Frostpunk 2 turns players into politicians as humanity becomes society's biggest threat

Striking a legislative balance is the key to preventing civil unrest in the ambitious Frostpunk sequel.


Post-apocalyptic city-builder Frostpunk received critical praise when it launched in 2018 for its poignant narrative and robust survival mechanics. In it, players are tasked with making tough ethical decisions for the sake of survival that often result in lasting impacts on societal well-being. 11 bit studios’ anticipated sequel builds upon this foundation by expanding the role that humanity plays in community growth. Although harsh weather conditions and limited resources continue to pose challenges to expansion, the biggest threat to society now resides in the sentiments of its citizens and their conflicting views toward progress.

I had the chance to go hands-on with the Frostpunk 2 beta, which features a limited look at the sequel’s sandbox mode, the Utopia Builder Preview. This mode is separate from the campaign and will arrive alongside story mode when the game launches in July. The Utopia Builder Preview offers a concise version of the game that showcases the sequel’s new sociopolitical features and factions.

A brave new world

An image of the city in the evening with the generator in the center.

Source: 11 bit studios

A direct follow-up to the first game, Frostpunk 2 takes place 30 years after the initial apocalyptic blizzard that plunged the world into an endless winter. Players return to the Frostlands as a public-appointed Steward, who must manage the needs and concerns of a burgeoning city. You are tasked with managing the production of food, fuel, and other resources, while building new districts to accommodate the steadily growing population.

While maintaining the city is your primary focus as Steward, you also have broader ambitions that involve colonization and expansion. To keep up with your city’s growing needs, you will have to send scouts on expeditions beyond city limits to discover new sources of coal and food, eventually setting up supply lines to send everything back to the city and keep things running.

Before diving into the sandbox, players have the chance to customize various aspects of gameplay, including the map, difficulty, and initial community groups. While the beta limits players to Windswept Peaks, the full game will include additional maps, factions, and features to choose from.

Laying down the law 

The law proposal screen ahead of a council vote.

Source: 11 bit studios

Once you dive into the game, you are presented with a basic city in the snow that already has its own generator and small population of residents. The game eases you in by having you build several districts to address the city’s resource requirements. As the city population grows, so does the need for proper legislation, a daunting task for a single person to take on. As the de facto mayor, it is up to you to establish a city council aimed at enacting laws to address various socioeconomic and political issues that affect the public.

The council provides a democratic means for the community to be represented and have a say in city-wide legislation. The council is composed of community members from the main social groups of your city. In the beta, my community was initially divided into Foragers and Machinists, who hold opposing opinions toward technological advancement. Over time, new factions will emerge that represent more nuanced ideological positions, such as the Icebloods and Technocrats.

An account of an angry Iceblood.

Source: 11 bit studios

As Steward, you are able to propose and vote on laws once per session, which happens every few weeks. Between sessions, you can browse potential laws and get a feel for where the public stands on each issue. When voting time comes around, you can negotiate with hesitant council members in an effort to sway their opinion on a law before voting. Offering political favors, such as promising to support an issue or committing to specific research topics, can sweeten the deal and get council members to vote how you want them to.

While supporting certain causes can put you in the good graces of some community groups, doing so can also sow the seeds of distrust in others. Opposing factions who disagree with your decisions as Steward will gradually voice their concerns as you become less trustworthy over time and can manifest in civil unrest. During the beta, I went back on my word regarding a certain law I helped pass on behalf of the Icebloods, and they responded with district-wide protests. Although I was able to quell their concerns relatively quickly, their dissent made me even more vigilant about my political promises going forward.

Society over survival

A city ravaged by social unrest.

Source: 11 bit studios

Based on the Utopia Builder Preview, Frostpunk 2 is shaping up to be an ambitious and promising sequel that expands upon the elements that made the first game memorable. Players who were captivated by the tough decision-making and societal dilemmas of the original will have plenty to look forward to. 11 bit studios is charting a course in the right direction, and I am eager to navigate the sociopolitical twists and turns when the game launches in July.

This hands-on preview is based on a beta code provided by the developers. Frostpunk 2 will release for PC, Xbox Series X|S, and PlayStation 5 on July 25, 2024.

Contributing Editor

Larryn is a freelance contributor who creates video game guides and reviews for Shacknews and has more than a decade of experience covering games across various outlets. When she's not gaming, Larryn can often be found watering houseplants, playing D&D, or teaching her cats new tricks.

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