An Introduction to Banished + Short Review

I saw TB’s video on Banished. I read some stuff about it. Checked out some reviews. Didn’t feel entirely sure that I wanted it. Looked at other city-builders. Got it anyway.

Hard to find a good title image for this one.

You might be asking “What is Banished?”, and that is a valid question. Banished is a city-builder, though unlike the Anno or Tropico games, this is decidedly small-scale. The idea is to set up a small village and just survive as you slowly expand. If you get too greedy, or too eager, or too confident, it might start a snowball that ends with most of your villagers dead, and it’s hard to recover from that. It might be best to just start over.

And after giving it a fair few hours, I’ve found I quite like it. It is not without its problems, but I like what it’s going for. You’ll never make any sort of economic power-house here. There is some trade, but it’s all bartering. No money. There’s no combat. The only thing you’re battling is the elements, time and the occasional hiccup in AI pathing and priorities.

Is it perfect? Definitely not. But it works, and it’s kinda what I was looking for, without even really knowing it.

A small-scale, slow-paced city-builder with no combat and no money. If that sounds the least bit interesting to you, I will now attempt to provide you with an introductory guide.

You'll see bits of my current village in the background.

When you hit New, you will be met with a box much like this. However, I highly recommend you play through the tutorials first. They don’t take long, and explain the most basic concepts of the game. I will try to cover most of it myself, but I might overlook something.

Here you can freely pick the name of your village, tamper with the seed if you know what you’re doing, and play with the drop-boxes.

There are two terrain types: Valleys and Mountains. Valleys is definitely recommended for beginners, as Mountains gives harsher surroundings and much less flat ground to build on.

Terrain size is just map size, as far as I’ve been able to tell. Might be just as well to start small, but it doesn’t seem to affect difficulty at all.

Climate is how bad the weather and temperatures will be. Default is set to Fair, and there’s also Mild to make things easier, and Harsh to make them harder.

Disasters are defaulted to On, but I turned them off personally. Didn’t sound like something I wanted to deal with, as I just wanted a calm experience.

Starting conditions is the initial difficulty, as in how much stuff you start with. Easy gives you six families, houses for all of them, a storage barn and stockpile with a large amount of food, clothing, tools, firewood and materials, seeds for crop fields and orchards, and a herd of livestock. Medium gives you five families, no houses, a storage barn and stockpile with a decent amount of food, firewood, tools and clothing, building materials, two seed types for crop fields and one for orchards. No animals. Hard gives you four families, no pre-built buildings, a cart with some food, firewood, clothing, tools and building materials, but no seeds or animals.

Ended up scrapping this one pretty early due to bad location.

Starting out on medium.

So what is the big idea? Well, you have a group of people who have been banished from wherever they’re from, and have to start over in the wilderness. The idea is to keep them alive, healthy and happy. Let’s go over a few things before we get to how.

First off: Spacebar is your friend. Space is used to pause and unpause the game. Pausing as soon as the map loads and having a look around is never a bad idea, and if a situation occurs, it might be a good idea to hit pause while you figure out how to deal with it.

Game speed can run at 1x, 2x, 5x and 10x. I typically play on 2x and rarely dare go above that in case I miss something and everyone dies.

On the menu bar in the bottom right, the second button from the left is the management menus, which can be accessed via F2 or clicking on it. Menu 1 is your general supplies left, and other general information. I always keep this up. 2 is announcements, like births, someone reaching adulthood, shortage of supplies and so on. Usually keep that up too.  3 is a minimap I’ve not found too useful yet. 4 is where you can see and manage how many citizens you have in each profession, which is very important. 6 should let you increase priority on a task, but I’ve not always managed to make it work right, at least not with construction. 0 brings up the in-game help menu. The rest I don’t really use, so I can’t comment on.

Menus!

Menus.

Q and E are used to rotate the camera. Mousewheel zooms. R and T change the facing of the building you want to place.

Getting started. 

First off you want to make sure you have one House (Menu F3) per family. Exposure to the elements will kill them soon enough if not, and I think maybe they need to have a house to actually consume food. As kids grow up you can build more houses to have two of them move in there and start a new family.

Second you need a food source. I typically place a Fishing Dock (Menu F7) on the nearest river, since the game tends to spawn you right next to one, but a Gathering Hut is also a fair first choice.

Thirdly you will need more firewood before the next winter hits, so set up a Wood Cutter (Menu F8), preferably close to your Stockpile.

Fourthly you’ll likely want to set up either a Hunting Cabin, or a Gathering Hut/Fishing Dock (Menu F7). While you can set a Hunting Cabin pretty much anywhere, since animals seem to roam fairly freely, it’s best to set up a Gathering Hut in old forest, because that’s where it’s easiest to find berries, mushrooms, onions and so on.

Let me just explain the forest stuff right away. Old forest refers to the stuff already in place when you spawn. While a Forester Lodge will plant new trees, this new forest won’t really spawn berry bushes, mushrooms, herbs or anything like that. So both the Herbalist and the Gathering Hut need to be set in an area of forest that you don’t intend to disturb for them to be effective. (Removing rock and ore seems to be okay.) If needs must, you can demolish and rebuild them elsewhere later. Actually, it might be a good idea to build the replacement before you demolish the old one.

You can always see a building’s circle of influence while you place it, or whenever you click a finished building, if applicable.

DO NOT forget to assign people to work at these places.

No joke here.

Winter is coming.

How do you keep your people healthy? This is probably the most complicated thing in the game. They need enough food, a varied diet, not to freeze, access to a herbalist, and eventually a hospital. I’ve not seen any indication that the type of food makes much difference, just that there are several different types of food.

How do you keep your people happy? Keeping them alive seems like the biggest factor. People dying impacts everyone’s happiness. A Graveyard will stop people getting sad from deaths by old age, though. A Tavern that manages to keep stocked with ale just boosts happiness overall. I don’t think it matters what you make the ale from. Frankly I’ve never gotten far enough to have had much of a choice in ingredients, but I’ve had access to different things in different games, and it all just seems to make the same Ale. And I believe that keeping their health up also helps keep them happy.

As far as I’m aware, health mainly affects how likely it is for your people to get sick, while happiness really only affects how productive they are.

Work 'em good.

Work those peaches.

I’ll try to explain a few of the buildings and concepts I feel deserve it.

Orchards, and crop fields. Both of these are worked from spring to autumn, to hopefully get you a large harvest of food come autumn. There’s little point in having people work as farmers in winter. Orchards take a while to set up though, because the trees have to grow. While crop fields can be worked from the very year they’re set up, an orchard will need two or three years, depending on when in the year it was built, to start bearing fruit. You still need to assign at least one farmer per active season to first plant and then tend the trees though. Max size for either is 15×15 squares.

Herbalist. As mentioned earlier, it needs to be set up in old forest. They will collect herbs they put in the nearest storage. Villagers feeling unwell will take herbs out of storage and go to the herbalist’s cottage to get help from the herbalist themselves. So long as you manage to keep their general health from dropping too low, a single herbalist can likely take care of a hundred villagers, or more. Just don’t make the same mistake I did for a while and think the herbs are enough on their own. You need someone working as a herbalist for villagers to use them.

Clothes. The hunters from the hunting cabin will go after animals within their circle of influence, and provide both venison and leather to the storage. This leather can be taken a tailor, who will create warm clothing for people to use in winter so they can stay outside and work for longer. Clothes can also be made from wool if you’re lucky enough to get sheep, or a combination of wool and leather for the best clothes if you have a supply of both. Without clothes people will not be able to be very productive during winter.

The tutorial kicks it hard-mode, it seems.

Taken from the first tutorial.

Aging. A villager will age 5 years during a game year. At age 10 they will be counted as an adult (unless you have a School, more on that later) and join the workforce. So a newborn child will take two years to become a working villager. I will admit I am not sure at what point they start dying of old age. I’ve really only gotten my villagers up to 50 before I felt I’d made enough mistakes to want to start over.

Education. The game doesn’t go too deep with this. A villager is either educated, or not. There’s no specific fields of education. An educated villager will work more effectively at any task. There are two ways to become educated, it seems. The most obvious is building a School to educate children before they join the workforce. If you have a school, a child will become a Student upon reaching age 10, instead of going straight to work. They will keep studying until they’re 16 (according to the rules of the game, having an educated teacher might speed that up, but I’ve yet to test this). So when you build a school, keep in mind that your supply of new workers will have a little hiccup, though they’ll all be better workers once they get going again. The other way to get educated seems to be if an adult works as a specialist for a long enough time without being shuffled out.

Tools. To do work, your villagers need tools. They all start with a set, and you have some in reserve in storage, but sooner or later you’re going to have to setup a Blacksmith to make more. This takes logs and iron, but if you also manage to get coal, you can make more durable steel tools. I think the only way to get coal is through a mine, but a mine is a huge undertaking. Not only does it take a lot to build, but you need 15 workers to get to capacity, and I think you have to choose whether you want to extract iron or coal. Maybe you get both at capacity, but I’ve yet to have that many workers to spare.

Quarries can also support up to 15 workers. They take a lot of space and material to build, but will give you a steady supply of stone for quite some time afterwards. Neither quarries or mines can be fully removed.

Also a few chickens.

A quarry on the right there. Trading post towards the centre.

Roads. It costs nothing to set up dirt roads, outside of a little time from your builders (I keep a couple of people set as builders at all times). I like to set up paths between everywhere I have stuff, and make streets among the main village buildings. Villagers move faster on roads. Even faster on stone roads. I’ve not really had enough stone to spend on roads, though.

Trade. After setting up a Trading Post, you will occasionally get visited by random traders. This is your only way of acquiring livestock and additional seeds, and it all works on a barter system. Tools and especially clothes have a high value, I’ve noticed. Food doesn’t have that much. Herbs have some value. Seeds are very expensive. Animals aren’t exactly cheap either. I believe it took me 100 iron tools to get two chickens. I ended up getting four. Which basically took my entire supply of iron tools. Didn’t help that the trader wouldn’t accept food or herbs. After a year or so those four chickens had become twenty, though.

Livestock. Once/if you manage to acquire livestock, you’ll need a Pasture to put them in. This only needs one tender, though they need to be year-round. The animals provide some product, like chickens give eggs, and sheep wool. Once your pasture reaches capacity, excess animals will be butchered to provide meat.

Because experimentation, whee!

Building a mine I can’t really support.

Professions. In their base job a villager is a laborer, who really only cut trees, stone and ore and carry stuff around. They have to be assigned to other tasks, and you might have to continuously shuffle them around. For example, you really only need farmers from spring to autumn. As soon as the harvest is done, they’re better off being reassigned to other tasks.

There is probably a lot more I can mention, but I don’t know everything myself yet, and we could be here a while even so. See, the reason I made this guide thingy is because the game isn’t that good at telling you stuff itself. The information is there. It’s just not that easy to find it. In addition to the tutorial, there is an extensive in-game wiki that explains every building and concept in the game, but you can only find it through a sub-menu in-game. It’s under the F2 menu, all the way at the end, the 0 choice, the question-mark icon labeled as “Show help and reference material”. It is mentioned once in the tutorial. So while it’s there, I will concede on the criticism that the game is bad at telling you stuff.

Should you get this game? That depends entirely on what you’re looking for. If you want another Anno or Tropico, or even Settlers, you won’t find that here. Banished seems to be aiming at a different focus. If you’re fine with the idea of helping a group of outcasts carve their own little slice of civilisation out of the wilderness, with the spectre of survival looking over you, then this might be worth looking into.

Gotta get those potatoes growing.

Time to start working the fields again.

As I mentioned early on, it is possible to end up in a situation where the village isn’t really salvageable. Banished can be harsh, but I wouldn’t say it’s entirely unfair. So long as you keep an eye on your resources and how fast they drop, there will always be warning signs that maybe you need to do something to avert a future crisis (or at least not expand for a while). The only truly ‘unfair’ bit I’d say is that accidents can happen. A quarry-worker might get crushed by a rock. A fisherman might fall in the river and drown. But those incidents seem to be very rare.

And there are some kinks in the AI programming. Like when I wanted to upgrade the house of one of my families from wood to stone, to hopefully save on firewood. And they all starved to death before the new house was ready, because they wouldn’t eat without it. Or like when TB built a Market, and his people starved when he didn’t stock it fast enough, because villagers are programmed to prefer getting goods from a market, to the extent of ignoring storage barns if a market is in range.

Now I can’t really think of more to say. Hopefully this will help you make up your mind about Banished. Personally I like it, and I don’t think it’s bad that a city-builder tries something slightly different. If it sounds like something definitely not for you, that’s entirely fair.

~Wulf

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Posted on February 26, 2014, in Games, Guide, Sorta reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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