Banished is an intimate city-building game released in February 2014 by Shining Rock Software and is available on Steam. Shining Rock software is two guys - brothers - one of whom does the code and the other does art and sound. This is an Indie game. It is not the product of one of the AAA game studios, which I personally think is one very good reason to support it. This game isn't just good for an Indie game, it's a very good game overall. You begin the game with a few families and resources which vary according to your chosen level of difficulty. You then need to take care of everything your people will need to survive the coming winter: build houses for shelter, set up resource production for food, clothes, firewood and tools. Your people will die off as easily from frostbite on the way to their jobs as they will from starvation so you are forced to do several things at once with limited resources.
There are many available buildings, a variety of seeds for crops and orchards and three types of livestock. In addition to farming, food production also includes a hunting lodge (Venison and leather), a gatherers hut (Roots, berries, onions, etc), and a fishing dock. It is essential to provide diverse food sources to maintain your population's health, but you must also keep them happy which is not difficult. In addition to the balancing and managing of limited resources there are also "natural disasters". These can be disabled in the setting, and include tornadoes, disease outbreaks and crop/livestock infestations. You also have opportunities to trade and can opt to accept nomads into your town. Gameplay is straightforward using both the mouse and some hotkeys. There is a tutorial as well, which is well done and gives you a boost on the learning curve. The animation, sound, and graphics quality were all good. Instead of a scenario there are game Achievements, however I am not sure that you can meet them all within the same game.
This game is deceptive. This game is addictive. On one hand you can really get into the zen of watching your people go about their business, building and working. On the other hand it is sometimes maddeningly fickle and cruel. You didn't get the crops planted in time, or the fishing this year was not so good and people are now starving to death. You didn't build enough houses so young families lacked places to live and now the majority of your population is past child-bearing age. We won't talk about my crop infestations (diversify in planting, leave room between fields!), the tornado that swept through my village, or the typhoid outbreak (HOSPITALS are available for a reason!). I liked the initial customization available via the settings: Difficulty determines what you start with, terrain type and climate can also be fun to play with.
My only gripes with Banished are: First, I would like more occupations and buildings. Second, while the game description states that over-farming, hunting or fishing will ruin ecologies I have yet to see this actually happen (my maximizing yields have stayed constant for over three decades). Third, it would enhance the challenge if it were more difficult to keep the population happy. This game does have challenges. I got it for $5.99 during the Steam sale last June, the regular price is $19.99. Even for $20 you get a lot of gameplay, with even more features in development. One of the interesting upcoming features is mod support which is something I personally look forward to. There are also an active forum on Steam and a wiki which I found to be indispensable.