Frostpunk: The Last Autumn Review
The Fall of man.
When Frostpunk came out, I thought it was a scarily good game. Something that would effortlessly consume you with its curious premise, a game that would bring together fans of strategy and roleplaying. And what do you know, I was right. It has continued to challenge, inspire, and now innovate, with its new DLC The Last Autumn.
First things first, I do not feel worthy. The Last Autumn is… hard. But then, realistically, why on earth wouldn’t it be? You are tasked with the survival of a colony of people, and you have seen first-hand the trials they will have to face come the winter.
Adding this narrative as a follow-up DLC set just before the horrors of the first game is a stroke of genius. You already know how hard it’s about to get, so you feel as though you owe these people at least a chance at hope.
Speaking of hope, the meter now reads ‘motivation,’ and is an indication of how well your workers can perform. Beautifully and critically current, The Last Autumn wants you to respect and liberate your workforce, understanding their rights and demands. Not only is this encouraged by the game’s narrative, it vitally impacts your ability to survive. Now I’m not about to get all political – but I very much enjoyed this concept. It was unusually educational without being preachy.
Making people the vital organ of success is something Frostpunk always did well, but this time around the stakes almost seem higher. This DLC has absolutely smashed expectations of what you would want from additional content, and essentially changes the entire game premise enough to be its own animal. Before release, the studio assured us it would be a ‘completely revamped experience,’ and there is not a shred of disappointment to be found. Even at full price, this DLC is worth it, providing the player with what feels more like an entirely new game in the series.
Interestingly enough, this being a world of urgency but not quite devastation, you can use ploys such as cocaine dens, bare-knuckle fighting rings and brothels to entertain and inspire your proletariat. In yet another painfully well-crafted move from the 11 Bit Studios team, none of these pleasures come without consequence, and as mayor you will have to deal with the devastation to public health these may present.
If worker deaths get too high, or conditions get too dangerous, you will have to face down strike action. These citizens are organised and will make their demands, refusing to work if their conditions are not met. Decide whether to bribe them, placate them, or genuinely care about their conditions, the decision is yours – but it will change the outcome of the game.
Moving away from gameplay for a second, The Last Autumn is unreasonably beautiful. The colour palette has changed entirely from white icy wilderness to lush greenery, and yet still looks cold and crisp. The intricacies of the machines are well-served in this lighter atmosphere, and still puts even top-mid tier PCs through their paces.
My only issue is extremely subjective. I would just like to point that out, to avoid the incoming cries of criticism. But The Last Autumn is so brutally hard, that one mistake in the first few minutes could bring everything crashing down later down the line. Missing one opportunity to stockpile, letting anything drop too low, means that you may as well start again. The game is brutal and unforgiving – more so than its base game. Now, I totally get how this is appropriate – what with you being in control of an entire civilisation on the cusp of eternal winter and all – but it does stop the game being fun for anyone but seasoned players.
If you haven’t honed your skills in the base game, don’t even touch this one. And for the love of god, don’t skimp on supplies early on. A new element makes it all the more difficult – with the ability to build factories to process raw materials. These are governed over by engineers who seem to perpetuate the class divide in the game’s narrative. Strikes will arise at the worst possible times if you don’t keep these slave-drivers in check, but siding with them will open up a whole new angle to your Labour tree – so it might be worth a shot once in a while.
The beauty of The Last Autumn is the movement from a focus on machinery to a focus on humans. Each individual is crucial in this game, your citizens will work hard so long as you recognize that you depend on them for success. These are enlightened people, and the interactions, laws, and events mean that they are humanised better than any strategy game I have seen. The human cost for survival is high, but it very much feels on your shoulders to protect them.
The Last Autumn is doing itself a disservice by calling itself DLC. It has an entirely new world to master, with a strong human element to make it truly unique. Be prepared for some devastatingly difficult challenges, but reap the reward if you make it to the finish – enjoying every step of the journey along the way.
[Reviewed on PC]