My medieval settlement in the Farthest Frontier is suffering from drought and crop blight, everyone has smallpox and is being overrun by bandits. It’s… it’s glorious. I don’t mean that in a purely masochistic way. I love a lot of difficult games, but what sets this medieval colony building apart is how all of its challenges feel historical and authentic. For geeks, it really sells the experience — even if some of it clearly deserves the Early Access label.
Farthest Frontier drops you in one of four comfortable-looking biomes with 12 weary settlers trying to create a new life for themselves. The basics of building and running a settlement are simple enough, and pretty familiar if you’ve played other survival city builders: collect wood, build houses, find food, and protect yourself from wolves and bears. A very interesting point here is that all food will eventually spoil. Even what you initially stockpile won’t last much beyond the first winter. At least not at first.
Farthest Frontier Early Access Gameplay Screenshots
This simple change is at the heart of why The First Frontier feels authentic, and why the challenge feels both fresh and satisfying. It forced us to think like real medieval farming societies, and we ended up taking a lot of the same paths they actually traveled. Grains can be stored much longer than other crops, but they cannot be eaten as is. It must be turned into flour and then into bread. For this he needs two additional buildings. It also depletes soil fertility much faster than other crops.
This is part of the Farthest Frontier’s highly detailed farming system. Every patch of land you can grow on has a rating for fertility, rocks, weeds, and even sand-to-clay ratio. Crop rotation is essential, as repeated plantings of sage often leave the land barren after a while. I was actually looking up an article about medieval field rotation practices while playing. I’m an idiot
They also have to deal with diseases such as drought, frost, crop-eating wildlife, and mold. These solutions will make your settlement more reliable over time. Honestly, it’s refreshing to see so many games with abstract mechanics that make you make silly decisions to keep things running smoothly. But I embraced the chaos, and sometimes even laughed at the villagers’ misfortunes. Without a healthy amount of suffering, you wouldn’t feel good.
However, it can also get messy in a not-so-pleasant way. There is such a thing as a built-in taxation system that is not well explained. Certain buildings generate gold, but it’s unclear which ones unless you read all the individual descriptions. Not very well explained. Some jobs cost money to maintain. Especially the military. However, it was frustrating that even when the soldiers weren’t assigned jobs and all military installations were off, they would still be charged anyway. It’s early access after all.
I was happy to pay my soldiers when I needed them, but a rare bandit raid could leave my home in ruins and loot my stores of food and gold. However, with the default settings, I eventually found the amount of money required to deal with attackers to be a bit silly. It seemed possible and I could only avoid bankruptcy by selling luxury items every year. I searched the menu and read the tooltips, but I couldn’t find the answer.
However, even in the worst-case scenario, bandits won’t completely destroy your colony. As long as everyone is kept relatively happy, new immigrants will always be lining up to join you, so it’s always possible to bounce back. If it’s too much, you have to ignore it and treat bandits as another natural disaster and clean up from time to time.
I also really like the look of the Farthest Frontier. Realistic but saturated, readable but detailed. If you zoom in on the small houses, you can see the laundry blowing in the wind. Brilliant forests, fields and rivers seem like places to get lost in. As the seasons change, the greens of summer give way to the oranges of autumn and the frosty whites of winter. The whole world feels so alive. This is something that some similar games like Banished desperately lack.
One area we’d really like to see enhanced during Early Access is performance. Even systems with Ryzen 7 3700X and GTX 3080 experience inconsistent but regular chugging and hitching when the population required to unlock the highest level of town center exceeds 200 I started noticing that. Optimization is often one of the last things an early access game solves, so we can pretty much forgive it for now. But that meant my motivation to keep playing larger colonies past a certain size started to plummet along with my steady framerate.