Farthest Frontier Review
How hard can it be to manage a band of like-minded individuals who decide to settle in the wilderness? Well, Farthest Frontier will let you find out, or if you want a less graphically intensive experience you can simply check out the 2014 title Banished. This is no bad thing, well it is for my time Banished has already eaten 130+ hours of my life.
Yes, there are new features and the graphics surely do look much more pleasant. No more ant size humans shooting around the screen simply to harvest the disappointing crop of cabbage that will surely fill their bellies and supply enough gas to solve the current energy crisis. Now the people have detail to them, you can see which ones have wicker backpacks, which are sprawled on the floor having been chewed by a passing wolf.
The game also has some features inspired by such classics as Caesar 3 or was it CivCity Rome, probably both. Your citizens need a nice location and a certain quality of living in order to upgrade their houses.
It’s a nice combination and gives some extra dimension to the game.
Farthest Frontier has a lot more depth than Banished and is a great stand-alone game however I did find some things I hope will be in future updates.
- The ability to easily find buildings by type. The only way I’ve found so far is to open up the people's locator and select the magnifying glass next to the person working in that building. If you are lucky they will be at work, if not you get to marvel at their home.
- The graphs show high-level information like how much food is going to waste, perhaps a graph that would be useful in the real world, however, if you want to look into what market is generating what income you are stuck. I suppose you can go and explore each but it would be nice to see how individual income streams are performing.
- You can prioritise individual resource collection. Click on the tree to be removed and check the priority box. I don’t seem to be able to find a way to prioritise resource collection above the house building. I’ve fallen into a few lulls when lots of buildings needed wood but nobody would prioritise wood. This is solved a little later in the game to a certain extent.
- Map generation can deal you a very bad hand and you only find out once you’ve explored the entire map. It would be nice to be able to define minimum levels of materials. If your map has no wicker then the lovely backpacks are out of the question.
A day in the life:
Trumpton started as a small squalid settlement nestled between one slightly dirty-looking pond and what could be a lake or perhaps the sea, only time will tell. The wolves running rampant through the surrounding forests didn’t make exploration by the Trumponians a top priority. So compelled by a higher force that was beyond their comprehension the Trumponians settled where they started. On a muddy strip of land between two bodies of water.
The people of Trumpton soon felt the pain of poor leadership when something immediately compelled them to go hunt down and destroy a den of wolves. Their god Trump smirked a little when the third building required by the settlement was a graveyard to hold the mangled corpse of a wolf victim. Still, once the danger was over the Trumponians had much more of the environment to despoil. See those trees? No neither do I now.
Trumpton grew slowly but steadily. The game seems to require at least one of each type of building in order to allow you to progress. Sadly then came random fire. The smokehouse I could understand but this was soon followed by a number of private dwellings. Unlucky or perhaps a dedicated arsonist. It mattered not my riotous settlers soon ran to the well and started to extinguish the flames.
Then came the raiders, dysentery, typhoid, starvation, and lack of resources. I’m not saying the game is depressing but whenever you feel you have things under control you are inevitable about to head down a hill into despair. It all got a little too real when a heat wave decimated my crops and population.
It is a learning experience though. I soon learned that if a bear is attacking your house, leave it the hell alone. Let it do its thing and nobody will die needlessly.
I learned that over-industrialisation doesn’t help when you’ve got too few people to fill those jobs. Perhaps a nice analogy for the crops rotting in UK fields.
I learned that you very soon want to burn it all down and start again.
This time I will get it right.
What I’ve learned so far (pretty much all spoilers)
Build too much of some things.
I tend to work with Lean principles and only build the minimum that is required therefore not wasting my precious resources. However, when it comes to income streams this is very limiting. Once I moved away from Trumpton I gave the suburbs plenty of markets and pubs to choose from.
Also, look out for buildings such as the apiary that generate resources without the need for human intervention. This can be a good source for trading.
Soldiers cost money
The raiders are very annoying and an army costs a fair bit. If you want protection you need to pay and therefore you need a good income stream. You can do this in a couple of ways:
- Upgrade your population's houses and keep them equipped with luxuries, each house above the shelter earns some tax money (although this is what the people were running away from in the first place!)
- Create income-generating structures such as markets & pubs.
- Keep an eye on structures that take a monthly fee such as rat catchers & healers.
- Do some trading with passing caravans, if you overproduce luxury items then you can get a fairly good funding stream.
Grouping your houses allows you to maximise the positive effect of markets, healers, education, and rat catchers. Trumpton suffered deeply when I initially dotted a few houses that need too far off industries to reduce commuting time. Unfortunately, when you then have to upgrade your population's housing this becomes a bit of a pain. I then went the other way and created a massive urban sprawl surrounded by markets and schools etc. This became easier to upgrade and protect but commuting on my low stone map is now a problem. The next attempt will involve a mixed model.
Grab a laborer and send them off on quests to the sides of the map. It’s a great way to find wandering herds of deer and other resources (although do look out for wolves & bears).
Group ugly industry away from your suburbs, people don’t like to see where you process their waste, although farmers don’t seem to care when it’s right next to their fields.
Trade post fridge
I might be wrong but food doesn’t seem to spoil in the trade post. I dropped 300 beans in there 5 years ago and they’re still good to trade. I wonder if this could be used when food gets scarce due to spoilage.
- There is depth to the game and it creates interesting puzzles to solve in order to progress.
- The graphics are nice enough to force my computer to heat the room.
- There is no goal apart from life itself and most people already have one of those. Once you've solved some of the layout challenges I'm not sure there will be much more there.