The cold undocumented emptiness of Banished


#1

Banished is a city builder for people who haven’t played city builders and therefore don’t know what they’re missing. It doesn’t do anything that about a half dozen other city builders haven’t already done better. It’s Tropico stripped of any flavor, or Anno stripped of its elaborate economic interdependences, or Children of the Nile minus any of Tilted Mill’s insight into the genre, or Settlers without the hearty Germanic personality, or Stronghold without the castle. It’s a bare bones proof-of-concept without any larger gameplay framework, like one of those version .097 betas that might come together as a modest little game in about six months to a year.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2014/02/24/cold-undocumented-emptiness-banished

#2

I rather liked the lack of information. It was fun finding out how stuff worked by trying it out and observing things carefully. Although it probably wouldn't have worked with a bigger city-builder.

I also agree with your point on the lack of long-term goals in the game. After a while it feels like Anno, just stuck at the first two tiers of buildings. Where is the rest of the game?
Once I've reached maximum health and happiness and built every building and filled every job - which doesn't take that long once you know what you're doing - I'm done.
I'm at 100 citizens and I'm done.
I can double everything and now I'm at 200 citizens. Expand north and east and double everything again and I'm sitting at 400 now. What is the point apart from achievements?

I've played ~12 hours and I'm finished with the game. Not bad for an indie-game for 20$. but not that great for a city-builder.


#3

There we go, our beloved Quarter to Three again.


#4

Like the van helsing review, there are valid points. But it struggles and finally drowns itself in boneless comparisons to other games who arent even the same genre. Not a lot information i can get out of this as a reader except the "i really would like it to be a different game".


#5

You are a horrible reviewer... you don't seem like the right person to even review such games. You need games where everything you need to do is told and written for you in quest/mission logs.

First try playing the tutorial and most of your question will already be answered.

How much food do you need? How about enough. How many herbalists does a town of fifty need? How about enough to give you enough herbs. Add more if needed, remove if enough.

Do you really need more information to tell you you are running out of food and you need to produce more so people don't starve? Its common knowledge.
Why are they unhappy? Maybe because you don't have a graveyard and their family died or they live close to a mine, etc etc. Try playing the game for more then an hour before making a review.

I do agree the game could use some more endgame or direction but you didn't even mention the upcoming mod support or the achievements. I've got 20+ hours in the game and I can put some more in for sure. But that would not make me give the game anything less then a 7/10. Know what you buy aswell.


#6

It has diagonal roads: shift drag

Didn't you do a GOTY piece judging by story?
Banished is totally without any story, so point.

If all games were great for everyone, this wouldn't be Qt3, it would be One Foot in the Grave.


#7

So how did you find out about the diagonal roads? Is it in the game somewhere? Please tell me I missed something in the tutorial or documentation.


#8

"There are no goals, no scenarios, no unlockables, no longterm luxury
goods or endgame wonders or upper level populations or advanced
buildings."
...so essentially, you expected an Anno clone, and you got something completely and utterly different, and you're annoyed about that.

Is it so hard a notion to consider that the point of playing a game could for once just be the simple enjoyment of playing it? Do all games have to lead you through with a carrot on a stick and then pat you on the back at the end and tell you how well you did?

As with life, it's the journey, not the destination that counts. I love this game specifically because the developer put so much time and effort into building game systems that were deep and engaging, and gave almost no consideration to handing out empty meaningless rewards to the player to attempt to hold their interest.


#9

Do you write off Minecraft as being abysmal because it doesn't clearly hand-hold your way through every single control, game system and recipe?

I think it very well may be an oversight in the documentation, but the fact is it's in there, it really doesn't take much effort to find out, and it really doesn't reflect on the quality of the game itself in any way that the guy happened to forget to explicitly explain a single hotkey in his tutorials.


#10

It has documentation? Tho that could be Steam hiding it. Dominions 4 suffers from that too.


#11

Arguably, Minecraft would be a very dismal experience without either a community to draw on, or if you prefer cold information, a wiki at the very least.

I like Tom's reviews, insofar as once he sets his mind against something he doesn't go for half measures. He mentions Dwarf Fortress, which doesn't exactly hold your hand either. (must stop thinking about Dwarf Fortress... cannot afford to lose another fortnight...)

I saw this described as the Dark Souls of city builders - which is enough to guarantee I'll never play it, but like Dark Souls, I'm intrigued.


#12

I've found it to be one of the most calm, engrosing, deeply engaging games I've ever played. It's not hellishly difficult or obtuse, it just requires you to actually engage with it, rathen than expecting it to spoon-feed you how to play it. You need to stop trying to deconstruct it and get annoyed when it doesn't neatly deconstruct into systems you're familiar with. It's a deeply complex and reactive simulation, and you can only learn to get good at it by observing carefully what happens, and how you can influence what happens.

I have nothing against a reviewer pointing out a game's flaws, and even I will agree that Banished would benefit from some more long-term direction, and a little more content and variety.
I find Tom's review style obnoxious though. He had already decided he hated the game, and then sought to pick as many holes in it as possible to prove the point he had already decided to make.
He can get away with that approach reviewing a lot of big-budget AAA games, as most of them are pretty skin-deep, but for this game, it's very telling that he didn't even begin to consider bothering to actually engage with the game, because he mentions nothing of what is actually beneath the surface. It looks like an Anno clone, and it doesn't play like an Anno clone, therefore it's rubbish. That is an incredibly lazy way to review a game.


#13

Yes, it has a whole in-game manual, hidden away in the depths of the not-at-all-clear-and-obvious giant question-mark button, on the same toolbar as all the other information panel windows and tools.

Admittedly, even in the documentation, it doesn't tell you exactly how many of each job you need, how many of each resource you need, or precisely how each system is programmed to work... and that is because the game is entirely built around a genuine fully reactive simulation. It's why the documentation says things like "if you overlap the circles of two of the same production buildings, it *might* reduce productivity"... it might, it might not, it depends on how the simulation plays out, and you can only know for certain by trying things, and observing how they work out, and making better informed decisions next time.

The documentation, like the game, could use a bit more fleshing out, but the fact is, there's a lot you can learn about the game simply by watching it and observing what happens, instead of expecting to be told how to play correctly.
I'd recommend people try that approach before passing judgement, as it can be an incredibly rewarding game.


#14

This has to be one of the worst reviews I have ever read for any game, anywhere

That being said, I am capable of appreciating one's opinion even if it differs from mine but this is utter garbage. At least do some research and play the game more than 1 hour before reviewing it.


#15

"What really kills Banished for me is the overwhelming sense of pointlessness. There are no goals, no scenarios, no unlockables, no longterm luxury goods or endgame wonders or upper level populations or advanced buildings. There is no finale. There is, instead, a world without end."

Welcome to city builders, Tom. Most other city builders and sims have no real ending, either, and the statement "there are no goals" is completely subjective. You might not have goals when you play, but I sure do. Some of them are long term, like reaching a population of 100 or even 1000, and others are short-term like averting a sudden food crisis or even upgrading all of my town's houses and roads to stone rather than wooden and dirt. And what sort of "finale" were you expecting, exactly?


#16

"What really kills Banished for me is the overwhelming sense of pointlessness. There are no goals, no scenarios, no unlockables, no longterm luxury goods or endgame wonders or upper level populations or advanced buildings. There is no finale. There is, instead, a world without end."

Welcome to city builders, Tom. Most other city builders and sims have no real ending, either, and the statement "there are no goals" is completely subjective. You might not have goals when you play, but I sure do. Some of them are long term, like reaching a population of 100 or even 1000, and others are short-term like averting a sudden food crisis or even upgrading all of my town's houses and roads to stone rather than wooden and dirt.


#17

"What really kills Banished for me is the overwhelming sense of pointlessness. There are no goals . . . There is no finale. There is, instead, a world without end."

Welcome to city builders, Tom. Most other city builders and sims have no real endings, either, and the claim that "there are no goals" is completely subjective. You might not have goals when you play, but I sure do. Some of them are long-term like reaching a population of 100 (or even 1000) and others are short-term like averting a sudden food crisis or even rebounding from a natural disaster. There are even achievements which, in a way, provide explicit goals. It's odd that you didn't mention them at all.

EDIT: Sorry for the numerous copies of my post above. I thought "deleting" posts actually, well, deleted them.


#18

One star is very harsh for this game. Three stars, or even two, I can see. But you're saying Banished is a bad game, not worth buying, and I couldn't disagree more. An average game, yes. But not a bad one.


#19

Worst reviewer I had ever seen.


#20

Guess Tom didn't get his payoff check again...