagers alive.  It’s like a hybrid of Starcraft, SimCity, and the Civilization series.

I spent about two or three hours playing last night.  The first thing I noticed is how effing difficult this game is.  I started playing on medium difficulty, fair weather, and disasters enabled.  After a quick and painful death about 20 minutes into my adventure I had to switch to easy with mild weather.  I left disasters enabled because I couldn’t 100% cheat.

Banished Winter Scene

I hope you like frostbite and starving to death.
Copyright Shining Rock Software

Strategy is absolutely key in this game.  Villagers need to have enough food and firewood to make it through the winter.  Some clothes would be nice but my villagers quickly realized they can’t always get what they want.  Without depleting my resources too badly I was able to set up a woodcutter, fields, livestock pens, fishing dock, hunting lodge, and a house for people gathering materials (food, herbs, etc) in the woods.  Boom!  Everyone had a job and the town made it through the harsh winter with enough food and firewood.

A typical setup upon starting the game.  Storage barns, homes, fields all clumped together.  Villagers must build the woodcutter shop (see above image if you question the need for firewood). Copyright Shining Rock Software

A typical setup upon starting the game. Storage barns, homes, fields all clumped together. Villagers must build the woodcutter shop (see above image if you question the need for firewood).
Copyright Shining Rock Software

It was about this time I realized the game also mocks you.  I was celebrating my victory over winter by looking for a place to build a marketplace and a trading post when I suddenly got alarms that villagers were dying.  First three villagers, then ten…What the fuck?  My boyfriend would dub this episode “The Spring of Death.”  It all started with the tornado that killed all but five villagers.  They started to rebuild their houses and stockpiles and just when it looked like they might bounce back…they ran out of food and died.

These burned out and destroyed structures mean you did it wrong. Copyright Shining Rock Software

These burned out and destroyed structures mean you did it wrong.
Copyright Shining Rock Software

Back to the New Game menu for me.

I spent a lot of time on the New Game Menu. Copyright Shining Rock Software

I spent a lot of time on the New Game Menu.
Copyright Shining Rock Software

Overall, the range of play is great.  The maps are large and plentiful.  Each map (I’ve only played three but there are many more) has a water supply for fishing docks and trading posts.  Some locations are easier to play than others.  The location where all my villagers were wiped out was particularly difficult because it was surrounded by water and trees with little room for movement immediately.  Hence the total destruction of everyone living within three feet of each other.

There are ample resources available.  Here alone there are mushrooms, logs, stone, and animals for hunting. Copyright Shining Rock Software

There are ample resources available. Here alone there are mushrooms, logs, stone, and animals for hunting.
Copyright Shining Rock Software

Unlike many strategy games players have everything they need right from the start.  All players really need to be concerned with is hunting down raw materials like wood, iron, stone, and coal.  Otherwise all buildings, skills, occupations, livestock, seeds, etc. are immediately available for construction and use.  This may be off-putting for some gamers but I didn’t mind as it just made me think a bit more about strategy: Do I want a schoolhouse to teach children to be more efficient laborers or do I want the church to keep up village moral (unhappy villagers are not useful laborers)?

I started the game with six homes, a storage barn, sheep, and pumpkin seeds.  I also had ample logs, stone, and iron.  Yes, I was playing on easy mode. Copyright Shining Rock Software

I started the game with six homes, a storage barn, sheep, and pumpkin seeds. I also had ample logs, stone, and iron. Yes, I was playing on easy mode.
Copyright Shining Rock Software

There is no story line which is great because I hate to play a plot based game.   Also it doesn’t appear to have a finish line either which is new to me. There is no way to “win”.  The whole purpose of the game is simply to survive and grow your town into a thriving medieval metropolis.  Occasionally things pop up where villagers might steal food and you have to decide how to handle that but there is no central plot based play.

This thriving town is a happy town. Copyright Shining Rock Software

This thriving town is a happy town.
Copyright Shining Rock Software

I loved this game.  Hardcore.  Even when I knew I wasn’t going to be able to survive a particular map I still gave it my all (I got a little involved) for the sake of the villagers.  I think that’s the thrill of the game: knowing that I could lose at any moment made the little victories that much sweeter.  Well worth the frustration and the money.

Buy it here for $20 USD.

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3 comments

  1. I am going to show this review to my husband as he loves these types of games 🙂 Is this available in the UK do you know?

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