I haven’t been playing many new games lately, and the one I seem to be coming back a lot is Banished. The game was recommended to me by my ex-coworker, and even though I got it a long time ago, it took me some time to get into this entertaining and demanding sandbox-type game.
Banished tells a simple story: some people were banished from their homeland, and now they need to settle in the new place. It’s not going to be easy, because not only their resources are limited, but also their numbers, so helping them to survive will require a lot of balancing and careful planning.
The game is all about growing your settlement, and while you’re at it, you’ll have to keep in mind two important factors: workforce and resources. Only adult members of the society can work (for the game’s purposes, people become adults at the age of 10), so the children are a bit of dead weight until they mature… But without children, the community will slowly die out, leaving key positions unmanned, so it’s important to keep that in mind and watch the population’s number closely all the time.
Yet, that’s not all: people need food, so building farms, animal pens, hunting huts, fishing docks, and other facilities becomes a necessity, and they all need to have workers assigned, which—as you probably guessed—requires more and more adult.
On top of that, people need shelter (and they also won’t have children if they still live in their parents’ house!), so building homes has to be a part of the plan, and they have to stay warm which makes a tailor (coats) and a woodcutter (firewood) necessary, while to do their work efficiently they’ll require tools made by a blacksmith. All those buildings need not only staff, but also resources, so… yes, you need to build resource buildings and assign workers to the too!
These all things create a net of dependencies which makes the seemingly simple game a lot more challenging. It’s also a great lesson how even a slight imbalance can be disastrous for a small population in which everyone has their duties. I can’t count how many times I’ve watched the doom of my people: starving to death when the harvest wasn’t big enough (and they had way too many children to feed – you can’t control the birthrate at all except for not providing homes for new families), freezing, or wiped out by a sudden outbreak of dysentery or other deadly disease. And for those who survived… there weren’t enough hands to work, so the risk of running out of another essential resource deepened.
The interface is very light and entirely customizable (I liked that I could place all the data windows where I wanted or switch them off), and once gotten used to, quite intuitive, but for the same reason, going through tutorial missions is necessary to get familiar will how things work: the interface offers very few hints. Graphics are simple, but clear and pleasant enough, with some nice weather effects, and mellow music provides an enjoyable background.
There isn’t any story to accompany the game, so a writerly mind is free to roam, exploring possibilities and ideas. At the same time, each citizen receives their unique name which can help creative juices going, especially when you watch them in interesting situations: a young boy moving in with a much older woman, a woman who is still stuck in her elderly parents’ house, growing old herself, and who never got to start a family of her own, a stonemason crushed by a rock—what kind of family did he leave behind? With so little to go on, clearly these won’t be some original, unique stories, but they’re enough for a creative mind and might end up serving as a backstory for some minor character. And sometimes it’s all you need.
- Story: Very Low
- Immersion: Very Low
- Inspiration: Low
- Relaxation factor: High
- Procrastination risk: Medium