In addition to our main Game of the Year Awards 2022 (opens in a new tab), each member of the PC Gamer team highlights a game they loved this year. We’ll be posting new Personal Picks, alongside our main rewards, throughout the month.
We are in the midst of a boom in city builders. 2023 is already shaping up to be a bumper year for city builders, with Frostpunk 2 (hopefully!), Manor Lords (opens in a new tab)Laysara: Summit Kingdom, Aquatico and other interesting city building games (opens in a new tab) led our way. But 2022 was no slouch either – we had to build a city on a space station in Ixion, rebuild society after a climate disaster in Floodland (opens in a new tab)Manage a Norse settlement in Land of the Vikings and survive plagues, tornadoes, and floods in Settlement Survival, which left Early Access in October.
We even got to build a colony on the back of a huge dinosaur in The Wandering Village (opens in a new tab). What a time to be an urban planner!
But the city builder I completely fell into this year came from an unexpected source, Crate Software, creator of dark fantasy ARPG Grim Dawn. In terms of survival, I quickly discovered that Farthest Frontier (opens in a new tab) I didn’t throw a punch as my little villagers succumbed to cold, starvation, dehydration, animal attacks, raids, and just about every disease and injury you could think of. He has the greatest successes of communicable diseases: cholera, rabies, scurvy, typhoid, tetanus, food poisoning, purulent wounds, worms (toward!), and that old Oregon Trail favorite: dysentery.
Farthest Frontier makes it so tough I even had a citizen sidelined by a bee sting.
The latter, though unexpected, was definitely my fault as I built bee hives all over my town and surrounding farmland, hoping to make money from visiting merchants by selling wax candles. of bee and honey. I’m not surprised when my fellow townspeople get mauled by a rampaging bear or get sick from eating rotten food from a rat-infested root cellar (again, my fault). Bee stings, though? It’s new for me. It’s a pretty impressive level of simulation and a nifty way to put a farmer out of action even when I’ve set up a healer hut to heal the sick and good food storage for my people to eat healthy.
But as the Citizens have it in Farthest Frontier, it never feels unfair. It’s a tough and unforgiving medieval-inspired world, but my little villagers are also pretty damn tough. There is much satisfaction in watching them forage for the last sticks of firewood before winter sets in, watching them retreat indoors among a dwindling food supply during the long snowy winter, only to survive and get back to work when the snow melts and the flowers start to bloom.
I also really like the fact that agriculture is difficult. Not the basics – crops will grow as long as the weather is right and you can keep deer from crushing all your carrots – but really mastering the process to grow a bountiful and successful harvest. The crop rotation system is thoughtful, requiring a lot of experimentation, adjustments to soil quality, the almost obsessive rearrangement or crops so that they grow at the best time of year for maximum optimization, and even switching a farming cycle simply to grow clover instead of wheat or vegetables to rejuvenate the soil, which can be a difficult decision to make when your citizens are barely able to eat.
And as I wrote when Farthest Frontier entered Steam Early Access in August, I even like raiders. Yes, I have cursed them many, many times. I’ve seen them descend on my little village at the worst times, like when I’m about to sell a ton of goods to a merchant and in turn get some much-needed supplies. I have seen raiders ignore my well-fortified and protected walls to find a weak point elsewhere on the perimeter and slip into my village. I called in soldiers to guard my safe only to see raiders raiding an iron foundry across town.
Farthest Frontier raiders are smart, which I admire, and they don’t usually murder my citizens unless they need to, which I appreciate. No, they just want to steal as much of my valuable stuff as they can and then quickly flip the cheeks into the forest. I like that about them. At the same time, as my city grows and my defenses strengthen, it’s an incredible treat to watch a massive raiding party descend from the woods and be completely destroyed before they can even knock down the first gate.
Farthest Frontier still has some way to go in Early Access, and it could absolutely use more optimization and other improvements as it’s being developed for the as-yet-unannounced 1.0 release. (Towns really start blowing when they hit around 300 citizens). But it really appealed to me this year, allowing me to build, harvest, farm, and work long hours to keep my citizens warm, fed, safe, and free from horrible diseases. It’s a real “I’ll just play one more season” type of game that’s easy to get lost in. Don’t lose your citizens to bee stings.