Despite its graphical compromises, Frostpunk: Console Edition is an excellent way to experience one of the best games of last year.
It's almost always a good thing when a platform-exclusive game is made available to a wider audience. In the case of Frostpunk: Console Edition, it's a great thing. Developed and published by 11 Bit Studios, Frostpunk originally launched for Windows PC in spring of 2018 and became a sleeper hit that captivated players with its involving combination of city-building, societal management and survival simulation. The relative commercial success of the game has allowed it to expand with updates and DLC for over a year since then, and now Frostpunk has officially come to PS4 and Xbox One.
Some might be wary about console ports of former PC exclusives, especially one that involves top-down city-building and minuscule adjustments. Luckily, Frostpunk: Console Edition is a port made with care. It may not be as pretty as its PC counterpart, but this version is optimized with a fully rebuilt control scheme for gamepads and plenty of additional content, making it a great way to play one of 2018's best games.
The alternate-history premise of Frostpunk has always been one of the most intriguing things about it. In the late 19th century, an apocalyptic winter has fallen over the earth as the result of sudden global cooling triggered by malevolent natural forces. As the worldwide blizzard gets colder and colder with no end in sight, nations desperately pour their resources into finding new ways to survive. England has constructed massive, monolithic coal burners called Generators, designed to serve as powerful heat sources. But these generators need huge amounts of coal in order to function, and there's only one place with enough coal reserves: the Arctic.
The player takes on the role of the Captain, who has led one of the expeditions north and discovered a new home in an icy crater, where they have installed the Generator. Now the real work begins: fueling the Generator, scouting the wasteland, and keeping the city and its people alive as the last hope for humanity.
All of the gameplay elements of Frostpunk are still fully featured in the console edition, and the moment-to-moment tension is as impactful as ever. The bird's eye view of the crater allows the player to command all facilities, workers and construction at once, but that certainly doesn't mean it's easy. Micromanagement and forethought are key from the minute the first groups of workers are sent to gather resources. How cold is it in all the city's zones? Are all the workplaces fully staffed, and how many sick citizens are there? Are the scouts out looking for other survivors? Can you pass a new law yet? And how long until the temperature drops again? Juggling all this while maintaining resources, laying out buildings, and developing tech is essential to keeping people healthy and hopeful. Frostpunk is a game of triumphant highs and nail-biting lows, unpredictably tied together into an incredibly satisfying experience of management and survival.
11 Bit Studios has put a considerable amount of effort into the new control scheme for consoles, as well. The button layout has been redesigned from the ground up with controllers in mind, and while it doesn't quite have the speed or precision of a mouse and keyboard, it works remarkably well. Handy radial menus and a revamped, intuitive UI make it seem like the game was designed for consoles all along. There's a surprising amount of customization options too, allowing the player to adjust camera and cursor sensitivity, snap distance, and snap strength in order to get everything feeling just right. Frostpunk: Console Edition also includes all the free DLC added to the game up to this point. A lack of replay value was one of the complaints about the original release, but with three alternate scenarios and an endless mode now (plus paid DLC in the future), that issue has been thoroughly addressed.
If there's a complaint to be had with this port, it's the fairly noticeable change in graphical fidelity. As is the case with most console games, there are no video settings to tweak. Zooming in close enough to your city reveals grainy edges, jagged polygons and lower-resolution textures, especially compared to the PC version. This may not necessarily be a problem for those that haven't experienced the game on PC, but either way, the in-game photo mode isn't a very attractive option on console.
On the whole, Frostpunk: Console Edition is an outstanding port of an outstanding game. It's absolutely worth a look from console players who haven't had the opportunity to play this absorbing city-builder/survival sim until now. Although this version may not offer much to those who have already bought and played it on PC, the fact that Frostpunk is now accessible to more people is a cool thing in itself.
Frostpunk: Console Edition is now available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One for $29.99. A PS4 code was provided to Screen Rant for the purpose of this review.