A medieval town-builder, Townsmen doesn’t really stand out amongst its competitors. But its joyful look and logistic-focused gameplay makes it worth your while if you are looking for a new game to get into while you wait for the next big release.
Townsmen is a strategic city builder where you try and build a sustainable medieval town. With your focus point being your castle, you aim to develop your local surroundings into a bustling town centre and stretch out your people as far as possible. The game gives you scenarios to compete with as well as trying to placate the needs and wants of your citizens.
"You can tell the developers have taken real time and care to inject personality into every aspect of Townsmen, and it really pays off."
Gameplay wise, there is a fair amount to do here. It isn’t the deepest game by any stretch but I don’t think that it is trying to be. The main emphasis is on logistics, with you managing several production chains to fulfil the needs of the people and the demands of the missions you have. Resource management is constantly a top priority. Controlling citizens is fairly intuitive, making this main aim of supply and demand fun to control.
Townsmen gives you a roster full of resources that you can make into certain items such as jewellery, beer and weapons. Some of these can be used by your own citizens, and others can be sold at market, earning you gold. Gold is a primary resource that is used in the building and upkeep of most buildings. You also have 'prestige', which acts like a resource, but functions differently in that it can used to quick build and supersede normal costs. You'll find you need to use prestige when Winter hits – fields don’t grow so well by themselves and you might need to invest.
While this can be fun to balance, it's Townsmen's scenarios where the game truly shines, giving you a series of pre-set missions against certain odds. Perhaps that means fully utilising the merchant – who only comes every couple of minutes, sprouting up some necessary buildings, or bolster some upgrades using your prestige. This balancing act, mixed with weird and wonderful goals, takes Townsmen out of its shell and brings it to life, making you plug away at it. Each mission is the perfect length as well, making it even easier to enjoy without becoming boring or repetitive.
The only real downfall I found is the combat. I can see what the Townsmen tries to achieve; it combines tower defence with combat itself. While covering your town in adequate defences is somewhat pleasing (and the aesthetic is generally pretty rewarding), the actual fighting consists merely of clicking on certain structures. The animations that accompany the battles are charming and entertaining enough to watch, but there's very little enjoyment to be gained from them.
"I think it's fair to say that Townsmen isn’t going to be the deepest or most engaging game that you'll play this year, but for me, it still manages to tick the two most important boxes that make me like it regardless."
By far the biggest accolade I can give to Townsmen is for its lovely art-style. It reminded me of the amazing cartoon graphics of Theme Hospital. The animations make the townspeople look wooden and determined, reminiscent of the old Bullfrog Productions game. The animations match with the well-crafted artwork of the buildings, which stand out no matter how badly your city planning goes.
This quaint charm is amplified when winter comes around, with snow covering every building. You can tell the developers have taken real time and care to inject personality into every aspect of Townsmen, and it really pays off. The only (small) issue is during winter, it can be more difficult to distinguish buildings from each other when covered in snow. Having to relearn where everything is by new defining features might be a grip for some. I, however, couldn’t care less. It looks lovely.
I think it's fair to say that Townsmen isn’t going to be the deepest or most engaging game that you'll play this year, but for me, it still manages to tick the two most important boxes that make me like it regardless. Firstly, it is fun to play; there is enough to hook you for a decent stint of time, and the scenarios are enjoyable. Secondly – and most importantly for me – it looks and feels beautiful. If you're a fan of town-building games, Townsmen is certainly worth a go.