Religious structures are a common feature of medieval-themed city builders. Games like Banished, Anno 1404, Patron, Foundation, and others come with churches, chapels, monasteries, cathedrals (and in Anno’s case, mosques), and other religious buildings which typically deliver a happiness bonus or fulfill a ‘faith need’ for citizens and residences constructed nearby.
But you won’t find religious structures in Farthest Frontier, the new medieval-themed early access survival city builder from Crate Software, maker of Grim Dawn. In fact, there’s no religion in the game at all. While it includes public amenities like theaters, markets, pubs, and hospitals, there are no churches or chapels to create and citizens have no trust requirements that need to be met.
Some players are curious about the absence of religious buildings, while others seem downright annoyed by the omission. “Where is the church?” is the title of a thread on the official forum, where the lack of a church is called “a shortcoming” (translated from French). “I totally agree that churches are a must-have and could be a basic need of the settlers,” says another commenter. Another player in the thread states that “churches are an absolute must” and expresses disbelief that the “dev’s didn’t realize this.”
“Well, mosques/temples/etc also existed in that era. I’m sure everyone shocked we didn’t add churches would be just as satisfied by the addition of those instead, right?” responded Zantai, a designer at Crate Software.
“We’ve intentionally left faith ambiguous in [Farthest Frontier] even if churches are a ‘staple’ of medieval Europe, which is another thing we’ve deliberately left vague,” Zantai continued. “The setting for the game is inspired by certain time periods and places, but it is not set in those places. The player can decide whatever suits them.”
This doesn’t mean Crate Software is opposed to the idea of some sort of religion in the game, which is still in early access. It just doesn’t want any actual religions represented.
“If we ever incorporate a faith system of some kind, I think it would be best if it was a customizable system where you name the faith and decide its bonuses/features. There’s way too much baggage and drama around real-world religions,” said Zantai.
Farthest Frontier isn’t the first city builder to sidestep the potentially messy topic of religion. Cities: Skylines, the biggest city builder of the past decade, only has a single cathedral as a landmark but no churches or other religious buildings, something player-made mods have added for those who want them. Other city builders, like Ostriv, make religion a requirement: A church is necessary for a city to grow beyond a population of a few hundred. But Ostriv is specifically set in 18th century Ukraine, whereas Farthest Frontier isn’t set in any particular time or place. (As one example, the game includes dire wolves, which went extinct roughly 10,000 years ago, long before the medieval period.)
The closest thing to a religious structure currently in Farthest Frontier is a shrine, which can be upgraded to an altar, but there’s no specific religious designation for either of the structures. Shrines and altars provide “a desirability bonus to nearby residences,” is all the flavor text says. Nothing else.
Another commenter in the thread asked if the drama around religion kept churches out of the game, what about resource extraction or the very idea of colonization? Shouldn’t those historically contentious elements be removed from the game, too? In other words, they were suggesting that the entire game shouldn’t exist.
“I’ll happily draw the line at religion any day,” Zantai said. “And I think that’s all that remains to be said on this subject.”
Other players commenting in the thread are perfectly happy with a lack of religion, or with the potential inclusion of nonspecific religious structures.
“I’m an atheist so normally loathe to push for any kind of religious inclusion in games… but it does seem strangely odd there’s no ‘temple’ buildings in the game. I think something should be added: doesn’t have to be called a church. Could just be called an ‘elders gathering place’ or similar,” one commenter said.
“I like how the shrine is vague but serves a purpose, I think it would be fitting to have a building that serves a similar purpose,” another player added. “It could just be a building with smaller shrines that adds desirability and requires a worker for upkeep.”
“Personally I’m glad that there’s no religion mechanic, but a generic temple or something to celebrate the dead would be cool,” said another.
I think it’s refreshing to rethink the norms of city builders , and just because something is classic and expected doesn’t mean it should automatically be a necessity. At the same time, I also wouldn’t mind something nonspecific when it comes to religious buildings in the game.