Banished is a title I’ve mentioned here a few times, and it was finally released yesterday. Spoiler alert: I love the game.
To quickly cover some basics; Banished is a city building game set in a non-historic medieval setting. You start with a small group of people who have been banishes (and that’s as deep as the lore goes) and you use them and their starting resources to create a new town. Housing, food production, resource gathering, trading with merchants that come via river, dealing with disasters; Banishes has most city-building basics covered. There is no military/combat aspect. Maps are randomly generated, and you can tweak some aspects (small/med/large map, mountains or valleys, milder or harsher weather, starting difficulty, etc).
First it’s very important to note that Banished is the effort of one man. In that context the quality and depth of the game is stunning, because even out of context the game (based on the 4-5 hours I’ve played it so far) is fantastic. And it’s fantastic not because it has one new feature to write home about, or has stunning graphics, or because the 4th pillar of voice features some semi-famous ‘celebrity’.
No, Banished is fantastic because it’s very clear that the game is one man’s vision of what his ultimate city building sim would be, and he had the talent to pull it off and put wonderful, atmospheric graphics and sound around it. Playing the game is almost zen-like, in that you just get lost in watching it so often rather than constantly jumping between moving things along at 10x speed, executing a few commends, and going back to 10x (btw, if that’s how you play it, you are doing it wrong. Don’t be that guy and ruin the game for yourself).
Another great thing about the game is how flexible it is; you don’t need to build things in a specific order to open the tech tree (there is no tech tree, you are only limited by what resource you have and if you have people who can do the work), so if you want to move faster towards a trading-based town, you can do that. If you want to ignore trading and just build a self-sustaining town, that’s possible as well. You can focus on farming, or hunting, or goods production; the game doesn’t force you down a path to an ‘end-point’.
You can also do it all, and the game is interesting in that the difficulty does ramp up as your town gets bigger because as you have more people, a shortage of something hits you faster and harder, and once people start dying, it can be really tough to reverse the trend (though it is possible, and feels extremely rewarding).
I really can’t recommend the game enough if you enjoy city builders. It’s both familiar so you can get right into it, but also just different enough to feel special. It’s also great to see this game is currently the number one seller on Steam. A niche title made by one man beating out everything from huge publishers, even if only for a few days, is a great sign for PC gaming, and is exactly the direction a lot of us have been hoping things would go.