How far will you go to survive? That’s the central conceit of Frostpunk, the next game by the developers that brought us the bleak This War Of Mine. The world is frozen, and if you want your last bastion of humanity to live for long, you’ll need to know all the ins-and-outs of the apocalypse. It’s not enough to provide warm beds and food — your generator is the one and only source of heat in the city, and the further your buildings are from the center, the colder they’ll be.
Instead of day-to-day survival of a small group of survivors, you’ll have to think about an entire society. Will you cull the weak to help the strong? Force people to live and work in frozen conditions, knowing they’ll die so some may live? Put children to work in back-breaking conditions? These are the questions you’ll have to ask yourself, and they’re all extremely difficult. Here, we’re going to try to make your early ventures into the end-of-the-world slightly easier with 10 tips you’ll want to keep in mind while managing your colony.
Life doesn’t have to be an endless nightmare. There are a few tricks you can use to get your city on-track for a bright (and bountiful) future. It’s important to understand that failure is always an option — when you’re new to Frostpunk, it’s pretty likely you’ll crash and burn. This is a tough game, and keeping the city alive when problems start the flare up is going to be really, really hard.
With the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the meat of this guide — here are 10 tips that’ll help you stay alive in Frostpunk.
#1: Heat Is Life
In your new city, you’ll find that heat is a limited resource. The generator in the center of the city provides all the heat at the start of a game, and if you want your people to survive, they need to stay warm. The longer your citizens work or live in the cold, the faster they’ll become discontent, get sick, and die.
- TIP: Don’t build a Medical Outpost outside the heat zone early on! This is a beginner’s trap — when people get sick (and they will get sick) they’ll inevitably die and never recover if the Medical Outpost is not heated.
Not every building needs to be heated — storage depots can be constructed outside the heat zones safely. Sometimes you’ll have to build outside heat zones. You can expand the area of heat with a new hub, but you’ll always find room in the heat zones limited. Certain building types provide heat (powered houses, gathering posts) — but early on, you’ll need to be very aware of how long your people are exposed to the cold.
#2: Research Or Die
Research is too important for a single workshop. Workshops are buildings that allow you to slowly research new technologies. It’s better to build (and populate) up to four workshops in the same city. This will double, triple, or quadruple your research rate — even if maintaining four workshops is pretty difficult. Just one or two extra workshops will change your life and make research happen much, much faster.
And you’ll need to research! From getting new tech like Automatons, to adding insulation to buildings, to unlocking additional scout teams — the faster you can research, the better off your civilization will be. Remember that you can always disable a workshop you’ve built if you don’t need workers there anymore, freeing up those workers for other tasks in a bad situation.
#3: Collecting A Steady Supply Of Coal
Coal is the lifeblood of your civilization, and there are three ways you can acquire it. Coal Thumpers, Coal Kilns, and Coal Mines are all different methods for collecting coal, but you only need to focus on one for your civilization — really, it’s better to go full-force on a single method and ignore all others. For the benefit of beginners, I recommend focusing on Coal Thumpers — they’re the most low-tech way to collect coal.
After constructing a Coal Thumper, you’ll also need to assign workers to collect the pile of coal that appears on the ground. Build Gathering Posts between or near your Coal Thumpers — that way, your workers will gather from multiple Coal Thumpers instead of just one. Also, Gathering Posts are heated, so you’ll expose your workers to less cold. Don’t forget to build Storage Depots for any excess coal. Don’t waste your precious heat zone on Storage Depots — those are just fine in the cold.
#4: Send Scouts For Steam Cores
As early as you can, research additional scout teams and increase scout team speed through the workshops. Sending out multiple, fast scout teams will help your colony in the longrun — scouting is the only way you’ll find additional people. And even better, scouts can find steam cores. You simply can’t expand without new people and steam cores, so the scout team is incredibly important for your long term survival.
#5: Pick The Right Laws For A Strong Colony
This is when things get tricky. As the leader of your city, you’ll have to select laws that will keep your city alive. Not all of them are pleasant, and often you’ll be forced to use laws that are downright cruel. But, if you choose incredibly unpopular laws, discontent will increase and you’ll be stuck with an even worse situation — a population that refuses to work.
To keep your people (mostly) happy and healthy, here are a few laws you’ll want to unlock that provide plenty of benefits but don’t cause too much discontent.
- Sustain Life: Very important for the early game. It’s costly, but you’ll keep more workers alive and avoid an influx of amputees. Keeping your workforce productive should be priority #1.
- Faster Gathering: Because we’re focusing on Coal Thumpers, faster gathering is a must. Workers will be able to gather faster, and this will be useful for the entire game.
- Double Rations: Food issues are going to be a problem for your entire run of the game. If you want to keep your people happy, you’ll have to give them Double Rations. This increases the rate the sick recover, putting them back to work. Just remember to keep plenty of raw food on hand.
- Fighting Arena: A low-cost way to keep discontent low.
Those are generally safe laws and upgrades, but things get trickier when you’re putting your population to work. Deciding how long they should work (and who should work) isn’t always so easy to decide.
#6: Put Your People To Work (But Not Too Much Work)
Your workers have a standard 8-hour day, but you can extend that day with two laws — Extended Shift, or 24-Hour Emergency Shift. You can also put children to work or shelter them for late-game benefits. If you want to survive longer, here’s what I recommend.
- Unlock Child Labor for an instant 15 workers. It’s cruel, but those additional workers will help your city get off the ground much faster.
- Unlock Extended Shift to micromanage your workers — the 24-Hour Emergency Shift causes a lot of discontent, but the Extended 12-Hour Shift is much more manageable.
You can also control which facilities actually use the 12-Hour Shift. You can select Workshops to work longer while researching an important new technology, then disable the 12-Hour Shift later. It’s a very flexible system that won’t put too much strain on your civilization.
#7: Disable, Dismantle, And Dictate
While we’re on the subject of disabling, it’s important to remember you can do that for every building in the city. Are you done researching? Disable a few workshops. Have plenty of raw food at the Storage Depot? Disable the food workers or give them some time off. Don’t waste your precious workers time, and don’t forget you can clear non-functional buildings if they’re no longer useful.
If you’ve built too many bunkhouses around the generator or hub and don’t have room for Medical Outposts, then you can dismantle to make room. You’ll also find certain resource buildings will clear the gathering area around them, making them essentially useless. Dismantle those to make room for new buildings.
#8: Automatons Don’t Feel The Chill
If you’re worried about workers spending too much time in the cold, you can always replace them with Automatons. These robots are resource-heavy, but they don’t mind the cold one bit. They can work all day without feeling discontent, and they won’t get sick from the freezing chill outside your heat zones.
Try to keep your Automatons working in generally the same area. They do have one weakness — they need to refuel. Construct a Steam Hub near where your Automatons work so you can cut down their refueling time, putting them back to work faster.
#9: Build Houses & Research Insulation To Stay Warm Longer
This is a simple tip, but one that is going to help you later in the campaign when the cold gets even worse. When you start building houses, try to research insulation as early as you can. It’s incredibly useful — insulation traps heat in the house, reducing the power required to keep your citizens warm. When the cold gets worse, you’ll need all the power you can get.
#10: Managing Your Generator In Tricky Situations
Speaking of power, learning how to micromanage your generator is going to be critical to your success later in the game. You can increase warmth output by your generator during storms, but you’ll start spending even more coal to keep your people from freezing. After researching Overdrive Couplings for your hub, you’ll be able to instant output more heat — it costs resources, but you can swap around the settings to keep the warmth going.
- During dangerous cold situations, activate Overdrive on your generator. This will (almost instantly) raise your heat level by 2.
- Lower your generator Steam Level by 2 while Overdrive is active to lower your coal costs.
- When the Generator Stress is getting high, it’s time to turn off Overdrive. Don’t do it right away — increase the generator’s Steam Level by 2 (back to what you need) then wait for the generator to heat back up.
- Once it heats up, you can then disable Overdrive.
Why is this useful? Overdrive is great for instantly warming your people, but it’s even better as a way to save on your coal supplies. While Overdrive is active, your generator produces +2 heat levels. That means you can lower the steam level (and therefore the amount of coal you’re shoveling in) for an amount of time. It’s a powerful, simple way to manage how much coal you’re using to keep your civilization warm.