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Frostpunk 2’s beta offers a gripping slice of stressful city-building

Key art for Frostpunk 2
11 bit Studios

Typically, playing city-based or civilization-building games is a relaxing experience for me. There’s an inherent satisfaction in something I created in Cities: Skylines 2 or Mini Motorways running efficiently based on my actions. I’m content with spending dozens of hours crafting a functioning world, and only occasionally having my skills tested in a high-intensity situation. Frostpunk 2 from 11 bit Studios is a city-builder where those feelings are often reversed. Most of my time playing its beta was extremely stressful, as I constantly had to make difficult decisions in order to preserve a society that established itself in a frosty postapocalypse.

For all 300 in-game weeks of playtime that Frostpunk 2’s Utopia Builder mode beta offers, I was constantly facing the looming threat of dwindling resources and multiple political factions all vying for my attention and power, all while trying to build a civilization up. While that got extremely stressful, I’m already gripped by my short time with Frostpunk 2.

Stay frosty

While the original Frostpunk was a real-time strategy game about rebuilding a single settlement, 11 bit Studios has previously explained that this sequel is about leading that established settlement into a thriving civilization. The world of Frostpunk has not gotten any more forgiving; it’s still a postapocalyptic place with intense frost and little in the way of resources. The mose I played, Utopia Builder, is Frostpunk 2’s free-building mode. In it, players aren’t tied down to a prewritten story; as such, this beta is designed purely to give players a look into most of Frostpunk 2’s gameplay system — and it does that in spectacular fashion. At a basic level, players need to build up their city while earning money and providing enough heat, shelter, and food to minimize death.

Building districts in Frostpunk 2.
11 bit Studios

To start, I expanded my city by frost=breaking nearby land so I could build districts on those tiles. Districts focus on important elements like housing, food, or industry. I could also add buildings to those individual districts to increase their efficiency. Ideally, I’d quickly find a way to maximize efficiency and then bask in my success as I watched the city grow.

Frostpunk 2 makes doing that quite difficult, though.

First off, space is limited, and this world is also quite deadly. If any of those mentioned resources falter, people will die, and entire districts could potentially shut down and stop providing resources. On top of that, the citizens of this city are all part of different factions that have unique demands. Machinists prefer more technology-driven solutions to problems that may arise, while Foragers are nomads that pitch more naturalistic solutions to problems.

For every topic on Frostpunk 2’s research tree, I had to side with the idea of one of these factions. That would then have political ramifications as I headed into a council meeting every 10 weeks. In order to get enough votes for a law to pass, I needed to build up trust and sway with individual factions. One way to do this is to promise something specific to a faction, like that you’ll side with them on the research of a certain topic or let them choose the next topic to put up for a vote at a council meeting.

A council meeting in Frostpunk 2.
11 bit Studios

Those requests have short-term benefits, but following through on them could hurt the city in certain ways, while ignoring them entirely will anger those factions. This all only worsens over time as the city gets bigger and more factions are introduced. My downfall during my first beta playthrough ultimately spawned from my overextending and ignoring the Technocrats, an emerging third faction.

I spent too many resources too quickly scouring the frosty wasteland, and a multitude of forced, personal decisions at the council made the Technocrafts despise me. That eventually caused them to rebel and go on strike. I watched as multiple districts shut down and hundreds of people dies as week 300 rolled around. Because I had made all the difficult decisions that ultimately got the city to that point, I felt at fault.

Techocrats in Frostpunk 2.
11 bit Studios

That humbled me. If I’m going to bask in the success of building a large city in Cities: Skylines 2, then I also need to accept and find enjoyment in failure in Frostpunk 2. If that’s what I felt after playing through just 300 in-game weeks of Frostpunk 2’s Utopia Builder mode, then I’m excited to see what the full game will have to offer.

Frostpunk 2 will launch for PC on July 25, and those who pre-order can play this beta until April 22. When the full game launches, it will be on PC Game Pass from day one. it’salso in the works for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.

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Tomas Franzese
Tomas Franzese is a Staff Writer at Digital Trends, where he reports on and reviews the latest releases and exciting…
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