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Frostpunk 2 is a painful city-building dream, and you can try it now

Frostpunk 2 looks to challenge you on another level as you strive to survive, it asks tough questions and gives impossible answers.

Frostpunk 2 preview: a person wearing a fur coat stands with their back to the camera as they admire a dark and dingy city.

Frostpunk 2 is a never-ending, hopeless, soul-crushing experience, and I can’t wait to jump back in. For the uninitiated: Frostpunk 2 is a city-building game set after most of humanity has been wiped out by a volcanic winter. You order the construction of building districts, set laws, plan expeditions, and research so you and yours can have a better future… in theory.

Frostpunk 2 preview: a futuristic city set in the heart of a frozen wasteland.

The first game had you struggling to eke out a living so you could see another day. Frostpunk 2, however, tasks you to not only survive, but dares you to thrive against hefty odds. The environment is as unforgivable as before, with food being scarce, and whiteout blizzards a common occurrence. With improved numbers and a larger city, you start on slightly steadier ground this time around.

You’re awarded a central hub that is nearly the size of an entire settlement in the first game, which told me a lot about the enormity of the task ahead. I had to source fuel, food, and basic materials as a baseline for survival, expanding almost immediately into the wilderness, crushing the sheet ice in segments in search of resources.

After the first few weeks, I’m told that we’re wasting too much coal due to a lack of stockpiling options. This is usually a cut-and-dry process in other city-builders, but this upgrade, and every other one, comes with a very specific set of caveats that come in the form of public opinion.

Frostpunk 2 preview: a message appears on a screen stating that the citizens of a city are freezing, and a community known as the Machinists are offering a solution.

The biggest difference I noticed in my time with Frostpunk 2 is how influential your population is when performing basic tasks. Your people are split into communities with different thoughts, opinions, and worldviews. Every community thinks they know the best way to survive, and will try to prod you in their chosen direction.

It isn’t long before my citizens demand the creation of a council. I, of course, agree – a democracy is ideal, although it can pose its own risks when the fate of humanity is in the balance. The council is made up of 100 citizens, split between the active communities, and to pass a law, you need at least 51 votes. This is where the true challenge of Frostpunk 2 comes in, and in my opinion, the most compelling part of the whole game.

Passing laws is essential in running your city, and they can be simple acts such as weather-adjusted shifts, keeping your workers at home during the most brutal times, to more involved tasks like creating an education system for your children. Even the most basic laws will face opposition, and it’s up to you to cajole and keep everyone on side if you hope to run a peaceful settlement.

Frostpunk 2 preview: an overhead view of a city council, with 100 people sat, voting on the next law.

My city was home to the Foragers and the Machinists, with the former attributing themselves to an ‘adapt’ philosophy, while the latter took a ‘progress’ stance. This shows itself in the research screen – no longer a static tech tree, you have various choices within each research subject that adhere to one philosophy or the other. Following one path may damage your relations with the opposing community and eventually cause issues unless you can appease both sides.

Neither side is perfect, with the Machinists eschewing environmental safety for results, and the Foragers eager for balance, despite the lower returns. Times are tough, and occasionally I was forced to make a decision that went against my morals to appease the majority. It gave me a headache when deciding how to improve my city, but it also gave the population real life – it takes on a distinct feel after a time, and in one playthrough, became my biggest threat. The Foragers hosted a rally in support of my actions, while the Machinists shut down a major production facility in protest.

Frostpunk 2 preview: a bustling, albeit dirty, city in the middle of a frozen tundra.

I tried to reassure the protesting (soon to be rioting) community by promising them a law in their favor. This did not work. I could have publicly announced support for the Machinists, but this would have created tension in the Forager community. Instead, I passed a law stating that prisoners could be used as an ad-hoc militia if required, which it soon was. It was perhaps the most immoral decision I made during my playthrough, but it didn’t shake the Forager apple cart too much, and it got the job done. Needs must, as they say.

I love the external and internal dangers that are present in Frostpunk 2; it makes the sequel feel a lot broader in scope, and also more detailed at the same time. The juggling act of trying not to freeze to death while also avoiding the wrath of your own people is nerve-wracking and puts a huge emphasis on relatively minor decisions.

Frostpunk 2 is brutal. There isn’t an easy day while you’re in charge of the city, but the story that you’re weaving with each decision is so moreish. It can be a complete disaster, but it’s my disaster, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out once the Frostpunk 2 release date rolls by. For those itching to get their hands on the survival game, the Frostpunk 2 beta has just officially launched is available from Monday April 15 to Monday April 22. Good luck. You’re going to need it.