Why you NEED to experience FROSTPUNK!

Survival of the Coldest?

The Subgenual Anterior Cingulate Cortex is the part of the brain that scientists now say control generosity and empathy. You see a child suffering and this part of your brain wants to step in and help this child. It’s triggered when you see starving puppies, an expectant mother standing on a bus that you offer your seat. To understand this function, and more importantly, how to turn it off, is to understand Frostpunk.

Frostpunk is in all technical terms, a Victorian Steampunk, city management strategy game. The world has frozen solid and humanity has built enormous heat generators to deal with the dropping temperatures. Your job as, The Captain, is to make sure that your small group of refugees can survive this cold and cruel world. This is done in it’s most mechanical sense by obtaining coal, steel, food and wood through different means. But this is not why this game won my personal Game of the Year in 2018.

The Soul of Frostpunk…

Where this game shines is it’s ability to make you question your moral compass. Now, plenty of us have played games where you can choose to be good or evil. Frostpunk however does this in a way that makes you feel guilty enough that you question your own humanity when, and if, you survive. The very soul of this game is as cold as the weather, and it is beautiful. Throughout your gameplay you will have a bar at the bottom of your screen that holds the Hope and Discontent. These two concepts are the consequence of your actions throughout the game. Every random scenario, every choice you make, every death, every illness will shift these two bars and you will constantly be filled with anxiety as your decisions effect them.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Now, not many games take the risk to make their players do something as horrific as sending children to work in coal mines, and steel factories. (Where inevitably one of the children will be injured and you are given the option to let them rest, or send them back to work.) Options are given to you as the town leader in the forms of Adaptation and Purpose. Now bare with me, these options can be cruel, life altering, such as enforcing child labor in unsafe jobs, piling the dead on the outskirts of your city to be later used as fertilizer, public beatings, propaganda flyers, prostitution, and even mixing food with sawdust. All in the name of survival. (I wasn’t lying when I said this game will question your humanity.) Adaptation itself is fairly straightforward, just consider circumstances and judge accordingly. Feed them sawdust, open care centers, cut off everyone’s legs and arms. Make kids work the mines. But purpose, is where things get interesting.

Discipline or Faith?

The concept of Purpose in Frostpunk is quite honestly where this game hits me the most. There is such a beautiful political satire in this that is often overlooked throughout ‘Let’s Play’ videos of this game, even in my own. Purpose gives you two very distinct and different paths, Order and Faith. Order is your typical Orwellian system using watchtowers, propaganda letters, etc. Faith uses the governmental systems of church, public pentinence, shrines, soup kitchens. Now this seems like one would be preferable to the other, propaganda vs soup kitchens, I mean come on. But the game fools you as you rise in ranks of the Purpose system. You reach the end of your game realizing you have been drunk with power. That you have justified your actions to ‘survive’, but have all the while been subtly manipulated to become the most terrible version of either system.

Whatever the cost…

The feeling you get after your first playthrough, the emotional rollercoaster, the realization that you are not as clean as you thought you were, and the slight guilt you feel leave you feeling like you need to tell everyone about this game, but tell no one the terrible choices you made. If you don’t believe a game can make you challenge the very essence of humanity, then you are sorely mistaken. So go ahead, crank up the AC for added effect, grab a pair of headphones, and find out just how far you’re willing to go to survive.

Hi, my name is Josh, and I like “Cute Games”.

I’m a 36 year old, heterosexual male, and I grew up during the 1980’s and 1990’s. I was into all of the things that basically made sure you got your ass kicked. Dungeons and Dragons, reading Game of Thrones, Tolkien, The Avengers. Yes, it’s true, these things we talk about daily, that have become the most mainstream of popular culture would land you a quick wedgie, a ban from the cool kids table, and perhaps a quick sucker punch.

One of the easiest ways to get a target attached to your back? Cute games. Now when to refer to cute games, I don’t mean simply that the game had a cartoony style. Mario, Sonic, Pokemon, these all got you a pass as long as you didn’t obsess over them. I’m talking about the amazing games like Harvest Moon Back to Nature (Playstation), and The Little Mermaid (NES).

Harvest Moon, Back to Nature…

It was one of the strangest times to be a gamer in recent history. I am now older, wiser, understanding that my choice in games matters only to myself and that the general public’s opinion of games I enjoy is worth as much as the original ending of Mass Effect 3. But the 80’s and 90’s was still a mess of misogynist belief systems about which games you played, mixed with a social psychology. Your game collection at home, be it NES, SEGA, SNES, PS1, defined your ‘coolness’.

Then, a few decades later an amazing thing happened. Along with some social reforms, ‘Stardew Valley’ entered the fray. A farming/social simulator, built by one man that shook my world. This was Harvest Moon reborn. With a nostalgic throwback to SNES era graphics, a completely amazing and diverse cast of characters. Containing a midi based soundtrack that you’ll be humming along to, and all the most adorable animals you can think of. But what struck me most about this game was how huge it blew up on social media, and in sales. People from all corners of the internet, men I had known for years suddenly gushing about how, like myself, they were thrilled to have another Harvest Moon styled farming sim.

Excuse me? “Another Harvest Moon!”? Wait, when did you play Harvest Moon, why didn’t I know this, and why have we never gushed over our adventures, relationships, and farms before… oh wait. Gamer Street Cred, I forgot. Look guys, if you’re down for Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, or whatever variation of Japanese Cooking Chibi games are out there, you aren’t alone. You’ve never been alone. You won’t lose your ‘cool factor’ if you’re down with petting your cute ass cow named “Moobella”, dating the local village florist, or enjoying the Harvest Festival. So, grow a pair… of delicious vegetables.

With ‘Frostfall’, Skyrim WANTS to kill you…

Skyrim, the frozen wasteland situated on the northern coast of Tamriel. Here, there be Dragons… and snow. I mean a lot of snow, and ice, so much ice, ice caves, ice tea, ice ice baby. Ok, maybe not that much ice, but there is a plethora of a thing we here on earth like to call “Freezing Temperatures”. This can be classified as either 32° Farenheit, or 0° Celsius depending on the region of the world you are in. The universal understanding however is, if you aren’t prepared for it, you’re soon to become a meat popsicle.

Brrr!

Skyrim is one of the most immersive games to appear in the last 15 years. Dark ruins give you a sense of claustrophobia as you descend deeper into the bowels of the earth, sounds of water dripping off the tips of icicles echo through the forests. And through it all you are safe to enjoy them from the comfort of your own personal heating unit tucked somewhere deep within your armor.

I have had many friends boast about their prowess in Skyrim. Inundated with “I only play on Legendary”, “Skyrim is so easy!”. Well my friends, let me introduce you to Frostfall. Frostfall is quite possibly, in my opinion, one of the greatest mods created for a game, ever. Gone are the days of traversing Winterhold as a Mage Apprentice, draped in your college apprentice robes. Now, the weather is deadly. Frostfall is a detailed system that adds Hypothermia to your Skyrim adventures, and if you are unprepared will kill you.

The Website from creator Chesko describes it as follows,

“Frostfall is a cold weather gameplay immersion mod for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

The three main components of Frostfall are Hypothermia, Cold Water Survival, and Camping.

The primary objective of this mod is to add a deep, immersive level of gameplay to Skyrim, while keeping tedium to a minimum. An immersion mod should never get in the way of having fun.

Frostfall uses a sophisticated system to track your location, weather, time of day, worn clothing, and more, to determine your current condition, in a seamless and immersive way. Combined with Campfire, it also features a large variety of craftable camping equipment, including craftable torches. It is highly customizable, and very compatible with most other mods, including Real Shelter, Climates of Tamriel, Wet and Cold, worn cloaks, food, timescale, lighting, werewolf, and vampire mods.” – https://skyrimsurvival.com/home/frostfall/

Oh my friends, it is so much more however. It is a test of survival. Pushing the limits of immersion to a completely different level, daring you to venture into the wild of Skyrim without firewood. To battle a dragon while a blizzard saps the strength from your bones. The waters of the northern shores of Tamriel become a countdown toward the Grim Reaper. No longer are you simply finding a dot on the map, you are slowly trudging through the snow, frostbite taking your extremities, blurring your vision as you search for the closest form of shelter.

It includes Tents!

My wayfarers, my adventurers, my friends. Your journey through Skyrim has been a lie. Your Legendary playthrough has been nothing but child’s play. You have yet to experience Skyrim. I challenge, no, I dare you to install this Mod, and revisit Tamriel. A Tamriel, that’s trying to kill you…

My Sons, the Spoiler Kings…

I have owned The Legend of Zelda, Breath of the Wild for almost two years now. My first journey into this ‘breathtaking’ world was one of pure joy, not experienced since Twilight Princess. I felt my mind reach out, I felt the blades of grass that swayed in the breeze under my fingertips. The wind touched my face and I inhaled the sweet smell of Hyrulian herbs and spices. I tasted the bitter dust that swirled around my feet, and the coppery tang of Malice that lightly coated everything around me.

Then, two of my five children discovered video games…

My adventures were cut short. The beautiful world of Hyrule was ripped from my hands, quite literally. My good buddy Link became the plaything of my children. They breathed it in, absorbed it into their every being. My youngest son’s 6th birthday was Zelda inspired. Candy chests made of KitKat bars, filled with Rock Candy. Master swords, plastic shields, Champions Tunics, littered my house and I could do nothing but dream of the Hyrule I wouldn’t rediscover for at least another year. But watching my sons become obsessed with this game was something more amazing than anything I would ever later experience in Breath of the Wild.

Now this isn’t to say that everything was fantastic for me. We all have that one friend, that person who spoils every movie you’ve ever been excited to be surprised about, every book you’ve ever wanted to get lost in. Take that friend, make him so excited and adorable that you cannot, for any reason, make him stop gushing over his newest spoilers. These were now the demons my sons had become. They quoted the lost memories, they spoke in depth of characters, backstories, weapons, armor, quests… everything.

There are very few things in life that really make me want to grind my teeth. Spoilers are my dental visit. I knew everything about Breath of the Wild, The Ballad of the Champions, and even ridiculous theories about Koroks being the souls of the former Link’s and Zelda’s that have ever existed. But the sweet faces that looked up at me were too much to bare. I smiled, and listened, got involved with their conversations and, eventually, they moved on. Zelda was replaced by FNAF, then ARK, and finaly… I could forget.

I spent 2 years away from the game. I slowly began to forget the names of Divine Beasts, Memories, where the Master Sword was located… I could finally breathe. I recently have returned to Breath of the Wild, and have so much to say about it, but that will be another article. What Breath of the Wild has really taught me is that sometimes spoilers come from adorable faces. I’ve learned that no matter what I feel, those little voices are just trying to reach out and relate to me. I’ve learned that sometimes we just need to step back for a while, forget the spoilers, and just accept that those little hearts matter more than the 13 required to pull the Master Sword. (I learned that little fact in May of 2017.)

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