Frostpunk is a game that's been a resounding success for 11 bit studios. This strategy survival game tasks players with managing a steampunk city in the midst of a terrifying ice age that has frozen most of the world. It's been out on PC for a while and I recently had the opportunity to check out the upcoming console version of the game.
11 bit studios' Patryk Grzeszczuk and Jakub Stokalski walked me through the basics of the game. I'm casually familiar with Frostpunk, but I just haven't had the time to get around playing it myself even though I had really wanted to. I was curious to see not only what Frostpunk was like but how 11 bit studios had managed to adapt the game for consoles. It is, after all, optimized for keyboard and mouse. Considering all of the different things you'd have to click on while managing an entire city — just how are you going to get that to work with a controller?
Frostpunk on Consoles - Branching PathsThe most immediate change I noticed with the console version of Frostpunk was the UI. It was different. It was very different. In fact, the guys from 11 bit told me that it's essentially been overhauled from the bottom up to work with the much more limited options on a controller. After all, an Xbox One controller has 12 buttons, a directional pad, and two analog sticks and a PC keyboard has over a hundred keys, nevermind how many buttons you might have on your mouse.
I watched as the devs moved through the menus, planning out buildings and assigning tasks on a brand-new save file. While I'd concede that the developers probably are well-familiar with the console version of Frostpunk, it nonetheless seemed to run buttery smooth in terms of workflow. Having survived the horror of Starcraft 64, I understand just how difficult it is to get a game optimized for keyboard and mouse to work on a controller.
It works so well, in fact, that the devs own testing showed an improvement in opinion for the controls. To their recollection, testers had rated the controls of the PC version of Frostpunk at 8.5 out of 10. The console version got a 9.
Take a look at this Frostpunk B-roll provided by 11 bit studios and see just how well it plays with a controller.
I had several questions about this new edition of the game. The first came naturally to me as a PC player—are we going to see controller support and the new UI added to the PC version? Patryk and Jakub explained that what I was looking at was essentially a whole new branch of code that is tailor-made for consoles.
Converting the Frostpunk console code branch to work on a PC would require some work, and that's an investment that would require a serious demand from players for controller support. If enough people ask for it, they might make it happen. For now, though, it seems unlikely.
I was also curious about the platforms that this new edition of the game was debuting on. The game's coming to the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but why no love for the Nintendo Switch? Essentially, this boils down to the same problem as controller support for the PC version: they'd have to do a lot of work to get the game to run on the Switch, especially since it's a less-powerful system when compared to the Xbox One and PS4. They haven't ruled it out, but it certainly won't be arriving when the Xbox One and PS4 versions launch.
My last area of concern was about the difficulty. Sometimes, a game moving from one platform to another might have the difficulty or mechanics tinkered with. Games will get autoaim, lowered difficulty, or other such changes to compensate for the insufficiencies of the new platform. I've been assured that Frostpunk will remain Frostpunk — aside from the changes to the UI to accommodate controllers, it's going to be the same brutally-difficult game.
The Future of Frostpunk on PCNow, this new edition of Frostpunk for consoles is very interesting, but the newest console I currently own is the PlayStation 2 that's gathering dust on a display shelf in my bedroom. There are hundreds of thousands of PC players—what do they have to look forward to?
While PC players won't benefit from the controller support in the console editions, they will have something to look forward to in a few months: the first bits of DLC are in development. Jakub and Patryk tell me that we should expect to see Frostpunk's first piece of DLC before the end of 2019. Tried as I might, I couldn't get any more details about it beyond that. Whatever it will be, it's sure to be interesting.
Getting a game like Frostpunk to work well on a console is a hell of a challenge, but 11 bit studios seems to have pulled it off from what I've seen in New York City. You'll be able to buy the console edition of Frostpunk in the Summer of 2019.
Will you play Frostpunk on consoles or do you think it's better to play this kind of game on PC? What do you think the first piece of DLC will be about? Let us know in the comments below!