As we travel through the mountains our hearts are filled with a mixture of sorrow and hope, After they cast us out, our family, friends, neighbours … after they drove us from the town we were left with almost nothing we could not carry on our backs and in the singular wagon we had managed to get ready. People I had looked to with joy for my entire life had exiled me to die in this wilderness, but I was also filled with hope. We had taken supplies and enough people to strike out on our own! We would show them all, build our own town, be happy and wealthy and then they would be sorry they ever cast us out of their miserable little town!
Coming from the guys at shining rock software is Banished! A town building and management simulator set in what I assume to be the early days of the middle ages. Now I’ve had this game for some time now and have played it a lot… when I say a lot I have 20 saves and over 100 hours in this game. This is also a rather delayed review of the product which I know has been my thing lately with older games but only because perception was taking a bit longer than expected. I got this in the 2015 summer sale for around £7 but its regular price is £14.99 on steam and the title is PC exclusive. Trying to use the controls on a console would only result in a sore hands and frustration. For now, though I will tell you the tale of the town of Canton! Run by ME … “The HERO of Canton… the man they call Jayne!”
I’d love to write about the story of this game, tell you the harrowing tale of a group of plucky exiles who set out to start a new, but frankly the opening paragraph of this piece is more story than this game has ever had but that’s ok to be honest because I feel this games appeal is in making your own story your own town and running it your way… which for me … was very, VERY poorly 😀 ! I said I was the hero of Canton before but that’s technically untrue, I’m the hero of canton settlement version 9.0. first thing you have to do in this game is run the tutorial which comprises around 4 scenarios to teach you the basics of the game from building houses, to managing food and clothing and finally ending with a bit of trading but in reality, this game does not teach you a lot in training. For instance, you have over a dozen menus and buildings that have a good purpose but you’re never shown how to use them and arguably one of the best features the game has in the town hall is never given a tutorial but we’ll come to that later. To start Canton off I thought I’d take it at a normal pace, selected medium, no disasters and valleys not mountains and this starts you off in a good location with a barn, a fairly large population group for starting and some tools and clothes. Here’s where the adventure begins and where new players will start to hit real trouble. I started the way the tutorial had showed me, built a few houses, built some fishing huts, a gatherers hut and a some of the other basic buildings and this starts you off great. As a semi pro tip, I’d say start with a gatherers hut over a fishing hut because these have less of a people requirement and are faster built. So, the first few years go well enough my people are healthy and happy and I can see that they are making children and increasing the population well enough which is good because the people in your town can and will die. From old age, accidents, starvation, cold etc. these are all important things that you will have to manage as your town operates and grows and especially later in the game when resource management can make or break your towns survival.
Now one of the things that the game will only marginally teach you at this stage that is pretty important is menus. You’ll be needing several of them open at any given moment and these will usually be the role menu, the town statistics and when you’ve gotten around to building it the town hall menu will always be open usually at the production panel. Now after the first few years you’ll most likely start to hit some issues regarding population and this is where these menus will become really important to the game, as your town members begin to die of old age you’ll need to be very clever with people management to fill roles that become vacant. Another pro tip I have is DON’T build a school until you have a rather high population, say over 100 people as this slows the rate at which your children age and become ready to work (I did this the first few times and hit an issue that people died faster than I could replace them and thus canton 7.0 was born 😀 !) but back to the management, after the first 50 marker of your population this game goes from simple to challenging rather quickly and without actually introducing any new mechanics which deserves praise all by itself. FOOD and FIREWOOD become your most sought after resources as your exiles were clearly all cast out for eating the towns supply in a matter of days (not kidding they are hungry little grubbers) I was producing 6,000 food a year for my 50 ish population town and they were eating more than I could make with three fishing huts, two gathering huts and a farm! Safe to say my absolutely terrible micro management skills are the main reason that there are so many dead town markers in my land. (also, the reason I can’t win games of CoH 2 funnily enough 😊) once you’ve gotten to grips with it though the game is very enjoyable or at least it was for me, I say for me because this game falls into that category of games I like to label “Dad Games” you know the kind, the ones you play but are more of a sim than a really traditional game experience. In the bracket falls games like farming simulator and ARMA. All great titles enjoyed by many but not the kind of title you shoot the breeze about with your mates. Now I love a DAD game myself… possibly because I’m a forty-year old man at heart but that’s another story for another time. I played the last stint with it and lost 6 hours not really doing anything just assigning jobs to people and watching my town go about its business and that’s the appeal for me. It’s a very relaxing game once you’re good at it but getting to that stage with the lacklustre training and hungry ass population of exiles is a bit challenging and for my latest great pro tip. Start on easy difficulty, if you play medium first the start a new town on medium you’ll instantly notice the severe drop in difficulty. People will live longer; food acquisitions will be on average greater and it’s just a breeze. But the core experience is lost at that difficulty. You no longer get the feeling of hardship as your town struggles to get to the good quality of life you dreamed of but it is far easier to learn the game in easy mode!
Now about this town hall. Since I discussed it a lot and feel it’s a core aspect of the game. The town hall is a supplementary structure in the game that weirdly enough requires nobody to work in it to be useful. Its focus is to provide stats and figures for managing your village in terms of resources, population, growth and trade. It’s a VERY useful structure especially when you’re sitting there wondering why your food structures are plentiful but your people are still hungry … which will happen. It provides the player with graphs, figures and statistics and an overall view of how your settlement has been doing over various periods of time. The most handy feature though is the resource tracking. The town hall allows you to see how much you’ve produced of a certain resource and how much your town has consumed. This has two major impacts. Firstly, you can now manage accurately your food supply and secondly TRADE. Trade gets really important later in the game as some things are only accessible through it like access to certain crops and livestock which you will need to get far in Banished.
So here we go with the issues, bug bears the problems with this game for me… for starters and most importantly it has to be the games tutorial system. It’s so lacking in any of the really important stuff this game needs to have training for that its painful. Things you won’t be taught include:
- how schools work and that they slow the progression from child to worker
- the town hall and its ocean of stats for helping you manage your town
- the nomad system?
- how a lot of buildings like hospitals, churches, taverns, the boarding house etc. all work (boarding houses are important when upgrading houses later in the game when you don’t have a surplus)
- the problem with farming (micro managing farmers to live next to crop fields to prevent loss)
- the game has no training on how to increase your population size and this is a really big deal when people start dying and you lack the replacements. (pro tip build lots of houses to cause a baby boom and hope they mature fast enough to compensate for the drop off)
the farming one isn’t so much a bug bear but a personal gripe, see when you have crops they’ll have a yield and in the winter the longer it takes to harvest your crops the more you’ll lose. When running a tight food consumption, you’ll find this to be a real kicker. But just so much of this game is taught through trial and error or sometimes if you don’t experiment just not at all. The town hall is pivotal later in the game but arguably you could play the game never even using it (not recommended though) Aside from that the game is really lacking in a task priority system. I got really frustrated at points where I was in dire need of a building being finished and my people were still busying themselves building the tavern and as a result several town members died of the food shortage :V
Overall impressions for this game are actually pretty great despite the issues that it has, once you’ve finally gotten the grips of the game it has a lot to offer you in terms of town management and progression is very nicely paced. Trading is handled well and the town gains and losses population at a very natural rate. The harder difficulties offer an entirely new challenge but I felt that was part of the progression as a player to be hit with harder and harder repercussions for being so bad at managing my town! Drawbacks for this game are that people without a lot of patience and foresight for the later game appeal will get bored with waiting around for seasons to pass and things to happen even at 10x speed the game’s progression through the years is kind of slow. For the price it’s a hit and miss game, if you have the patience to uncover the hidden appeal of this game then go for it but be sure to keep the wiki open because you’ll need it! if not then this isn’t really a game I can recommend for you !
As always like, comment, share your thoughts with me about it and I hope you enjoy 😀