Banished! building a little village of my own.
Banished, is a town building strategy game by Shining Rock Software and follows a very long legacy in the footsteps of the likes of the Simcity franchise with its own spin on an established genre. It is currently retailing at £14.99 on the steam store though it has been available through the humble store for slightly cheaper since its release. There is a very loose story and is set on a several villagers that are outcast and left in the wilderness to build their own town (and survive). I was initially drawn into the game by all the artwork of very peaceful looking towns in what appeared to be almost a colonial version of SimCity.
You start your game in the middle of the wilderness with a handful of supplies and villagers and at that point are left to get stuck in. There are a substantial number of tutorials that cover a wide range of gameplay topics. I would definitely advise anyone who buys the game to look through at least the first couple as there is a lot of different aspects to the game that would be easily missed without some initial guidance. Although the tutorials don’t cover some of the more advanced topics such as raw resources management, it is worth keeping in mind (like in real life) if resources in an area aren’t given the opportunity to grow back you will find yourself with dwindling resources. One good example of this in Banished would be the hunting lodges, the hunters work within a limited area and over time the deer available if constantly hunted would deplete until they disappear entirely potentially leaving a food shortage. The worlds are procedurally generated when you start a new game so the landscape will vary quite a lot from game to game. Overall the game is very pretty considering it’s from a small developer, and gives a really nice atmosphere of a world that has long since passed. The environment has been very well thought out I think, the music fits in very well to the general atmosphere of the game. Although there isn’t any conflict in the game the developers had tried to keep the game interesting by bringing in other mechanics to throw disruption into the normally sleepy lives of your villagers. These range from crops failing to traders introducing diseases and fires ravaging through the homes and forests of your town.
I feel adding some sort of objectives to the game would make a massive improvement. Currently Banished is more of a sandbox than a strategy, as the only way to fail the game is for your village to perish there doesn’t feel like there is any progression either. After a while it begins to feel like a game in numbers, ensuring there are enough labourers available for when one of your farmers etc eventually perishes through one reason or another. Unfortunately it has left the game feeling a little lackluster as I didn’t care for the individual villagers as they felt more like ants scurrying around filling quotas rather than people in my town. Tropico on the other hand, is also a city builder/ strategy game but it is quite novel in the fact all of the population have their own likes and dislikes (and if made unhappy enough, will revolt!), which I think would make a nice addition to Banished if your leadership isn’t up to scratch.
Thankfully there are a lot of updates planned for Banished in the future which will hopefully add a little more variation to the gameplay which I personally found a little bland. Overall, I think the game is different enough in its ambitions to set it apart from a lot of the SimCity copies that cropped up from its success but it doesn’t have enough longevity to make you want to keep visiting your little village.