As far as town simulators go, Banished doesn’t bring any new or glamorous mechanics to the table. That’s just fine, because its composition and pacing as a whole are excellent. The tutorial covers the need-to-know, and everything else is picked up from just playing the game. There’s more to it than you’d think, enough so that you can’t expect to run a perfect session without a serious bit of experience.
As per the city simulation standard, Banished is a top-down RTS oriented around resource management and the survival of your townsfolk over in-game years. Each of the four seasons are broken up into mid, early, and late segments. Winters are the harshest, obviously, with snows beginning as early as mid-autumn and ending as late as mid-spring. Until your town is hustling and bustling, the colder seasons fall into pure “survival mode.” The entire game is survival, but… you know, hunker down and tough it out style survival as opposed to cheerful crop-planting survival.
Food and firewood are the biggest numbers to watch. If you don’t keep those up, your town won’t last the first few winters. While hunters, gatherers, and fisherman provide a slow trickle of food year-round, your farmers will be doing the heavy lifting. Several 15×15 fields will stave off starvation, and food variety will keep your townsfolk healthy. A trick I learned in order to keep your food supply consistently decent is to turn all your farmers into fishermen after the autumn harvest. Can’t do much in the winter aside from frolic in the snowy fields and freeze to death. The cold also kills unharvested crops, so be sure to grab them all by early or mid-autumn. Assign no less than three workers per field to ensure it goes quickly!
Foresters are crucial for bolstering your supply of logs. No logs, no firewood. No firewood, no living villagers. Clear-cutting is a viable option in a panic, but as with any resource, sustainability is the most important factor. Raising the top end on logs and firewood is never a bad idea, even early-game. Having multiple woodcutters is necessary once your village hits 40 or so.
Relevant to your population, nomads seem like a source of free labor after your initial villagers start to die of old age, but a higher head count means more mouths to feed. You need a town hall for them to show up, mind you. If you’re looking to nip famine in the bud, keep a few extra unused fields handy. You can toss the nomads onto them so they can make up what they take up as soon as they start taking.
There you have it. A general idea of what you’d be spending $20 on, and some quick tips to help you get started. Replayability is determined by how you take the learning curve; if you pick it up quick and/or have experience with this type of game, its longevity won’t be particularly impressive. Regardless, whether you’re a town sim pro or a complete novice, dropping a twenty for a some good hours of intensive micro-management won’t be a waste.
Daniel Starkey of Gamespot put around twenty more hours into Banished than I did, and he hasn’t learned the secret of avoiding nature’s merciless wrath. It’s safe to say that you can expect a challenge in your survival experience! Read all about his experience and take on Banished here: http://www.gamespot.com/reviews/banished-review/1900-6415679/