As a lifelong fan of SimCity, I was really looking forward to the new entry in the series last year. In the 18-or-so months leading up to its release, I watched every behind-the-scenes video and read every article about the game. So you can imagine my disappointment when the game launched with its server issues, host of bugs, and map limitations. I’ve yet to play the new SimCity, and I don’t plan on doing so anytime soon.

And then you have Banished, another city-building simulator. It is a game that arrived out of nowhere last week with almost no fanfare (besides word of mouth), that somehow manages to exceed all of my year-old expectations for EA’s SimCity. To me, this game feels like a finely-crafted consolation prize for those disappointed by SimCity. It’s that good.

A real testament to its gameplay is that it’s as deep as you dare to venture. If you want to stick to the big picture and plot buildings and assign your workforce you may do so. If you want to micromanage every building and villager that is also your prerogative. Your style can be that of a strategic mayor or a cruel god. If you want to play Oregon Trail, Tropico, Farmville, or SimCity; Banished will accommodate you.

Of course there are repercussions depending on the game difficulty and/or how far you overextend your village. Your denizens will perish from the cold, sickness, or even old age. It’s also ideal to maintain some equilibrium with the environment, by replanting trees or growing crops to help against over-hunting/fishing. As far as I can tell, many resources are finite.

The game’s excellent tutorial will help with the initial learning curve. This reviewer feels a few “trial” villages will help you get better acquainted with the game’s systems, and to learn how to keep your villagers alive through trial-and-error. It’s best not to get too attached the first few times you play. Just like any good sim game, half the fun is trying new things each time you play, and Banished has no shortage of options.

The game’s graphics won’t sweep you off your feet at first glance, but once you grow your village to a large size and have dozens of people working on their assigned tasks, it will feel like a living, breathing town of your very own. Banished’s UI is also user-friendly, allowing you to leave open as many menus as you’d like. The game’s soundtrack is pleasant and not at all distracting; it’s the very opposite of dubstep.

For me Banished is a great coffee-sipping game. I prefer a slow, methodical pace when I play, but if you’re impatient and like to see rapid growth in your town you are free to hit the ground running and increase the game’s speed. The game allows you to delegate one thing at a time or to be a ruthless taskmaster (like getting all your citizens to chop down a large section of forest at the same time).

At $20, this game is a great bargain and I highly recommend it for Sim fans. Also if you enjoyed casual games like Farmville and CityVille, and you’re looking to graduate into something a little more involved, Banished is certainly worth a look.

4/5 Stars. Steam Page.

This reviewer bought the standard retail game with his own Canadian monopoly money.