Banished is the current indie darling in the gaming world, but for reasons quite a bit different than many other indie titles in active development. Banished is a city building and management game released on February 18, 2014. It is developed by Shining Rock Software, which is one man who spend three years developing and polishing the game. With the current trend of early access games getting funding to help with early development and receive feedback from players during the active development process, similar to the way Minecraft was before their official release.

Banished is quite different than many other city sims on the market, and if you’re still looking for something to wash the taste of last year’s SimCity disaster out of your mouth then Banished might just be for you. You will need some time to figure this game out though. There are no tech trees, no buying blueprints or trading for ideas. There’s not even form of currency, only a trade system based on goods bartering.

The early game is brutal as you will quickly learn the most important needs for your villagers, food, firewood, and housing. Even if you have two of the three you can expect to watch your village die off in the first or second winter. The weather is absolutely brutal in this game. Difficulty selection allows you to experience the game in completely different ways. Playing on easy or normal will give you access to at least one type of seed for farming and at least one for orchards. You will also have a higher starting population to build on faster. On hard you have no starting building resources, just some food, tools, and clothes in a rickety cart. You have no seeds for farming anything.

You must trade for seeds and probably some other goods as you build your industry up. It will take time though, as you must wait for children to grow up, and must have housing for young families to move into so they can make a bunch of babies. Fast expansion of a population might seem like an easy fix, but soon you will be begging for food, clothes, tools, and firewood while you watch your village die off.

Anyway, the UI is incredibly crisp and clean. You can pull up windows when you want to view them, or toggle them on to view them all the time. They can be dragged anywhere you want them to rest. Reminds me of some good old Rollercoaster Tycoon times, pull up that lazy Handyman and watch him in the corner, make sure he’s emptying those trash cans.

Luke is working on mod tools so people can add their own changes, tools, buildings, features, and changes to the game that they see fit. After three years of development its not hard to see why the guy would be tired and not willing to develop his own DLC for the game, but it hasn’t been completely ruled out yet. This is a game that had an instant community build around it, so the mods should be good to expand on the game.

The learning curve is incredibly steep. It took me about 6 hours of total failure before I managed to build a rather successful town. I experimented with year 2 trade builds and managed to score seeds by year 8 and start farming somewhat early.

There are an incredible amount of somewhat hidden mechanics in the game. Markets are important to make sure people have an even distribution of food in their houses, otherwise they stockpile whatever they can find. Town Halls keep track of various statistics and let you accept nomads into your village. Trading posts can be used for trading materials of course, but also as a form of emergency storage planning.

The main resources involve wood, stone, and iron. You’ll need them build pretty much anything and everything. Villagers can be tasked to jobs at anytime with one of the various UI windows. This game is deep but rather limiting in the late game. By then you should have plenty of food and resource production to prevent massive die offs. There are many other resources that villagers need to be happy, such as clothes, tools, firewood, and food. I can’t tell you how many times I had towns die off because of a lack of firewood or food in less than a year.

This is a game that is deceptively simple. There is plenty of depth to be found for one who enjoys exploring. If you’re a simulation fan and want something that will cleanse your palate, this little one man indie effort might be able to. Banished is $19.99 on Steam and Shining Rock Software’s website.

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