It has been two years since 11 bit studios revealed to the world that the team is working on Frostpunk 2, with the highly acclaimed society survival game set to get a sequel that will hopefully build on everything that has made it so special. And based on a hands-off preview led by the developers, there is a growing belief that it will do just that and more, testing players’ ability to build, manage, and juggle all the responsibilities of a post-apocalyptic world.
Rather than focus on the narrative-driven experience that will await players in the main campaign, 11 bit studios took the opportunity to show off its Utopia Builder, the sandbox gameplay imbued with unique Frostpunk elements that will create tales of survival and failure alike.
“It’s been 30 years after the great storm. And really, when you think about it, if you survive the end of the world, what is the meaning?” Jakub Stokalski, the co-director and design director of Frostpunk 2, said. “This has been a question that we’ve asked ourselves. The big question then becomes what now? And really, this question is at the very heart of what’s making Frostpunk 2. Because ultimately, what we want to show with the game is conflict revolving around that.”
That very conflict will unfold in several ways, all while the sequel takes things to a whole other level of scale and scope. A settlement now consists of districts that will drastically affect how a city can function, and instead of days, players will be dealing with things that can take place over weeks, months, and even years. More land can be reclaimed from the cold, ensuring that cities can grow to quite impressive sizes if all things go well.
Considering that this is still a world gone wrong, there is every chance to mismanage your way to a frozen death, even if the mechanics have changed from the first game.
To make that feasible, the economy in Frostpunk 2 has also been revamped, representing a proper supply and demand relationship. The various factions of people that stay within the city will have differing needs that can be met by certain districts and their functions, and decisions made can further impact the eventual outcomes.
Within each district, specific buildings can be constructed, described as “modifiers or enablers” that can upgrade or augment these areas and open up even more avenues to fight for survival. The team pointed to the Research Institute as an example, where new technologies can be pursued to bring about change. But, in typical Frostpunk fashion, it goes far beyond the technological side of things and dives into factions, humans, and the differences that mark us.
Do you go with the foragers’ idea of using human waste to boost food production? Or, do you leverage the engineers’ expertise to use chemicals to achieve the same effect? Each decision must be made with strategic planning in mind, taking into account not just how the city itself will function, but also the people and their demands at the end of the day.
While they may not be opposing factions, communities will have their say, and that can lead to other issues that can arise. This in turn creates a unique tale of your own city that is guided by your decisions.
These factors also play into district synergies as well, another way Frostpunk 2 will test players’ abilities to build with foresight while keeping the lights on. After all, no one wants to live next to a waste processing plant, however much good that will bring them.
“We are really putting a lot of effort into ensuring that we do not trap you in these types of situations. So you will be able to plan in a smart way to avoid and really be a leader that provides the best for your people. And at the same time, I just want to highlight that, Frostpunk 2 is still meant to be a difficult game. So just don’t expect to get it right on the first try,” Stokalski said.
Another way to alleviate problems is through the important Council building, a place where the people can come share their ideas in a forum and vote on the fundamental rules that are used to govern the city. This can ultimately decide the direction of what kind of people the city represents.
“So in many ways, aside from the obvious gameplay consequences that every law will have, in a lot of ways, this is a question of what you as a player, and really as a human being, what type of a society, what type of a future now, what types of social foundations would you like to build on,” Stokalski said.
Even then, it’s not a decision that players can just make. Support has to be garnered for ideas, negotiations have to be held, and people and factions must be manipulated to get the desired outcomes, delivering even more decisions for you to make as the pressure mounts.
Instead of a power fantasy where everything goes your way, having this subversion of the gaming experience continues the great work that the original Frostpunk had done, and forces players to either grow as leaders or sink deeper into a web of false promises and potential failure.
I was already looking forward to learning more about what 11 bit studios had planned for the main campaign of Frostpunk 2, but now I’m even more excited to see what comes next. The run-through of the Utopia Builder mode touched on several significant changes that sees the stakes elevated and the tension build even more, be it in a sandbox mode or a more directed story mode.
Not everyone is capable of surviving the hard times, and Frostpunk 2 will certainly put all your values and commitments to the test when the frost comes and the people begin airing their grievances in 2024.