You may have heard this tale on our podcast already but when playing through the tutorial of Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt I was thoroughly enjoying the laid back approach to the gameplay, seeing my medieval town come to life. And then the next thing I knew my town was overrun by bandits with a penchant for setting my buildings on fire. This wasn’t in the brochure! But whilst these pyromaniac bandits caught me off guard, I was unwavered, having had my fair share of enemies attack my cities throughout the years on other strategy games.
The clue is in the title with this one, as in Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt you must rebuild your kingdom to its former glory. The lengthy tutorial gives some indication that you have recently been given a new town to restore following an incident elsewhere, but the majority of the scenarios are all standalone with only minor references to any sort of story.
For the most part in Townsmen you will be erecting buildings, assigning workers and trying to keep your population happy. There is a huge selection of buildings to choose from including smelters, bakeries, churches, vineyards and even a tailors. These buildings all offer resources but then there are structures such as the contest grounds and juggler camp that are more focused on simply keeping your Townies and Townettes happy. If they are too happy though then you can easily raise taxes to bring them back to Earth.
Most buildings act like part of a chain reaction in order to get to the end product. Take the smelter for example: this melts down iron and gold ore into bars that can then be used to create armor and weapons for the soldiers. But the smelter in turn needs charcoal and the ore itself to fully work, and charcoal requires wood first of all. Sometimes these chains can feel unnecessarily long but when everything is working together like cogs in a machine, you start to appreciate the depth and intricacies included.
As alluded to earlier, it isn’t simply building a town up from scratch that you need to worry about; sometimes it needs to be defended. Bandits will appear later on in the tutorial – and in specific scenarios – to steal your resources and set fire to your buildings. You can set up defences and barracks to have soldiers protect your homestead, but you don’t have the option to go on the offensive and drive the bandits out for good. This isn’t so much a full blown RTS game, but more a relaxing sim-builder.
Some scenarios will focus purely on building your settlement, and others will require you to defend yourself. These levels are clearly highlighted that they are a military map. The difference in sizes is also highlighted, as is the overall difficulty of each scenario.
But even with these vast amounts of buildings and resources, each scenario boils down to completing objectives, constructing buildings and defending where necessary. Sadly, this gameplay loop gets repetitive.
And whilst we’re on about a negative or two, if you are struggling for resources then there are also Crowns, which act like a premium economy given away when completing quests as a reward. This has been left in from when the game opted for a free-to-play model on mobiles, but this comes at a cost: villagers are never in a rush to complete jobs, even with the option to increase speed 5x. It is this which can occasionally see the game come across as tiresome.
Thankfully, Townsmen plays in an isometric view that, from a distance, looks pretty. The game also has seasons, so you get a view of what your town looks like during the four time periods. These seasons are important too, and it’s also worth noting that during winter months your crops for flour making and beer brewing wont grow, so you’ll need to take things like that into consideration. Should you however zoom in to get a better look though, and the graphics do take a slight hit; the buildings and people look like 2D stickers stuck onto a background.
With the surprising amount of depth on offer here, having notifications pop up on the left side of the screen is a welcome addition. These are also graded in severity; the most severe also having an associated sound effect so when a bandit appears or a building hasn’t been repaired and is now on fire, you can quickly give it your full attention. Or this could be worse… when the plague hits your town.
Townsmen has a whopping 100 achievements to unlock, and yet all of these can be unlocked through just normal play. Each scenario has an achievement associated with completing it and the rest are all progression based. Some will obviously take longer than others – each progression award has either three or five stages to unlock – but the list doesn’t require any out-of-the-box thinking to complete them, so shouldn’t be a massive undertaking.
Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt on the Xbox One looks like a simple city builder with its cutesy and warming art style. But there can be a lot of depth also, especially if you go looking for it. On scenarios with harder difficulties it is essential you build the Forester’s hut to build the Sawmill to build the Carpenter’s Shop etc., but when playing easier maps or the Endless mode you can be free to concentrate on whatever you like, providing the Townies don’t revolt at the fact you don’t have any jewellery for them to buy; speaking from experience. However, the high price point of £24.99, repetitiveness and some mechanics not working as well on consoles as they do on mobile mean that this sim-builder should only be reserved for veterans of the genre.