Frostpunk: The Last Autumn Review21 Jan 2020 0
Frostpunk: The Last Autumn Review
Released 21 Jan 2020
When Frostpunk first hit our screens back in 2018, I was blown away. I couldn’t quite conceive of how 11bit studios had created a game which felt so similar to a survival experience, with that associated intensity of planning ahead and cost vs. sacrifice, but had translated it into a strategy game. Frostpunk is a game about collective survival, where you experience the plights of the people through events and stories, and act to ensure their continuity.
So it’s no surprise really that it’s prequel expansion, The Last Autumn, would continue to experiment with that idea. Taking place the Autumn before Frostpunk’s world entered its seemingly endless Winter, you play as a nameless Overseer for site 113, tasked with building a monumental generator, a contingency in case things keep getting cooler. The Last Autumn does a really good job of expanding on the story of the generators, and you realize there are many other sites, one for each principle industrial city in fact.
As Overseer, you balance construction of the generator, which you must complete in many stages, with the needs of your workers, keeping their Motivation high using the new Administration and Labour laws. Motivation is an important meter because it literally impacts how quickly your people get the job done — if you don’t look after Motivation you’ll struggle to finish the generator. The Administration laws effectively govern the basic things: counteracting discontent, dealing with the sick, with corpses, feeding people, and all the rest of it. The Labour laws are more like workplace safety and shift length, but as with the base game when you chose Faith or Authority, an event will ask you whether to side with workers or engineers, and that will unlock a subsequent set of Labour laws.
You don’t really have to worry about cold in The Last Autumn, things are pretty toasty, but what you do have to worry about is poisonous gas. This is essentially an area effect which will reduce the base level of safety in all your workplaces, increasing likelihood of accidents, people getting sick, and of course, workers going on strike.
Strikes are hell. Seriously, there is nothing worse than being close to meeting your deadline, and the workers going on strike. If they do you’ll have to negotiate with them, and generally make a promise — whether that’s increasing workplace safety above a certain level or shortening shifts for a few days. It really does pay to ensure workplaces are safe, because if you miss more than one deadline on the generator, you get fired.
There are also new buildings to be had, including the docks, the telegraph station and their associated mechanics. Building the generator is of course a massive project, and so your home city will send supplies of your choosing: coal, wood or steel, to be unloaded by workers, or with a special unloading station. Both of these building’s efficiency can be upgraded in the new tech tree. Then you have the telegraph station, where you can order more workers, engineers, or steam cores (vital for advanced buildings) based on a load limit which gradually increases over time. Resources are relatively easy to come by in The Last Autumn, but that’s because you’re going to need a lot of them to build that generator. You’ll be constructing factories just to build components, and when you need 25 of them at 25 wood a piece, just for one small section of the generator, you’re going to have to hone your efficiency down to the bone.
There are also the same exploration mechanics as in Frostpunk, so you’ll get to experience some really cool snippets of story as you search the surrounding countryside and visit the other generator sites nearby. Just as with the base game, the expansion does a fantastic job of building an atmosphere of tension — of all these people who were looking for work, only to be dragged to this barren land to construct a seemingly impossible feat of engineering based on supposed ‘climate science’. My only real disappointment with the expansion is that you don’t get to play as Euphemia MacLachlan, who was such a strong character in that announcement trailer. She does appear in the expansion, but even then, only very briefly.
I think the smartest thing about The Last Autumn is how it punishes you for playing it like the main game. I never finished the generator: I restarted once, was fired twice, and got to the end only to miss my final deadline, and each time was because I was prioritizing the wrong things. I was focusing more on survival than on the generator, and though failing frustrated me, I think the expansion is incredibly clever for doing it. Also considering Frostpunk’s post-industrial revolution, Victorian-era setting, and the horrific labour laws and workplace accidents of that time, it’s super smart having an expansion which plays on that.