As the name probably implies, Frozen City tasks players with rebuilding civilization in a post-apocalyptic Ice Age. The strategy game’s basic premise will probably remind some players of Frostpunk, whose upcoming mobile port is in closed beta. However, that’s not necessarily a comparison that Frozen City should try to invite.
Frozen City was developed by GM5 Studio and Published by Century Games. It puts players in charge of an expedition traveling north, searching for something called the Eternal Flame. The travelers attract survivors and establish new settlements as they go. The player’s first City is just a few makeshift structures around a bonfire. However, the Cities get larger and more advanced and more elaborate as they travel north. These larger settlements require more resources to maintain, with the introduction of new resources creating increasingly complex production chains.
Home in the Snow
I would have preferred one large City instead of starting over with a new small one every time. I like the sense of progression you get going from a few tents to a proper city. Frozen City partially addresses this as later cities start players off with better versions of buildings. For example, players can’t build the basic shelters from the third City onward. Instead, enclosed tents become the new level one, and players upgrade from there. Still, I would have preferred sticking with a single settlement the whole time instead of moving on.
Not that the city building is all that engaging. Honestly, I’m not even sure it’s accurate to call Frozen City a city builder. Each City has a predetermined layout, so you don’t get to decide where anything goes. The build order itself is also pretty rigid, with most buildings requiring you already have a certain other one.
Sometimes this makes sense if there is an apparent reason for it. The Workshop consumes iron, for example. Therefore, I can somewhat understand the game not letting you build one until you have an Iron source. But why is the Hospital locked behind having a Level 2 Hunting Lodge? Each City also makes the same buildings more expensive and require more advanced resources than they did before. And while that’s not my most significant criticism, it felt like artificial padding.
Heroes of the Storm
On a related note, there’s also the issue of Frozen City’s random gacha mechanics. I don’t know if I would go as far as to call Frozen City a gacha game in the usual sense. That said, a significant amount of the game is dedicated to unlockable named heroes. I’ve often expressed a negative opinion of gacha games in these reviews. However, despite my mixed feelings about the genre, there are plenty of individual gacha games I like. Counterside, Figure Fantasy, and Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Content are some but not the only examples. One of the things those games have in common is that the gacha mechanics don’t feel like they’re in the way.
Sadly, this is not the case for Frozen City. Players can spend resources to upgrade buildings. These include upgrading how fast survivors work and how many resources they produce each trip. However, the most significant upgrades are the ones that add additional workstations to each building. Unfortunately, players can’t assign anyone to those new stations unless they assign a Hero to supervise them. This wouldn’t be so bad if you could assign any Hero to any building, but you can’t. Instead, each structure corresponds to a specific hero. This creates production line bottlenecks until you can unlock the Hero you need through enough random draws.
Really, Heroes are the most tacked-on element of Frozen City. You can send them on combat missions, but the main reward is just more Hero upgrade materials. Meanwhile, The combat itself is a dull auto-battle affair without the visual spectacle to make it worth watching.
There is also a lot of waiting in Frozen City. Construction timers aren’t too bad, but getting enough resources to do anything takes forever. There’s also nothing for players to do at night when the survivors aren’t working. Frostpunk had this problem too, but at least in that game, you could fast-forward if nothing was happening. While I had a bit of fun early on, Frozen City just left me kind of bored most of the time.
The word boring sums up Frozen City well. There’s too much waiting for not that much actual gameplay. There’s little story and no world-building to engage with, and the Heroes lack personality. In fairness, it’s not like Frozen City is particularly bad by the standards of mobile town management games. However, there are better city builders on Google Play, and I can’t think of a good reason to choose Frozen City.
Is It Hardcore?
While GM5 an Century Games’ Frozen City is not a uniquely lousy game, it’s slow and uninspired, leaving little to recommend it.