Publisher: Bigben Interactive
A colourful, medieval town populated by a bunch of leprechaun-sized villagers called ‘townies’ seems like the perfect introduction to the simulation genre. Townsmen is split into two modes, scenario and sandbox, but before you dive straight in there’s an extremely user friendly tutorial that walks you through basic objectives: Build town houses, wells, fishing huts and fire towers to satisfy your townies’ demands, secure their happiness, and most importantly, keep your miniature metropolis thriving. It runs on a tight game loop of completing quests, gaining rewards and levelling up, a simple but effective little system that guarantees a virtual dopamine boost – at least in the tutorial.
Beyond, in the scenario mode, the pace inexplicably shifts into overdrive, presenting you with tasks it hasn’t yet equipped you to deal with, and slaps a timer on top. Classic management games like Age of Empires give players enough time to find their feet in campaigns, and so I found Townsmen’s tendency to continue loading the objective-wagon from the get-go overwhelming and inconsistent with the measured tutorial. In contrast, sandbox mode is far more leisurely, bereft of the onslaught of notifications in scenarios, and makes it easier to focus on constructing your town from the ground up, trading resources with the merchant, and accumulating prestige (the in game currency) and ‘Thaler’, which allows tasks to be completed instantly at a price. Still, construction itself feels rough because it locks your unit into a forced position and inconveniently drags the screen when you try to place it, and I often found myself forgetting the names for various buildings since only their icons were represented.
Townsmen is a port based on the 2012 mobile game of the same name, and though I can’t comment on its Android and iOS ancestors, the PC version runs smoothly, choppy animations aside. The orchestral, folk arrangement momentarily transported me to Westeros, slowly giving way to a fairytale atmopshere complete with magic wand sound effects – an enchanting musical brew that harmonises well with the game, but isn’t enough to erase previously mentioned issues. Ultimately, Townsmen starts out with fantastic momentum which is quickly lost due to lack of clarity, but manages to provide a relatively enjoyable casual experience if you’re willing to keep up.
Townsmen is out now via Steam for $11.99 USD.
A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this preview.