Banished makes the player the leader of a small group of exiles. A few tools and lots of helping hands have to be enough to survive and lay the foundations of a thriving city. What makes this building strategy game different from similar titles such as the Anno series? Buildings can't be unlocked, people age and die, and in addition, the various seasons of the year have an adverse effect on the young settlement.
No money, but seasons and old people
Hunting, Building, Growing
Firstly, the prudent city builder must erect a few houses and ensure there is sufficient firewood and food. In time, simple economic cycles can be established: A hunter kills wild game, the leather is processed by a furrier into clothes, which keeps the hard working population warm. If the Banished residents are looked after, then you begin to see a younger generation – children are born, go to school and eventually become valuable workers, replacing those who die.
A larger population needs public buildings such as churches or cemeteries, but it also creates new opportunities. A trading post introduces cattle breeding and agricultural seeds into the city while the city hall has all sorts of useful information about production and life expectancy. In addition to the new tasks, maintaining a balance between the basic raw materials and the growing population remains a challenge: food, firewood, living rooms, clothing, and medicine are absolute necessities in Banished.
A break with tradition
When it comes to looking after the population, there are no game objectives in Banished. The game doesn't tell a story and there are no computer opponents to play against, or multiplayer or campaign options. The only thing you can mold from the start is the map: what the dominant climate is in the world, whether the landscape should be hilly or flat, and how many resources the player has at the start. In addition to the visual effects, the selection also determines the difficulty level for the player.
In addition, Banished breaks with some of the established building strategy rules: Seasons, for example, make the economy asymmetric – fruit trees are harvested once a year. You can build all buildings right from the beginning, and your population ages and dies. In addition, Banished doesn't use money, which makes resources extra important.
Ambiguities and small buttons
On your own
In comparison to other building simulation games, Banished does indeed use simpler economic cycles, but it leaves many relationships unclear. Up until the construction of the city hall, the player only knows the quantity of his resources and has to look in vain for an overview of the production processes and the effectiveness of buildings. In addition, the tutorials don't explain all of the correlations: Should warehouses be centralized or decentralized? Why do workers go around the mountain, when you can't actually build a road there? And in what order do the workers carry out tasks? Players have to search through Banished's detailed written help themselves.
In addition to some confusion over the game mechanics, Banished doesn't hold players' hands. Making construction errors or errors in deciding priorities, are punished mercilessly by Banished: Whoever fails to get the harvest in ends up looking in vain for peaches in the snow. If there's no fountain, then the entire city burns down as demolishing surrounding buildings takes too long. This is hard, but fun.
Fast forward and find the best way
Other tools such as the path-tool are innovative and exciting: in order to improve the processes, then check the routes taken by the workers. A shorter route increases the productivity of the working group. The acceleration function helps guard against boredom. In contrast, you do stumble upon bugs now and again. The good citizen Arthurman got lost chopping wood and cannot find his way back. After several winters without food, he dies.
Many players find it unusual that Banished isn't just controlled with the mouse. The camera turns and pivots using the keyboard. For many functions there are shortcuts on offer, which will avoid you having to click through several windows. Many a time you'll end up fighting with small buttons in lots of windows or can't easily find the individual buildings in the forest, let alone tell them apart.
Attractive graphics, unnecessary sound
Banished is beautiful to look at. Busy workers run across the screen, wild game crosses the river, and fishermen cast their rods. Added to that are the four seasons and your fields, where you can watch the rhythms of the countryside come and go. Compared to this beauty, the few small bugs aren't so important.
The soundscape, however, is only average, and after a few hours of playing Banished, you can easily do without the music.
Conclusion: Innovative, exciting, not for beginners
Banished is not a walk in the park. Without great help and lots of resources, you'll end up freezing to death in the very first winter. Gradually, however, relationships are better understood, lovely details are discovered and lots of chances to learn appear.
Banished's challenging start is likely to suit experienced players but could cause problems for beginners. The rough game mechanics suit the game objective of survival. However, if you're looking for familiar fare with multiplayer scenarios and established control, you won't find them in Banished.