Research in Frostpunk is what enables you to survive the storm and efficiently researching technology is a must for survival. Some branches can even be safely ignored in order to speed up gains in other areas.
Build two Workshops for efficient research at the very start. Research the Beacon first so you can gain more Engineers and Steam Cores as fast as possible. Research Sawmills next so research and construction don’t stall due to a lack of Wood.
To efficiently research in Frostpunk you need to get the necessities out of the way first. Once at least one Workshop is built the best item to start research on is the Beacon. You should be able to build and staff two Workshops at the very beginning of the game, which gives you a research speed of 130%, which is what my recommendation is.
Researching the Beacon takes 7 Hours at 100% research rate but having the second Workshop means it will be finished in just under 5 hours. The best reason for this to be the first item to research is twofold, more people, including Engineers, and more resources that can be gathered and brought home by the Scout Teams, including Steam Cores.
The most efficient set up for research is four Workshops, although you can never have too many. This gives a research speed of 160% that should get you well-established before the storm hits. Although the gain is only 10% more if you keep adding Workshops it can be worth it if you have the Engineers to spare.
Workshops are the only building you can conduct research at. They are staffed by 5 Engineers and constructing the first one allows you to see the technology tree. Additional Workshops help you conduct research faster but the gain in research speed decreases as more Workshops are added, but there are other modifiers that can help out or hinder output even more.
If all workshops are fully staffed with no sick absences then they are 100% efficient. One fully staffed Workshop means research will proceed at 100% of the research rate. Adding a second Workshop adds 30% to the research rate for a total 130%. A third one adds 20% and then each additional one after that raises it another 10%. For example, building six Workshops would increase your research rate to 180% if everything is fully staffed with no sick absences.
If you sign Engineers Apprentice into law kids will help out in the Workshops and can give around a 20% boost for the Workshop they are working in.
You can also increase Workshop efficiency by using extended or emergency shift or assign an automaton to a workshop or two. Automatons work 24 hours a day, and at 90% efficiency can outproduce a Workshop at 100% efficiency because they work 24 hours a day and don’t stop at the end of a shift. So, if you have crucial research going on that stops at the end of a shift with only hours remaining you can assign an Automaton to a Workshop to finish it up, just remember to reassign Engineers to the Workshop once you turn the automaton off.
The Technology tree is made up of four branches, Heating, Exploration & Industry, Resources, and Food, Health, & Shelter and each branch has 5 tiers from 0 to 4. The zero branch is immediately available without needing to be unlocked. To research a higher tier, levels 1 to 4, not only do you need to research the technology in front of it, but you also need to unlock the tier itself. Tier 1, Drawing Boards takes 50 Wood to unlock and takes 5 hours at 100% research. The next tiers cost increasingly more wood plus they require a steel investment as well. Not all research needs to be completed at one level before the next level can be unlocked. You can unlock the next level at any time as long as you have the resources.
There are entire branches of technology you can safely ignore with the right strategy, making you much more efficient in gaining the technology you want in other areas. For example, research into Bunkhouses and Houses can be totally ignored as long as you take the extra steps to make sure no one freezes to death, like turning the Generator on more frequently and for longer periods of time. Heat technology is the area I like to focus on to offset that disadvantage, and it should be fully researched prior to the Storm anyway.
Another area that can be ignored is Hothouses. They come too late in the research tree and with enough Hunters you can provide more than enough food for the city. The thing I dislike the most about Hothouses is that they eat up steam cores, which I’d rather use in buildings like coal mines, plus they will succumb to cold temperatures.
If the coal piles run out before you can build a coal mine and there is a lack of steam cores, then researching Coal Thumpers makes sense, but again, it’s inefficient to research both Coal Mines and Coal Thumpers and the first level of Coal Thumpers is probably all that needs to be researched, Coal Mines will supply more than enough coal, especially if supplemented by a Coal Mine Outpost.
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Frostpunk Research Priority
- The Beacon. This gets you on the road to gaining survivors, and what I consider to be one of the most important things, more steam cores. You only start the game with one Steam Core and without gaining more you can’t build coal mines, which require 1 steam core to construct.
- Sawmills. With judicious use of the generator coal will not be your biggest concern in the early game, wood is. Wood is required for both buildings and research and the wood crates will quickly run out, which will delay much needed construction and research if sawmills aren’t researched and in-place and operating. Lack of wood is the biggest enemy in the early game.
- Steelworks. After tier 1 it takes steel to unlock the next tiers and it takes steel to research almost all the projects in the higher tiers. Automatons take 100 steel to build without further research so building up a stockpile of steel is imperative.
- Heaters next, then:
- Finish the first level of research except for Coal Thumpers, the order is not necessarily important, tailor it to your needs and playstyle. If coal starts running short for some reason, it’s easy and fast enough to come back to the Coal Thumper and research it later.
- Drawing Boards so tier 1 research can be unlocked.
- More Scouts. Two Scout teams is ideal so you can explore the area in opposite directions, you’ll never get that done with just one Scout Team.
Techs I Usually Skip
- All the Building research. Tents will be enough to get everyone through the Storm, although they would be healthier with Houses to live and sleep in. If there is enough time right before the Storm hits or even during the Storm, I would research these first out of all the items on this “Skip” list.
- Coal Thumpers. Not only do these take 10 Workers they also require Workers to gather the coal they bring to the surface. In cold weather you need Gathering Posts to protect the Workers, and even with 2 Gathering Posts they will still not keep up with the coal produced, plus each Gathering Post takes up 10 Workers as well. Coal Mines are much more efficient. Only if I had a desperate need for coal would I resort to researching and using this technology.
- Wall Drills. Efficient but they eat up a steam core. Sawmills can be effective enough to supply all the Wood needed by the city.
- Additional scouts. I’ve found that 2 scout teams are enough to scout everything needed.
- Faster Outpost teams. This would be very useful, but I usually find other items that preempt this. By the time I’m ready to research this it’s time to recall the Outpost Teams because of the upcoming storm. If your playstyle gives you the time to research this then by all means go for it.
- The Prosthesis branch. Once the Factory is researched and built you can build Prosthetics for 10 steel. By the time you’re able to research Streamlined Prosthetics and Optimized Prosthetics steel should be abundant and making Prosthetics a little faster and cheaper really doesn’t matter since plenty of able-bodied workers should already be available. If you leave the amputees in a Care House they eat half as much food too, conserving food rations if you’re short.
- Medical Automatons. Just not an area I like to focus on, Infirmaries and Medical Posts seem to do a good enough job.