I appreciate a good simulation and city building game. An intelligent one is hard to come by. One that makes me want to play over and over is even harder.
I have realized after playing Banished for an embarrassing number of hours that you don’t ever win. You just hope to do a little better each time.
Everything in this game is very simple, yet works together in a way to make it seem like everything is chaotic. Even the options at the start menu are very straightforward allowing you to start in a mountain range or valley and what kind of difficulty you wish to play on. I’m not sure how the back story fits into the actual game, but I guess there had to be one and the “banished colonist” story works well enough.
Like most simulation games, it’s hard to play on normal speed (at least for me). In the case of Banished, I can comfortably play on 5x. To me, 1x is so slow that I can go outside, have a conversation with my mail man and nothing new would have happened by the time I got back inside 10 minutes later. That could be an exaggeration. But it’s not. 1x is super slow. With that being said, the lack of speed actually is a nice break from colony building strategy games where you have to fight off monsters and other unmentionables. The only enemy you have in Banished is Mother Nature and she is a beast.
Banished is probably the only colony building games that has the ability to bring my emotions out. Anger and frustration usually only rear their ugly head when I play Call of Duty or clones of the sort. There were times while playing Banished that I came very close to crying and throwing my mouse at the screen.
Let me explain my theory about this game. For the most part, everything goes really well. Possibly too well. By the time things go bad, you’re so hopped up on your colonists happiness that you aren’t expecting the huge blow to the ego that one mistake will cost you. And that’s the kicker. You are going to lose this game because you will fuck up at some point. And that’s why this game gets inside your head. It knows you can’t handle failure, but it’s going to shove failure down your throat.
Now, in the beginning, you’re building and you’re building well. It doesn’t take long to have a nice sized population and I’d estimate about an hour before anything interesting starts to happen. Take advantage of that hour, though. Because when shit hits the fan, the game gets messy.
I think the best way to explain exactly what Banished does is to call it a vicious circle. The reason I say it like that is because it’s not just one thing that goes wrong and causes your colony to fail. It starts out like that, but it gives the phrase ‘one thing leads to another’ a fresh definition. For example, At some point in the game, people will start dying of old age. Nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, those people were probably your tailor, wood-cutter and tool-maker. After that 3 of your laborers die. Not a big deal. I mean, it’s in the middle of winter and you kind of need those spots filled with workers but you’ll figure it out.
So with “maybe” one laborer left, you decided to allocate your workers from other parts of your work force. Maybe you take away a farmer, hunter, and a forester. Spring rolls around and all of a sudden, you’re getting starvation symbols popping up. But why? That one hunter and farmer really made that much difference? Yes, because you built everything to the specification of the labor force you were working currently with. This is when things start going downhill fast.
Do you remember those starvation symbols you were getting? When people are hungry, they don’t like to work. So as you’re struggling to find workers to get food, your newly appointed woodcutter won’t leave the house because he wants to eat. Since he’s not working, there’s not firewood being made. And winter just rolled around again. Now, everyone’s cold and NOBODY is working.
This is when you sit back and watch the past three hours of your life crash and burn at the hands of a computer game. As you hear the notification “bwooonnggggg” go off over and over, you’ll realize you just killed off an entire colony of people who did nothing but do exactly what you wanted them to do.
The worst part isn’t that it happened. It’s going to be the analyzing that goes through your head after you’ve watched it all unfold. In your mind, you’ll say “well…I see where my mistake was. Let me try it again”. But there’s no single mistake made there. The only mistake you made was starting the game in the first place. Thinking you can succeed just starts the vicious circle all over again. Banished sets you up for failure. The only thing you can take with you is the fact that you tried.
Am I saying that Banished is a bad game? Not by any means. It’s actually one of the best colony building games I’ve ever played. However, it’s also one of the most frustrating and self loathing games I’ve ever played. Available on Steam for $19.99 I’m definitely telling you to try it out, but it’s not for the faint of heart. If you’re not comfortable enough with yourself to deal with disappointment, you probably should stay away from this one.
July Feature! I’m playing a game a day…kind of. See all the games I’ve played HERE