Nature is a cruel mistress. Harsh conditions, cold winters, and an overall lack of modern comforts we take for granted today– it’s a wonder that mankind ever tamed any of it at all. Banished, an indie game by Shining Rock Software, takes you back to a simpler and more difficult era where you must hoard basic resources like food, stone, and iron in order to survive.
Banished has zero story. None to talk of at all. You’re just dropped in with no pomp and circumstance or reason as to why your town exists or where your villagers came from, only that you’re now in charge of managing their survival.
A variety of handy information about your village is always at your disposal.
In the very beginning, you’ll be put in charge of a town in the center of a large expanse of untamed wilderness with a small settlement to start with. You could try the tutorial first, but if you’re like me, you start blind and see what you can figure out. If you skip the tutorials, you’ll likely have no idea what you’re doing and you’ll fail. Which is absolutely fine. Banished is a game with an initial learning curve that, when you finally get over it, can be quite satisfying. The further you get each time you try, the more you learn about what works and what doesn’t.
There are a number of different things you can construct, but the most important ones will always be food and shelter. You can get resources from the surrounding environment, and it’s wise to build things like forester structures, to gather wood, and herbalist huts, which will provide basic health care to your villagers. First things first though, is farmland. Crop fields are the most immediately helpful, and depending on what difficulty you chose, you may have multiple types of seeds to start with. Orchards are less important to begin with, but do eventually grow in usefulness. On harder difficulties, you have to cycle what crops you put where, as crops or orchards with similar produce may become infested and can affect nearby crops if not promptly taken care of.
Eventually your resources will run out, or to put it more accurately, be too far from your town to warrant sending people out that far, which is when things like mines and quarries must be built to keep bringing in stone and iron, and more foresters to insure you can provide wood to the town’s woodcutter. Winter will come, and without enough firewood they can freeze to death, which is clearly against the prime goal—to grow your town’s population and keep it stable and the people happy.
When it comes to the inevitable death of some of your townsfolk, those still among the living will begin to feel sad if you’ve not built a graveyard to bury the deceased. If your villagers become too unhappy, they won’t procreate. They don’t procreate long enough and you’ll see more people dying than being born, and that can spell disaster for supporting the needs of everyone in your town. Along with graveyards, you can also build chapels and taverns to boost the happiness of your villagers. Taverns often need fruit to produce merry drink, which is where the aforementioned orchards come into play to produce said fruit. Also important is the construction of homes, because adults won’t have kids if they’re still living with their parents.
Whether for good or bad, everyone does what you tell them to which is nice to an extent, but when your town’s population grows, the lack of delinquency becomes a lot more obvious. The longer game doesn’t have much more to offer than what you will experience in the short-term; no extra layers of complexity or different challenges that you won’t already be familiar with after playing for a while.
Interestingly, your villagers never seem to need a place to put their… dirty business. You’ll produce a lot of food but eventually you’d expect that food to pass through your people’s’ digestive systems. However, your villagers’ bodily functions never become anything you have to deal with even when they’ve grown to over 200 in population.
Banished is a fairly basic game in terms of visual quality, but everything is clearly recognizeable for what it’s supposed to be. No entity is ever so muddled that you can’t make it out, but Banished is not a paragon of graphical fidelity. It does well enough and gets the job done.
The sound effects in banished are nothing to shake a stick at, you’ll be hard pressed to marvel at any noise the game makes, yet it all gets the job done. It’s fairly average and largely provides appropriate ambience where need be.
When it comes to the game’s accompanying music, it’s so woefully inconsistent and dull that you’ll likely find yourself muting the music and playing your own tunes. Usually, music is a strong point in games, but here it’s this game’s weakest.
While you fail in the beginning, Banished is a game that you’ll still come back to figure out. But once you have, the game loses a bit of its replayability in that regard. There’s not a lot here to come back to if you’ve done well at it, but if you still haven’t learned the ropes yet then there’s still a good amount of replayability here.
Usually we grade story, but given the sandbox nature of Banished, we’re giving it a free pass on that and just looking at everything else. Banished is a difficult but ultimately fun and fair experience overall. While the music isn’t all that great, the game accomplishes what it sets out to do, put the player in the difficult position of managing the resources of a small group of villagers and grow their population and productivity.
- Gameplay – 70%
- Graphics – 65%
- Sound – 60%
- Replayability – 70%
Final Verdict – 66%
We’d lightly recommend Banished. It’s an enjoyable game, but one you might consider getting on a sale. Banished is available on Steam, but is not available for Mac or Linux machines.