City building games tend to be a long and methodical game play experience, in which the player plans out their design in painstaking detail in order to make the best city they can. So what happens when you throw in an arcadey sense of speed and pressure to advance into the mix?
New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers
Publisher: Arc System Works Co., Ltd.
Developer: Arc System Works Co., Ltd.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: March 23, 2017
Frontier Days comes off kind of bland. The boring visuals really only serve to facilitate gameplay. The look and design of the HUD is also lacking key information, and visually, it’s a pain to really track your villagers. This lack of key visual information could lead to some of your villagers getting eaten by a wandering bear, without you realizing it until it’s too late.
Gameplay is the saving grace with this game. While extremely simple, that game does well to provide a different type of town building experience that keeps you on your toes. Your goal is to survive and advance through the ages. This requires earning not only food but money as you move forward, both of which are continuously drained in large amounts.
Food is generally easier to earn later on in the game, but can be really difficult to amass in the beginning. If you do not have the food needed, the game will “buy” it for you, taking an extremely large chunk of your money. On the flip side, money is generally easy to get at the start of the game, but harder to earn as the game advances. There is a system of diminishing returns to earning money from selling resources you gather, which is the main way to earn money. To fight this, players will have to keep advancing through the ages, which requires large sums of money, so moving and selling fast is key while you are balancing upgrades for your town.
There is also a goal system, which requires the player to earn or do a set number of actions in order to win rewards such as money, food, resources, and even upgrade cards that will help the player advance. Many of these cards are random, so no two playthroughs will go exactly the same. Cards can be active or passive, and depending on how the player plays these cards, they can really determine how smoothly a playthrough will go.
Building structures is a bit loose in this game, allowing them to be built anywhere near your other buildings, with no snap to function which makes customizing or planning a layout pointless. You will also need to allocate townsfolk to run the buildings and continually set their directives. This normally would not be a problem, but you really have no idea when production is finished outside of a tiny visual cue. This can be hard to spot later on, and could have been easily fixed with a quick UI improvement.
One of the most annoying things is that if your townsfolk are attacked while gathering, they don’t stop to defend themselves. They just get eaten. Then, you won’t even know till you go to check up on them and find them dead.
Music and Sound are severely lacking and lackluster. You would think they would have made clear audio cues for things like a bear attacking your townsfolk while they gather resources, but you get nothing. You might as well mute the audio and play some tunes of your own in the background.
Oddly enough, there is a “story” mode, which boils down to “if you don’t upgrade fast enough, someone is coming in to take over your job,” and somehow ends with a Giant Bear, Sheep, and Boar attacking your town. It’s so nonsensical.
Frontier Days could have been a great title on the Switch if they spent some real time to develop it. The fast paced nature of the game can be fun at times, but it’s ultimately rage inducing because the game is not optimized for the style of game that it’s trying to be. If you got $10 to kill and you really want a town builder on the go, it might be worth checking out. Otherwise it’s not worth your time.
Frontier Days was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a review copy purchased by Niche Gamer. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 5
- It can be a fun time waster in small chunks.
- Poor HUD and information layout.
- Bad Music and Sound.
- Extremely basic graphics.
- Some really frustrating mechanics.