by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
A fickle mistress
The original Townsmen feels like it was built two decades ago. As a latecomer to the city building genre, it focused on mobile friendly gameplay and was built in a time when our phones and tablets did not have the raw power that they do today. With those restrictions, the game was never able to compete with the likes of Anno, Tropico or Cities XL, but neither was it poor. Recently updated, Townsmen - A Kingdom Rebuilt shows just how much the genre has changed, what a simple game it really was, and how much better those other titles have stood the test of time. Nostalgia really is a fickle mistress.
That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable. The term “lovingly crafted” definitely applies to this update, which encompasses support for higher screen resolutions, improved textures, some updated building designs, and a complete overhaul of the user interface. It all leads to a smoother gameplay experience on PC, but without introducing new gameplay mechanics it doesn't break any new ground.
If you have not played Townsmen but have played other city builders, you will know the drill. You start with a handful of buildings and citizens and turn a humble village into a thriving town. Buildings need resources such as wood and stone to construct, and unlocking more advanced building types requires more advanced construction materials, in this case tools. You’ll need some gold as well, which you can obtain through taxation and trade, and in Townsmen, trade is what drives your economy and growth more than anything else.
As your town grows into a city, citizens will put an ever increasing demand on your ability to provide them with food, healthcare and overall happiness. If you are able to balance all these things out, your city will grow and prosper.
Walk in the park
The updated textures do little to hide just how simple the game’s graphics are. Yet Townsmen mostly shows its age with its lack of complexity. Unlocking new buildings and upgrades is an unexacting affair. Maintenance is a bit of a hassle early on as buildings degrade in the game, but it can be fully automated. After this, you won’t break a sweat on upkeep. Bandits can prove to be a bit of a handful, randomly raiding your settlement, walking off with important resources unless stopped by your guardsmen. There are no deep strategies involved here, just throw in some guard towers and watch them do their jobs. Early on, money is the primary limitation of your growth, but once the taxes start to roll in and you have a surplus of tradeable goods, you’re pretty much set. It’s all very manageable.
Should you end up falling short in an area, the punishment for your lack of oversight is minimal. There are no big breakdowns that knock your city back a few years, or any disasters that will have you scrambling to make things right. I‘m not saying that it’s easy to bring things back under control, it’s just that it doesn’t matter too much if you don’t.
Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to keep you busy and entertained, there’s just not a lot that you absolutely — have — to take care of. Only mission objectives need addressing, and those are not usually very challenging either.
A kingdom for beginners?
That simplicity doesn’t mean that you need to give it a wide berth however. There are two audiences that are going to love this game. The first are the original fans that were looking for a reason to play the game again. This updated version will serve them well, adding support for high screen resolutions, a bunch of new missions and a cleaned up UI. Better yet, if you owned the original PC version you will get the update free of charge. Yet it’s the second audience, the newcomers, that will truly value Townsmen: A Kingdom Rebuilt. For them this is an excellent introduction into the genre. The new missions do an excellent job of introducing core city building mechanics and there are few better games that will ease you into learning how to play this type of game.
Easy to get into, lovingly updated
Too simple for genre veterans