“The worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself.” – Friedrich Nietzche
City-building strategy game Banished is a testament to individual accomplishment. Luke Hodorowicz of Shining Rock Software created the game by himself over the course of several years. While the game certainly isn’t perfect, its success is a testament to power of hard work and determination.
Banished breaks down the city-building genre to its most basic form. Its minimalistic approach is refreshing and it presents the player with the simple goal of keeping his citizens alive. It’s true that beyond survival, the game lacks depth, and its replay value is limited. But there’s an appealing quality to the game’s simplicity that is strengthened by a quality soundtrack and pleasing aesthetic.
Banished is about as straightforward as a city building game can get. A small group of citizens has been cast out from their society and you are tasked with keeping them alive and building a new community. Your starting resources are determined by difficulty setting, as are the harshness of conditions the townspeople will face. The primary concern is providing them with shelter and food, but you’ll also have to deal diseases, infestations and natural disasters.
The player must develop a balanced diet for the citizens as well as provide firewood, clothing, tools, medicine and even entertainment. This is accomplished through employing woodcutters, tailors, blacksmiths, doctors and brewers.
The only goal Banished presents to the player beyond survival is certain achievements relating to town size and other factors. Once a town has reached a certain population and food production level, there’s not much that will halt its growth. And once that point has been reached, the only thing for the player to do is continue building additional housing and farms, which could become repetitive. Luckily, Banished excels at making the player invested in his or her town to stick around.
On the off chance that you do get bored, upping the weather to the harshest setting and starting the game on hard mode should keep you entertained for several more hours. Banished doesn’t provide endless entertainment, but its smooth gameplay is both addicting and calming. It’s practically serene compared to the hectic nature of most modern city builders.
The game’s rustic, even mesmerizing aesthetic is probably its best selling point. And its interface, while a little intimidating at first, is expertly streamlined and definitely contributes to the smoothness of the game. The game’s soundtrack also provides a great cadence to Banished— in fact, the music in the game’s trailer was one of the main reasons I bought the game.
Banished does leave a little to be desired. The AI could use a little work, as workers sometimes fail to complete certain assigned tasks such as demolishing buildings. There’s also a notable lack of any military aspect to the game, something you might think would be included in such a game. It would add some depth to require a small militia to defend against bandits or the like–but in reality, Banished’s lack of such conflict contributes to its appeal. The game’s focus is on man’s struggle with nature rather than with itself, making such a feature unnecessary.
While Banished might not provide more than 20 hours of entertainment for most players, the game’s developer is already at work on building modding capabilities that could extend the game’s lifespan noticeably. Yet even without mods, 20 hours of gameplay out of a $20 game is a pretty good return on investment when compared to many AAA titles today.
And Banished managed to accomplish that without DLC, multiplayer, DRM or in-game currency. Hopefully, future games in the genre will follow such an example.