Luke Hodorowicz began Banished‘s development in mid 2011 under the studio name Shining Rock Software. This game is unique in the sense that it was developed by only one person, Luke Hodorowicz. This is a similar case to the development of Minecraft by Markus “Notch” Persson, which was released in May of 2009. During an interview with Hodorowicz, he credited the Anno series as a big inspiration to the creation of Banished. When the game was finally released in January of 2014, after Hodorowicz invested over 5,500 hours into the project, it was announced that they would start working towards Linux and OS X support. In July of 2014 support for 3rd party modifications was announced, and later added to the game in November.
In the initial release of Banished, Hodorowicz did not include combat in order to focus on the creation elements of the game. This can be seen in the challenging, yet enjoyable, game mechanics in Banished. Challenges ranging between population health; food supplies; managing weather conditions; keeping the population warm; ensuring that the population is clothes; managing work force allocation; and scarcity in resources.
For many games the tutorial is a make it or break it for new comers in most games. As soon as you launch the game, you are welcomed with a very simple main menu. As soon as you launch the tutorial, you are gently guided through the core of the game. Banished is one of the greatest city builders that I have played, but also the most frustrating. Just when you think you’ve understood the game and are on the right path – most of your population dies to the cold weather or the lack of available housing that restricts the birth rate and eventually leads to an aging population.
With every challenge, Banished entices you to carry on and try again. Every time you believe you have got the hang of it, Banished puts you back in your place and forces you to try again. After relentlessly trying again and again – you start to learn from your previous mistakes and last longer than the last attempt. Eventually, I did get the hang of it and was able to manage all the variables effectively enough to carry on growing a meticulously designed city with efficiency as the key focus. Everything from storage and stock piles, to work locations and inner city infrastructure.
Look and Feel
The game comes with some great graphical settings, then again most new games that have come out over the past few years have put the standards extremely high. While Banished is by no means revolutionary in this department, the way many of its graphical aspects are animated and produced is stunning. The small touches such as weather effects, random natural assurances, as well as the way the little humans/creatures interact is great fun to watch in itself.
One of the very few issues with this game occurs when designing your city. When you have constructed quite a few buildings and progressed a hundred years, you do feel that the game could have done better with the architecture of the buildings. Many city builders make this mistake, where every house is completely identical. The usage of only one model for each building type makes the game a little less exciting. Although this is not an incredibly big problem, and hardly considered a flaw – as a long time fan of city builders this does disappoint me personally. While other games such as Anno, Civilization, Sim City, among others have not entirely solved this issue – some have added some form of random variables to make each building have a more personal lived in feel to it.
After a while the game begins to feel a little bit repetitive, and this is where modifications become a key factor to the success of Banished. As any modder will tell you, mods can truly spice up your game play to create unique challenges to an otherwise dulling game. Due to the way the modification system was setup for banished, as well as the ease at which you are able to browse, install, and activate mods via the steam’s workshop and the mod interface on Banished’s main menu – this games life span becomes considerably longer. Effectively making the games life span equivalent to the level of interest in the community – which thus far has been incredible. Individuals as well as groups have come together to develop modifications for Banished in many forms ranging from new buildings to entirely new mechanical variables such as new resources; new survival mechanics; and new game settings/interfaces.
While Banished does release new expansions in the form of updates, one cannot help to feel that they could have done more. Banished when compared to games like Civilization V and Anno 2070 or Anno 2205 feels very limited. While a game of CIV/Anno can last many days – Banished runs out of city development options in just a few hours. On top of this, when developing your city you don’t have alternative routes/paths. In Civilization V you are able to win the game through several forms of victory; Political; Religious; Militaristic; Scientific; or Cultural – among others. On Anno you have different paths of growth too, and you are able to pick between multiple political paths. Meanwhile Banished seems to be limited to a more one dimensional growth path, with the inevitability of losing. The entire objective of the game is to postpone losing as much as possible, and this in itself seems a little bit counter intuitive.