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Survival & Legislature In The Tundra: We Preview Frostpunk 2

We dive into the frozen wastelands of both trying to survive and deal with internal poltics, as we got to play a preview of Frostpunk 2.

Article Summary

  • Explore Frostpunk 2's intense survival and political strategy, set 30 years after the Great Storm.
  • Face harder gameplay with harsh conditions that demand fast, impactful decisions to succeed.
  • Manage a new era of resource gathering and government, balancing society's needs and opinions.
  • Expand your city with new districts and challenge yourself with a fresh, risk-taking gameplay.

Previously, we talked about how 11 Bit Studios invited us out to play a couple of games as we now enter the chaotic future of Frostpunk 2. There had been some previews of the game ahead of time from other journalists and streamers, with everyone worried that this game would not be the same as the first one. Well… you're right, for a number of reasons, which we'll get into here. We had played the first game ourselves for a minute and were blown away by the way it looked and felt at the time compared to other titles in the genre. So, while we had a basis for what to expect, what was got felt like a new experience.

Frostpunk 2 Preview
Credit: 11 Bit Studios

If you've played the first game, then some of this will be familiar to you. But for those who haven't, the short version is that you're in a new era of mankind where the planet is practically in a new ice age. In order to survive it, you'll need to harvest food, supplies, and resources to keep the heat on. The game kicked things off by throwing us into the deep end by trying to survive on a timer. You start as a colony in the middle of nowhere looking to harvest and stockpile in a certain amount of time before the cold sets in, and there's no way to grow food anymore. You either have to meet these conditions before the clock runs out, or you just straight up fail the tutorial. And I have to emphasize that because they cranked up the difficulty a bit in this one. Myself and a couple dozen others who showed up failed the tutorial our first time around. It wasn't that we didn't know what we were doing; it was that you HAD to be quick and meet that goal, or failure was all you had to look forward to. A few people even had to reset twice before moving on.

Frostpunk 2 Preview
Credit: 11 Bit Studios

But let's be real: Frostpunk 2 doesn't feel like the kind of title that's going to hold your hand for long or coddle you. Much like the first game, you discover how brutal and urgent everything is. You are put in charge of making decisions for the lives and well-being of everyone out in the middle of a perpetual tundra. You either make the tough calls and act when it's needed, or people freeze to death, starve, get into fights, refuse to work, and ultimately perish along with yourself. So the concept of throwing you into the deep end and making you realize that you're in for a new kind of city-building survival game. If anything, the tutorial prepared you for many of the hard choices in this demo. Once you manage to survive that, you'll be thrown into the main game, as Chapter 1 pulls zero punches.

Chapter 1 of Frostpunk 2 puts you in New London, already established with all sorts of districts, mining operations, housing, factions, and more already on the table. All you have to do is bring stability to the area by finding new resources and assuring the city will continue to thrive once you have left your post. This is 30 years after the Great Storm, with a dead leader (the person you played in Frostpunk), and you are now in charge of picking up where they left off. The biggest challenge of all is finding a new resource of fuel for the engine that is keeping everything running and all of the people warm from the cold.

The game will have you do research into new forms of energy usage and consumption, as well as how best to mine for fuel. Everyone has an opinion on this, but your choices will determine the path they take. One scenario had us choose between blasting mines for coal or dusting them to use whatever scraps we could find to prolong the current process. Either way, people are unhappy and expect results, especially if they live in a district (the new form of building placement) that relies on those resources to bring them food, income, and power.

Speaking of which, this chapter has you instituting a proper government. The game makes references to previous choices from the first title, and uses them as an influence to establish something new instead of relying on the dictatorships and radical religious fanaticism that ruled them in the past. The current generation wants to prosper! So, you institute a ruling government called The Council (with its own parliament building) where the factions come together to make laws. Which, incidentally, not every faction comes to the table in every preview (which we learned talking to others at the event), and so every time you play the game, you get a different experience with different viewpoints. But everything has a price, as we learned very quickly.

Once you start up your local government, you get approached by a young child who represents all of the children who have been working in the mines with their families. They don't want to work in them anymore. Sounds simple enough, right? You're a compassionate leader, you don't want kids dying in the mines before they become an adult. So you then take a new law to be voted on to revoke having kids work the mines. And guess what? It passes! But in the process of watching it pass, you quickly learn that about a third of your citizens actually don't care about the kids or their health or their rights. And you just robbed them of child labor. So now those people have a problem with you and everyone else who voted for it.

Frostpunk 2 Preview
Credit: 11 Bit Studios

You also now have the option to expand in Frostpunk 2, which really wasn't doable the first time around. For example, in the first game, you were focused on survival, and looking beyond the city was more for parts and resources. Now, you have the option to add new districts within the city itself. Or if you have people who don't want to be in the city, you can offer them an option outside of it while still being tethered to it for heat. New cities are an option; new settlements are now an option; new clothing and trade districts are options. If you're looking for a challenge, you'll get one trying to manage two cities at the same time that want two different things. This throws a lot of what you experienced already into a new form of chaos and complications. This has more of the familiar vibes from the first title than the main game, so those looking for a fix of nostalgia will get it.

Frostpunk 2 Preview
Credit: 11 Bit Studios

Ultimately, I had a lot of fun with Frostpunk 2. I give created to the devs for taking a risk. You're going to find a lot of people who basically wanted the same game as before, just gussied up with new challenges. This does NONE of that. This is a new experience that feels familiar, but it is totally different and will challenge you in new ways. I hold this akin to the challenges bands face with their music when they're successful. You can keep making the same thing that sounds successful, or you can take a risk and make something different that's still you. If Frostpunk was the team's OK Computer, then Frostpunk 2 is their Kid A. Step out of your comfort zone and try something new when it eventually gets released on July 25, 2024.

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Gavin SheehanAbout Gavin Sheehan

Gavin is the current Games Editor for Bleeding Cool. He has been a lifelong geek who can chat with you about comics, television, video games, and even pro wrestling. He can also teach you how to play Star Trek chess, be your Mercy on Overwatch, recommend random cool music, and goes rogue in D&D. He also enjoys hundreds of other geeky things that can't be covered in a single paragraph. Follow @TheGavinSheehan on Facebook, Twitter/X, Instagram, Bluesky, Threads, and Hive, for random pictures and musings.
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