Frostpunk: The Frost is Coming

11 Bit Studios’ City-builder, Frostpunk, analyzes human nature and morality in the face of the apocalypse


Photo used with the permission of 11 Bit Studios

New London embraces a New Order. To keep the heat flowing the people must be kept in line using prisons, round-ups, guards, propaganda, torture, and public executions. The path to the New Order is a slippery slope, one that begins with noble intentions but ends with totalitarian rule over the city in the name of necessity. The choice between Order and Faith is integral to Frostpunk as it gives the player the option to sacrifice their morality to make the game easier.

The temperature drops. It is -40℉ and the food supplies are low. The people work in the mines in a desperate effort to keep the generator alive and the homes warm. The engineers are investigating the generator’s blueprint in order to improve upon its output, which is not enough to support the coming storm. The temperature drops. The memory of the world before the frost seems a lifetime away as more and more of the people’s humanity is lost in an effort to push through the endless cold. The temperature drops. The wind is howling and the people are freezing while the monolithic generator strains to keep running as the fuel used to power it runs dry. The children must work and the workday is extended and the populace kept obedient if the ice is to be kept at bay. The temperature drops. The city must survive.


Frostpunk is a post-apocalyptic city builder made by 11 Bit Studios, where you take on the role of a captain in charge of what may very well be the last city on Earth. The game takes place in an alternate version of the late 19th century, where an early ice age far colder than any before has stopped human progress in its tracks. This sudden onset of cold did not come without warning however, and the world’s most powerful nations looked for ways to save their people. The generators are a last-ditch effort by the British Empire to save its people: Monolithic structures capable of providing massive amounts of heat to the surrounding areas.


Frostpunk is played by keeping the generator, which is the heart of your city, alive. All other concerns are below this main one, as the generator is what keeps your people warm. The generator is powered by coal, which your people must collect. Your people must also be fed and housed, which necessitates homes and food sources such as steam-heated farms and hunting lodges. To build these structures requires wood and steel, which must also be collected by your people, stretching your manpower thin. This is where laws come into play.


Laws are the rules of your city’s society and can change its operation. These laws range from child labor to proper funerals for the dead and each has different effects, benefits, and drawbacks that can affect the discontent and hope of your population. Hope and discontent are the main measures of how happy or how angry your people are. Each choice you make affects your city’s hope and discontent, which you must keep in mind or else be ousted from power.


A city expands to survive the cold. Frostpunk can be played in several different modes and scenarios, many of which have their own unique layouts and challenges. These scenarios include an endless mode with plenty of customization, a prequel to the events of the main game where you must build a generator for the city of Liverpool, and a scenario where you must protect seed vaults as a colony of England’s best and brightest so that the world may one day be green again. Photo used with the permission of 11 Bit Studios.

Frostpunk explores morality like no other game I have played before. The decisions the player is forced to make in the name of humanity are difficult ones that may not be justified or even necessary in hindsight. Will child labor allow your people to survive for a few days more? Can you feed more people by adding sawdust to the meals, even if they might become sick as a result? The game also incorporates a unique radial city design centered around the generator and its warmth, which requires players to think about where they might want to expand and build in the future before they commit resources to building the first homes and workplaces. Another interesting mechanic is exploration, which allows the player to search the wasteland surrounding their city to find survivors, food, resources, or even other cities. This can all be achieved using Frostpunk’s research system, where your engineers study blueprints to improve upon the design of the city.

A protest forms in response to a food shortage. The citizens of your city are not simple workers and have concerns, schedules, and needs that must be addressed. Keeping them happy is essential to achieving success and not managing them well could result in injuries and deaths caused by your policing force. The people might even decide that they could do a better job running the city if they are ignored. Photo used with the permission of 11 Bit Studios.

Frostpunk does suffer from its short length, which is made slightly better with its number of scenarios, which are often shorter than the main story. The gameplay, even though it is absolutely amazing, does get old after a while because of the limited amount of laws, technology, buildings, and events, which will eventually run out. There are also some detrimental bugs which can cause citizens to not eat and eventually die because of pathfinding issues. 


11 Bit Studios made a masterful game when they released Frostpunk. The music is superb and the sound design in general is absolutely perfect. The story is interesting, the gameplay fascinating, and the challenges immense. Even through all of its faults, Frostpunk is a unique game in an industry that is lacking unique games. I highly recommend this game to anyone who enjoys morality dilemmas, city-builders, survival games, or a fun experience. A sequel is expected to be released sometime in 2024 with an even more expanded view, hopefully fixing the few mistakes that the original made.