Frostpunk's Automatons are helpful machines that probably won't kill anyone

The last time we ventured into the frigid world of Frostpunk, children died, people were eaten, and there was something going on with soup. Five months after that debacle (oh, there was a generator explosion in there, too), developer 11 Bit Studios has revealed a new addition to the Arctic hellscape that surely can't possibly make life even worse for humanity's most desperate dregs. 

Automatons are massive, steam-driven machines that can replace entire manual labor crews, working without rest (except for minor breaks to refuel) and without concern for the harsh environment or many dangers that can result in lost human lives. "They’re an example of pragmatic and authentic steampunk technology, used to endure cold and ensure humanity’s chances of survival," art director Przemyslaw Marszal said. 

It sounds like the helpful machines are all upside, but can it really be that simple? Senior lead designer Jakub Stokalski alludes to some Steampunk Cybernet shenanigans in the teaser, describing automatons as "the pinnacle of human engineering" before going on to hint that maybe—maybe—there's some kind of massive, ugly downside waiting to bite players in the ass. Maybe the only way to refuel them is to have Hattie Ridley's little brother climb onto their backs with a live 240 volt line and a blowtorch?   

The update also includes an assurance that the game is not dead, despite the relative quiet from the developers, and a promise of more news to come this month, "which should shed some light on the premiere date." For now, Frostpunk is on track to come out sometime in the first quarter of the year. 

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.