It is all down to you to help colonise a new land in New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers, an early city builder for Nintendo Switch that will see you guide helpless pioneers to the momentous time in history that was the Age of Metropolitans.
To reach it, players will have to command their mindless pioneers to chop down trees, mine for iron, hunt wild boar, shear sheep and sow seeds, before using such resources at sawmills, quarries, ironworks and factories as their newfound civilisation progress through the ages – procreating whenever possible to broaden your workforce.
There is an addictive loop that developer Arc System Works has managed to create, whether that be in turning logs into lumber or weaving wool into textiles. But while the hours may drift by, the experience feels largely shallow with no real sense of reward to the time that you put into what the experience has to offer.
There are three modes to choose from: Story Mode, which services to introduce players to the game’s intricacies; Survival Mode, that poses five difficulty levels and will see nearby wildlife become more aggressive every five years; and Free Mode, which, as it sounds, simply lets you play the game without restriction.
It is recommended that you start in Story Mode first, where, mentored by Jessica, you work together to cultivate an undeveloped land. Your orders are to turn it into a “grand city,” which is a lofty goal if ever there was one.
With development objectives set out for you to accomplish, this has to be the most demoralising experience that I have endured. Whenever you achieve what you have been tasked, the game moves you to the next story chapter which often results in a marauding pack of bears descending laying waste to your town meaning that you will need to start from scratch. That the bears are horrendously animated only adds to the insult of their destructive powers, let alone that this happens multiple times in Story Mode.
Given that this makes Story Mode less than enjoyable, Survival Mode similarly suffers in the same way. That leaves Free Mode as the perfect carefree alternative, but without any real objective to work towards the entire experience can feel particularly aimless. There are in-game Achievements that look to alleviate this, which, once unlocked on each panel, will reward players with artwork for their efforts.
The shortcomings that New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers suffers are a real shame, considering there Arc System Works bury some particularly novel ideas beneath the unimaginative surface.
The first of those is Invention Cards. These are one-time use cards that are awarded to periodically, and, once redeemed, will instantly restock resources, alter their sale prices or increase the productivity of your pioneers. There are more than 290 cards in the game apparently, which are certainly beneficial.
The second, with somewhat hilarious results, is pets. I have only unlocked pet horses in the game, but these accompany your pioneers and help them in whatever activity you have commanded. That can see them headbutt trees, sturdy rocks and tough iron, which I couldn’t help but laugh at how ludicrous it all was despite the increased resource gathering speed.
Sadly, the presentation all feels lifeless. The animations are painfully basic and the experience is made all the more irritating thanks to the accompanying soundtrack, which sees the same Scottish reels loop in near continuous monotony. It has been a long time since I had to silence a game.
New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers kickstarts a genre’s presence on Nintendo Switch that I would like to see plenty more of. Shallow in execution and with little to keep you returning once you have built up your town from scratch, this largely average city builder needs to re-examine its foundations.