If you are a fan of strategic city builders, you are going to have a good year. Manor Lords just released in early access yesterday, and it is not only awesome, but it runs exceptionally well on the Steam Deck at 30 FPS. It's phenomenal news, considering city-builders tend to get a lot harder to run later on in the game. Because of this, I don't expect too many in the genre to be playable on the Deck. But the surprises didn't stop there, and it's all thanks to Frostpunk 2.

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I was given a chance to try the Frostpunk 2 beta, and I not only walked away loving how the game is shaping up but I was completely floored by just how well it was performing on the Steam Deck while looking as good as it is. Even later in the game, it was holding strong, and for a beta of an unfinished game that will definitely have more optimizations at release, I was overjoyed at what I was seeing.

Before getting into the details, I want to thank 11 Bit Studios for the opportunity to try the beta out.

Frostpunk 2 is Quite Addicting So Far

Honestly, after playing the Frostpunk 2 beta, I really wish it didn't have an end date. It was so much fun, and there were so many ideas and laws I wanted to put into place to get more currency, but a lot was locked in the beta. It is completely understandable, but man, I wish there was more time and more content to go through.

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While most city builders have you focus on the individual buildings and connecting everything, Frostpunk 2 focuses on building districts first. These can range from housing to industrial to logistics, all aimed at providing resources to keep your workers and citizens happy and keep the heatstamps (currency) coming in. To build these, you will choose six tiles to build the district on, and other buildings will appear inside the area. You can then expand the area, which unlocks building slots and allows you to construct specific buildings to expand the district's capabilities.

I love this focus, and it succeeds in creating an engaging experience while feeling unique. I really like the way the system works when creating new buildings, too. It all feels a lot easier to manage overall due to managing districts over buildings. You can also venture out to find more resources outside of your town, but you will need to connect it back to your colony. Think of it similarly to a trade route that you connect from one town to another, but only your colony will receive the benefits.

We also have the ideas and laws system, which can be improved depending on your choice. Ideas act similarly to researching new technologies and giving access to new buildings and districts, while laws will require you to build a "Council" and convene with your citizens to govern the colony. All of these work together to give you different ways to produce more goods, reduce costs, and increase trust.

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On top of that, you will have to manage the desires of different factions that live in your colony. I started off with two different factions, and they started to split off into more as the weeks went by. You will have to manage their trust in you as the leader of the colony by promising to enact certain policies, funding their projects, and making promises. Balancing this will be essential since disregarding them could lead to protests that shut down districts and make your resources significantly more scarce.

Managing all of your resources, like goods, heat, shelter, and food, becomes essential and quite easy to understand, but very hard to master. I love this edge, and I feel Frostpunk 2 is walking a fine line between easy and ridiculously complicated very well. It doesn't feel too overwhelming, but there is a lot of fine tuning you can do.

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And man, doing all of this on the Steam Deck is awesome.

And it is even better on the Steam Deck

I was genuinely shocked at how well Frostpunk 2 was running on the Steam Deck, especially for a beta. City builders are normally quite CPU intensive, especially later in the game, and it can be detrimental on the Deck. For the beta, I didn’t expect a whole lot, but I was proven wrong.

With low quality settings and the upscale set to performance, I was able to play the game at around 40 FPS almost the entire time, and it still looked great! Even towards the later part of the beta, where my colony was much bigger, I was still sporting a 38-40 FPS range when zoomed in and out, and I still had settings I could downgrade to improve performance further. I chose not to, due to wanting a better looking game, but I can totally see setting a 30 FPS framerate and pushing graphics further.

There are some areas where it drained a bit more, like when voting on laws and starting expeditions, but overall, it ran like a charm!

There is no specific controller support as of the beta, but 11 Bit did make a controller profile which works decently. I ended up primarily using the touch pad to move the mouse, right trigger to left click, left trigger to right click, and right joystick to zoom in and out. But there are different shortcuts you can take full advantage of if you so choose, and it is nice to have them even if it isn’t what I defaulted to.

Overall, my experience with the beta has given me a lot of confidence for the full release, which is bound to have more optimizations to increase stability and framerate even further. And I personally can’t wait to play more and progress further than before. Stopping me at the 300 week mark and locking me out of technologies I wanted to research only made me want to play more, so 11 Bit Studios succeeded in convincing me to watch out for Frostpunk 2!

Frostpunk 2 is due for release on July 25 and can currently be wishlisted or preordered on Steam for $44.99.

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Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
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