Towncraft Review (iOS)
Ever played one of those games that just eats away at you even when you’re not playing it? You’ll be at work or out and about but in your head you’ll still be moving cubes to solve puzzles or building your city in the perfect layout. As awesome as these all-consuming pieces of entertainment are, it is rather a joyous moment when you can look at a wall in real life and not instantly look for ledges within Lara Crofts jumping reach. It is with the feeling of a drug dealer armed with the latest digital crack that I tell you about TownCraft.
TownCraft, as the name suggests, is a town building game from Flat Earth Games for the iPad and iPhone. Players start the game finding themselves in the middle of an area in which they must use the resources around them to build a town fit for a royal visit. The tutorial level explains that you need to craft everything from the ground up and introduces the concept of combining objects you find to make items. Combining a stick and a stone for example will create a stone axe. You can then use the axe to cut down trees so that you now have logs. Combining logs and an axe gives you a woodworking bench which refines cut trees into either planks, poles or wooden rounds. Crafted items are also combined to make buildings, furnishings and even foodstuffs. The tutorial then ends and you can start a game with complete freedom to build your town your way.
At the heart of the gameplay of TownCraft are the recipes. Wanting to build a tavern to get the punters to visit your town is all very good, but if you don’t know how to make beer then it’s pretty pointless. There are no hints specific to recipes so it’s all about gathering everything you can and experimentation. Once a recipe is discovered it is saved to your profile and you do not need to relearn it for each new game. Once you have most of the recipes and start populating your town with buildings and services things can get rather busy. To this end you can hire passers-by to work for you for a daily fee. This fee depends on whether you have hired them as a lumberjack, farmer, miller or shopkeeper. The new employees will also keep you busy by either providing you with raw materials or demanding more crafted items to sell or serve. There are some passers-by that you cannot employ to help you run things. Instead these visitors may offer quests such as baking fifty loaves of bread or they may even have super rare items that you can trade for. In the beginning of the game these traders are essential as they are your only source of income. As you may have guessed, TownCraft is not a quick game. It is rather a labour of love so be prepared to sink many hours building your own perfect Utopia.
In order to keep things fresh in TownCraft, Flat Earth Games have made all the maps that you play on procedurally generated. This means that every map will be different from the last. There are also different landscapes that can be unlocked for you to try your hand at as well as a few challenge maps should you tire of the freeplay no time limit main mode.
Graphically, TownCraft is rather pleasing to the eye in a charming way. The art style is reminiscent of Braid with the characters having the small bodies with the expression filled faces. The game area is filled with wonderfully detailed objects that can sometimes obscure views of objects in front of them (the trees in particular are guilty of this). The developers do get around this by making the offending object see through when your character get close but the ability to rotate the map would be an awesome addition.
There are a few niggles that can remove you from the engaging experience of TownCraft. The touch detection on the game can me a little bit hit and miss. The whole of the game is divided into invisible squares and you need touch the correct part of each square to interact with the object on it. This can lead to situations where you are trying to pick fruit from a tree and you end up sending your character behind the tree as the game thinks you are touching the square behind the tree. Sometimes your character freezes altogether as your touches are not recognised and only rectified by either touching a square on the opposite side of the map or restarting the app. Thankfully these are not issues that constantly affect the game, they are sparse and sporadic and, in the case of TownCraft, forgivable.
TownCraft is an excellent mobile game for those looking for something they can get their teeth into. It will fondly remind you of games like Don’t Starve, Kingdom for Keflings, Civilization and Sim City – all great building / management games but not without their faults. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if your love building imaginary worlds and getting lost in running them then TownCraft may be just up your street.
3.5 crafted towns out of 5