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Simulation Strategy Video Games

Banished: City-building with a focus on survival

Banished, by Shining Rock Software, was released on Steam on the 18th of this month in the US (which was at 5 AM on the 19th here, funnily enough), and I can’t stop playing it. Not just because I woke up at 5 AM just to download it either, it’s actually really fun. (You can visit the official site here or the Steam store page here.) I really like the premise of this game which, unsurprisingly, the developer explains really well. So I’m just going to let them do most of the talking for a while (while I go back to playing it). I’ll be back later to talk excitedly about how much I like it again, soon. You have been warned.

What is Banished?

In this city-building strategy game, you control a group of exiled travellers who decide to restart their lives in a new land. They have only the clothes on their backs and a cart filled with supplies from their homeland.

The objective of the game is to keep the population alive and grow it into a successful culture. Options for feeding the people include hunting and gathering, agriculture, trade, and fishing. However, sustainable practices must be considered to survive in the long term.

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Survival

Surviving the winters will be among your greatest challenges. Your tailors can make clothing, your people can build houses and burn firewood. But necessities have a price—Cutting down forests reduces the deer population you can hunt. Although your foresters can plant new trees, the cures for many diseases can only be found in forests that have existed for decades.

Farming for many seasons in one place will ruin the soil. Taking fish and game faster than they reproduce will lead to extinction, and your starvation.

Wandering nomads can join your town to grow the population quickly, but allowing them in increases the chance of illnesses from far off lands!

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Gameplay

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.

Banished has no skill trees. Any structure can be built at any time, provided that your people have collected the resources to do so. There is no money. Instead, your hard-earned resources can be bartered away with the arrival of trade vessels. These merchants are the key to adding livestock and annual crops to the townspeople’s diet; however, their lengthy trade route comes with the risk of bringing illnesses from abroad.

There are twenty different occupations that the people in the city can perform from farming, hunting, and blacksmithing, to mining, teaching, and healing. No single strategy will succeed for every town. Some resources may be more scarce from one map to the next. The player can choose to replant forests, mine for iron, and quarry for rock, but all these choices require setting aside space into which you cannot expand.

The success or failure of a town depends on the appropriate management of risks and resources.

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Yes, you read correctly up there – there are no skill trees, no money, and twenty different occupations. You know what makes this fact even more awesome? That it’s not just all talk and no substance, they actually have managed to pull it off and it’s extremely fun. Will I write a guide on it in the next week or so? Most likely.

Now that I consider that the beginning populace is a bunch of exiles starting their own colony, that there is a large number of comments on how difficult this game is to get into, and various game elements that strike me as being familiar (you’ll see when you play), I have to wonder if the developer likes playing Dwarf Fortress, too.

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