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Frostpunk 2’s trailer raises the stakes with worker rebellions, punishing conditions

It will be on Game Pass from day one

Nicole Clark (she/her) is a culture editor at Polygon, and a critic covering internet culture, video games, books, and TV, with work in the NY Times, Vice, and Catapult.

City-building survival game Frostpunk 2 will put settlers in the same perilous conditions as the first game — in a time of ice age, where the environment becomes bleaker and bleaker. But, according to a new gameplay trailer, it looks like it will up the ante from the original game’s unforgiving, dystopian conditions. The sequel is slated to come out sometime in the first half of 2024 on PC, and will debut on Game Pass.

In Frostpunk, you manage a city of settlers in a town near London during the industrial revolution, weathering a cataclysmic environmental event. Ice storms have ravaged most of humanity; you must find a way to keep the generators for heat, while assigning workers and making constant tradeoffs in order to keep people fed, housed, and, most of all, alive. The game’s motto was “The city must survive” — your citizens believe they are some of the last living humans, and letting the generator die means freezing to death.

Frostpunk 2, which is set 30 years after the original, takes these ideas and runs with them — the city has lasted this long, the motto is now “The city must not fall.” It looks as if each of the core conceits of the original game got a glow-up. The top-down design of the city is just as vivid and picturesque. But the gameplay trailer reveals more sophisticated UI features in the building layout, including what appear to be design elements related to new heating technologies. When Frostpunk 2 was first announced in 2021, the announcement trailer noted generator technology evolved to run on oil — but that these upgrades would come at a price.

In Frostpunk 2, players must navigate political conflict and worker rebellion. It appears workers now have agency to fight back against the Steward’s — that’s you, the player — choices, in the form of voting things down. The gameplay trailer shows the inside of a civic building, in which workers vote on equal pay. The trailer also shows off a few narrative flashpoint moments, where citizens ask for specific things, or voice specific complaints: At one point, a miner named Ian Mactavish shouts “where are the homes you’ve promised.”

That might be the most frightening bit this sequel promises, honestly — being able to put faces and names to the working population. The original game gave you basically no good choices: You’re forcing people to work 18 hours, feeding them sawdust, and attempting to puzzle out whether militarism or religion is the best way to enforce adherence. It looks like in the sequel, you’ll have to face the brutal consequences of your choices.

The next level of puzzles.

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