Banished is one part survival game and one part city builder, and all pretty damn impressive when you consider it’s solely the work of one person. The entire game is a sandbox – there are no scenarios with goals, you just keep growing your settlement to your heart’s content.
Your small group of settlers are dumped into a harsh world with nothing but a small cache of supplies, and if you don’t get right on housing and food production, you won’t make it through the first year. Your first settlement will likely fail early. Your next few may fail early as well. The difficulty of getting things just right in the beginning of the game is very real.
However, once you get things up and running, the difficulty levels off quite a bit. Typical city-builder logic applies – if you grow your population too much without making adequate provisions for food, shelter, and heating (something you don’t see too often in city-builders), people will start dying. However, once you get a feel for what you need to have to make things work, it rolls along a whole lot smoother.
The gear icon in the lower left lets you open up a variety of informational menus. I leave open the professions window and the general town stats window pretty much all the time. Seeing an overview of the resources you have stockpiled helps you better plan build order, and I keep the profession window up because I am forever rearranging my workers in the early game when there’s just not enough to be able to afford having too many idlers.
Banished isn’t a game I’ve put tons of time into – it’s too repetitive to hold my attention for days on end – but it’s enjoyable every time I play it. I really like the idea of mixing city-building and survival elements – normally, if you’re doing a crappy job with your city, people just leave. Here, they keep working until they die. I feel like that ramps up the pressure quite a bit.
However, it is sandbox only, with very few achievements, so it won’t be as much fun for people who want their games to set their goals for them. There’s some variety with adjustable difficulty and various options for the random seeding at the beginning of a game. Some seeds are far more newbie friendly than others – if you pull a new game and you can’t figure out how to build given the terrain (the option to level ground is sorely lacking), just start a new game.