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Towns lets you build a fantasy city, one human corpse at a time

Ian Harac | April 15, 2013
Who wants to be an adventurer, when you can be the NPC who owns the town the adventurers shop at? That's the premise of "Towns," and it's a damn good one.

Getting into the dungeon can be annoying. The isometric graphics and the need to shift levels to see what's happening can sometimes make it hard to tell where you need to place ladders, and your citizens will be quite happy to go down into places from which they cannot then get back up. One feature I would very much like to see in Towns is the ability to rotate the map. I end up seriously over-excavating, strip-mining vast areas, just so I can see what's happening more clearly.

Your population shrinks when your civilians die (which they will, often), and grows when you raise your average happiness and have empty rooms for immigrants to move into (that latter bit is pretty easy; see note on dying.) The fancier the city you build, adding in luxuries like walls, furniture, and decorations, the happier your citizens are, and the more immigrants you attract.

Given time, patience, and luck, you can build a sprawling fantasy metropolis, with multi-level buildings, broad avenues, and beautiful parks. My best effort in Towns to date is more of a decaying shantytown, roads and walls left unfinished due to production flow problems. But this genre of game is supposed to be challenging and complex, so I'm fine with not mastering Towns in mere hours.

Ordinarily, I'd also be fine with the occasional bugs, quirks, and interface issues, but Towns (as opposed to similar highly complex, small niche, games like Dwarf Fortress or Aurora), is fully commercial. While $15 is not a lot of money to ask, if you present a game as a commercial product, there's a higher bar to meet. The extremely rapid development of Towns, with major features and functionality added regularly, is a positive, but Towns is still ramping up to being a fully finished product. There's a lot to like already. Support is solid, there's no doubt the designers know what they're doing and where they're going, but the state of the game is still more "We're happy to accept donations!" than "Try the demo, then buy the game."

Even with that, though, it's fun enough, and the development team seems stable and professional enough, that if micromanaging multiple production chains while avoiding goblins and spiders is your thing (and it is mine), it is worth paying now for the finished game Towns is likely to become later.

 

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