I have spent about 30 hours playing this game since I picked it up during the Steam Summer Sale and I have yet to successfully establish a self-sufficient town. My villagers always either freeze or starve. However, each time I play I get gradually better and better and make it further.
Shining Rock Software have successfully created my new favourite city-builder. I cannot give this game enough praise. It has glitchy moments, and even game breakers, but 95% of the time, it works perfectly.
Each game begins with a handful of villagers, a limited stock of supplies and seeds, a new procedurally-generated map and a few months before winter sweeps in. Like in other procedurally-generated games, you can use a seed to load a map. My current seed is 411809770, and it is amazing.
You want to start in a flat open space near water. Water gives you a trading route and a place to fish, and open space gives you room to expand as you go.
Banished is based on a summer/winter cycle and the goal is simply to survive. The main threats are freezing and starving to death. Other threats include hurricanes and diseases. You start during summer and immediately land must be cleared, plots must be placed and those most critical buildings constructed immediately, in the limited time before winter indeed comes. Villagers will need homes, they'll need woodcutters to supply firewood, a blacksmith to make them tools and crops to feed them.
In most games I play, money and resources are your main commodity. You work towards building those up, but in this game you are thinking about that almost last. You start by building those vital buildings, and by building houses to then build your population and therefore have workers to supply your homes with food and warmth. Its a crazy cycle. You need to constantly balance having enough people to work and enough resources to keep them alive.
Banished doesn't appear as difficult as it actually is, but once death strikes your town, it usually takes everybody. Then you can either wait for repopulation and settlers, or you can start again. I have started over many many times. Each time you start again, you do better with the knowledge of what you went through last time.
Banished's villagers are smart, independent people. This is a refreshing step up from most games. They work as hard as they can and, barring accidents, can be trusted to get on with whatever needs doing as long as their needs are met. Accidents can happen quite often and are genuinely spontaneous. My most frequently spotted deaths are death during child birth and crushed by a falling rock/tree.
I am convinced that you can make a self-sustainable village, and that is my goal. I want to make a village that I can leave alone for 10 hours and it will still be standing strong.
You will need to set up several foresters around the place. They will grow and cut down trees as they go, so I usually lead several roads out of my village and lead to open spaces for them to set up. They will supply you with endless logs which you can then use for building and firewood.
Tailors and traders are a wise move after you have established your basics. The tailor will give you clothing to keep you warm, and traders allow you to get new animals, crops and seeds along with other supplies you may need. You come to see deeper layers of complexity within the game, as you realise that more food types and different clothing make for happier, healthier townsfolk.
The glitches that break the game are incredibly frustrating, because there is simply nothing you can do. The main one that has hit me more than once is the "Walk of Death", a name coined by the Banished community. The villages will have plenty of food, but nobody will eat and eventually your whole town just starves. There is not fix right now, so you just need to start over. Thankfully this is the only real issue I have had, and hopefully they will fix it soon.
Banished hits the sweet spot between complexity and fun that makes a relative strategy game amateur feel competent. My satisfaction comes from keeping my people alive. This game has kept me playing for hours, and will keep me playing for hours more. I can't stop playing this. I also cannot recommend it more. A must have for any city builder fan.
Overall Score: 9/10