It’s been awhile, obviously. There have been many good games in the past year – and many more that I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of. What I had to say about them fit neatly into review-fields, or a G+ post. Sometimes several. It really has been awhile since I felt the need for more space to accommodate my thoughts.

The other day I picked up Banished, on steam. 

I was in the mood to build a city.

I’ve built many cities, in many games. Simcity, Tropico, Civ-, Reus, and they all generally have their own flavor and feel to how you’re playing. You’re god, you’re mayor, your dictator, you are the general of the armies that go whomp someone else so you can expand. Some are a lot of micro-managing and I wasn’t in the mood for that.

Neither was I in the mood to continue beating my head against android games. My brief foray into that arena has left me with a bitter taste, “you are out of gems/energy!” oh… “this will take 5hr to complete” wtf? “get your friends to help!” and spam fb? grack! “buy more gems/energy!” what, so I can play another 20 min before you spam me again? Psssssh.

Then I noticed Banished on steam. It was an indie developed “city builder” that visually looked quite impressive. I scanned the rest of the text and figured it looked and sounded like it would perfectly fit my mood.

More than I bargained for.

I launched into a game straight out the gate, and found… nothing. No objectives, no hints, no clues about what I should be doing. It wasn’t holding my hand coddling me through a tutorial – did I need one?

I plopped a few houses, and a hunting cabin that I found in the menu. It took me a while to realize why my folk were still wandering aimlessly, I had to assign builders. Then, winter smacked me in the face. I struggled, and by spring, had lost half my population to starvation. I went back and did the tutorials that were in the main menu, and wondered why they weren’t in the game itself. As objectives, goals, little pointing arrows I am so used to seeing.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. Now, I’m glad it is done this way. It gave you all the things you needed to navigate the game, without actually impacting your play – or making it easy for you to survive. That is what this is about, survival. No armies, no taxes, no citizens or advisers hollering at you.

There is an organic, all-natural pressure that drives the game. Winter.

Do you have enough food, fire wood, homes? It was… refreshing, exhilarating, and intense. Once I achieved that balance however I thought. “This is it, I have a population of 20, and what else is there?” If you can survive your winters, it’s left up to you to determine your goals – expand! GROW!

GROW!!! Why isn’t my population growing? Go forth and procreate! Oh, I need more homes for you to move into? Is that it. I honestly expected it was something trivial like a housing cap, and when I plopped a new home more people would just magically appear to populate it… That’s about when I noticed something so mind-blowing it took my breath away.


“The townspeople of Banished are your primary resource. They are born, grow older, work, have children of their own, and eventually die. Keeping them healthy, happy, and well-fed are essential to making your town grow. Building new homes is not enough—there must be enough people to move in and have families of their own.”
– from the game’s description. 

I apologize to the one-person army that developed Banished for not believing.

It’s something bigger games, bigger companies (yes I’m looking at you with glaring eyeballs SimCity & EA) have promised this in the past. That their population was significant, that it would matter, that it was intelligent. I should have expected one person could accomplish more – without someone sitting over their shoulder.

The fact of the matter is, yes. Yes, YES, and OH YES! My Fisherman goes about his job, he goes home, he gets food, he goes to his job, and… lo and behold he goes back to his home time and again. He’s a male, and the herbalist living in the same home is female, children appeared. His age increased, their ages increased. If I switched his job, he moved on to it.

Maybe it’s the scale of the game. Banished deals in much smaller population numbers. I haven’t hit a population cap yet, I’m not even sure that there is one – But, that’s the “excuse” EA used on SimCity for why their hyped up intelligent AI with citizens that “mattered” actually didn’t. They followed lame paths, lost their identity the moment they hit a building. You couldn’t follow a sim to home, or work, or shopping because it was all just a number game.

In banished you can, not only that but they do follow logical paths to get from one point to another.

My population grew, and as it did – the pressure cooker turned back on. I need more food, more resources, my homes are cold! A tornado just destroyed the only nearby forest I had – along with several key workers. I need to shuffle my workers around because it’s fall and winters coming. I starved.

It’s the most relaxing, but yet intense city-building game I’ve played. It doesn’t need objectives. It doesn’t need micro-managing with blaring horns and unhappy protesters wanting more parks. It doesn’t need armies banging on your door. Yes, you can find a nice balance and grow slowly, carefully, but are you ever really prepared enough? That, my friends, is a question Banished keeps asking.

What has already been accomplished in Banished, allows me to dream. To think, of what elements might be added in the future I’m certainly interested in seeing. Family tree’s – Ack, that would be troublesome if you only had a few families that genetically couldn’t mix anymore without cousins marrying. Maybe it’s highly impractical to imagine a population of 300 and all those family tree’s somehow linking back to four founding families.

“Seasonal” jobs. Things like farms only operate in-season, mid-winter you find your farmers acting as general laborers, not always the most useful things – not when you’d rather have the extra help in your mines, or on your fishing docks. So you do end up trying to manage that, or just leave it be. It is something that makes me dream that the Dev could find a way to assign jobs by season.

Maybe your woodcutter will only begin his work in the summer. Maybe your tailor and blacksmith will only work in the winter – after other resources have stockpiled. Maybe those people also work in your quarry – when they aren’t making you warm clothing.

Banished is not without its quirks, flaws, and bugs. That being said –

I’m happy.

Get this if you:

  • Enjoy City-Building Games.
  • Are self-motivated to set you’re own goals for your city beyond survival.
  • Want a game that is both relaxing, and intense.
  • Enjoy strategy & planning.
  • Want to play an average country/forest medieval settlement that could plausibly exist.
  • Don’t want to dedicate most of your time to defending your settlement.
  • Can survive tornado’s.

Banished by Shining Rock Software { }


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