Frostpunk: The Last Autumn is a welcome twist on the existing formula that ultimately fails to reach the quality of the base game due to its "if it works, do not touch it" approach.
Frostpunk is one of my favourite city builders. I loved the atmosphere, the immersion and the survival which kept me glued to the screen for dozens of hours. It is one of the rare games that perfectly combined several elements which made me play it over and over again until I eventually start noticing its flaws, which I do not mind that much to be fair.
So, it is safe to say that Frostpunk is a game that I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone who loves city builders or simply to those who seek something atmospheric and different in the sea of generic titles in the city-building genre.
Sadly, I cannot say the same for Frostpunk's latest DLC The Last Autumn. It is an interesting story and I would lie if I said I did not like it, but I'm disappointed that I did not love it, as much as I love the snowy one.
Frostpunk: The Last Autumn is a prequel expansion that aims to deliver several new ways to play the game which ultimately feel like a recycled, rebranded mechanics. It is set in the Autumn before the world was devastated by the endless Winter. Players are put in the boots of an Overseer of a construction site, where the goal is to build a gigantic generator before the icy veil mantles the earth.
Your job as an Overseer is to make sure that the generator is constructed before the deadline and in the meantime, meet the need of your workers and keep their motivation as high as possible with new laws, which are now split into Labour and Administration paths.
Just like in the original game, you get to choose in which way to shape your community. Once the first strike occurs, you will need to address the labour issues by signing new laws if you want to finish the generator in time. Empower workers and establish a Labour Union or trust your Engineers, strengthen their role and build Factory Inspectorate. The choice is all yours.
You can also negotiate with discontent workers and try to find a solution that will benefit both sides. The workers union usually demand better work conditions, safety measures and shorter shifts. Pretty straightforward, right? However, things can get a bit more complicated if you give in too much. Always look at the bigger picture as the easiest solution may come back to haunt you later on.
In The Last Autumn, you do not have to worry about freezing temperatures. The iconic mechanic from the original has been replaced by toxic gases. From time to time, gas toxicity will rise which will result in alarming safety levels. Workplace safety ranges from Safe to Deadly, similarly to how temperatures work in the base game. You can sign Labour laws or use different technological advances to raise workplace safety and mitigate health and risk of accidents.
The Last Autumn introduces a couple of new buildings that offer a different way of obtaining resources on paper but the truth is these are more of cosmetic changes, rather than an actual extension of the existing resource gathering mechanics.
Harbour is one of the new buildings that essentially serve as a replacement for Mines. You can use Harbours as your primary harvesting central for wood, coal or steel. They can be upgraded for higher productivity in the technology tree and this one should be on top of your list. It will make your life so much easier.
Then there is the Telegraph Station, where you can order more manpower or steam cores, which are a critical resource later on in the story. There is a limit on orders, though, and it takes time before the ships arrive from the capital. Therefore, it is a good idea to arrange the necessary logistics, like housing for workers for example before they land.
Finding resources in The Last Autumn is surprisingly easy but that does not mean you will have your depots packed to the roof. Generator construction is quite expensive and most of the time your supplies will be just enough to make another batch of Steam Exchange or Profiles.
Exploration is also present in The Last Autumn. Foragers replace Scouts and Hunters and can be sent out in the wild to look for food. They will provide a valuable amount of raw food in the early stages, at least until you build fishing docks as another source of food. Foragers can also discover hidden story snippets as they visit the nearby generator sites and travel the wilderness in search of materials.
One thing that keeps The Last Autumn from reaching the quality of the base game is the atmosphere. The story itself is solid and probably one of the best parts of the expansion, but through my playthrough, I never felt the urge to help my people in their struggle, I never immersed myself enough to care how my workers cope with the news of mortally ill child back home, if their meals are tasty or their beds comfy enough.
Frostpunk kept me on the edge from the get-go all the way until the storm of the century. I tried my best to keep my people warm, safe and free of boredom. I wanted to be the lighthouse in the darkest moments of their lives, one that would show them the way through the storm, which is a feeling that The Last Autumn failed to provoke in me.
This, of course, does not mean that the expansion completely fails to present an atmospheric setting. Quite the contrary, many will love what is got to offer. Simply put, the base game's setting and the atmosphere was more emotional with the constant struggle for survival while The Last Autumn's "get the work done" theme does not care much about that.
If you played and enjoyed Frostpunk then you should try The Last Autumn. The new setting is a welcome twist on the existing formula but overall, the new expansion feels like a missed opportunity with its risk-free and "if it works, don't touch" it approach.