Sunday, 12 August 2012

PC: Towns

Hello guys, it's review time again! Just as a quick update before we begin. I have reached the decision that for the time being I'm going to stick with indie games. This is mostly to do with providing more unique reviews for you guys. Let's face it if I try and give my view on the latest COD before anyone has any idea who I am, I'll be drowned by the likes of IGN and Gamespot before I know where I am. This won't always be the case but at least until I'm sure people are reading this blog I'm going to be doing mostly indie games. Now without further ado here is today's subject matter: Towns. Like PZ, Towns is still in development and currently in Alpha.

Towns is, I suppose, a bit like Dwarf Fortress. You start with a handful of villagers, citizens, settlers, whatever you want to call them (I'm going to stick with peeps for now) and you try to keep them alive while developing a town or castle or whatever takes your fancy really. This means you have to keep your ever-growing population fed (easier said than done especially when you play for the first time) and having to keep back evil hordes of nasty beasties constantly trying to nibble on your tasty peep's faces. For any brave souls willing to try the game bare in mind the motto on the game's website is "Build, Explore, Die Prematurely" and you better believe you will, many, many times.

Usually your first act is to gather a lot of wood from around about as well as forage fruits from trees and bushes from nearby, like apples and pears. Wood is going to be your staple building material in the early stages of a game and until you can start cooking foodstuffs like meat, fruit is an excellent food source for the peeps. You should also be setting up a carpentry area and make a carpentry bench so you can make things from walls and furniture to tools with your newly collected wood. Towns is not your everyday select a unit and tell them to go where you right-click, you'll find yourself setting out a number of tasks and your peeps will set out to fulfil your requests and will do them in an order depending on the type of job they are being asked to do. The order tasks are done can be set by you to fit your own preferences and to make sure the most urgent matters are attended to first. For example, in a food shortage you want to prioritise foraging as opposed to mining.

The mention of mining also brings me onto one of the main features of the game. The area you're building on is basically above a dungeon filled with more than ores. Most of the kinds of critters I mentioned earlier that want your peeps for dinner reside there. Yeah apparently your forward planning for this settlement wasn't very good. In fact the only thing you have to worry about on the surface are a race known as the froggies that live in the jungle and have a tendency to try and spear people who get near. Thankfully they are pretty weak and even without basic weapons and armour your peeps should come out on top at least in one on one fighting.

Underground however you'll face much more difficult creatures that will mess up your defenceless peeps unless you take action. What action might that be you ask? Well there are three main steps in defending your home. First you can assign peeps to be soldiers which means as opposed to gathering or crafting or the like they will either go on patrol routes you set or supervise your peeps to make them go faster. Like your other peeps these guys can be equipped with armour and weapons and of course you're going to want to prioritise the good equipment for these guys. I should mention that weapons and armour can be crafted in a forge or a carpenter area or equipment is often dropped by the various beings you will be fighting. Now we've talked about soldiers the next main step for defending against beasties are heroes. These are quite recent additions to Towns and there are new variations still in development. As you can likely guess these guys are more powerful than your average worker or soldier. To get heroes you have to make a tavern where the heroes will gather, eat, play dominoes and what not. Individual tavern rooms are also required and must be built separately for your heroes to move into and catch some shut eye after a busy day of clobbering giant spiders and the like. Also when compared to soldiers, these guys take up a more offensive stance by venturing into the dungeons as soon as they are open and getting down to business. Your third step involves employing traps. This is a brand spanking new feature that was added in an update today so I haven't tried them out particularly thoroughly but I would assume when placed strategically at the entrances of your mines and used in conjunction with soldiers and heroes you may just be able to keep your minions safe while they live out their lives of gathering, crafting, eating and sleeping in relative peace.

If I haven't already I want to make clear that this is not an easy game. You will lose and lose and lose again likely very early on. If however you keep plugging away you will learn from your mistakes and may just be able to live long enough to create a thriving town for your peeps. I have yet to be able to do it but I tend to meet my end due to food shortages. The way to prevent this is to establish your own orchards and animal farms so you have guaranteed sources of food because it is entirely possible to kill every animal and chop down any tree that will bear food and leave yourself with nothing if you're not careful.

One of the reasons I seem to struggle quite a bit with food is that at a certain point my peeps seem to just stop working. Or at least they will go to harvest either food or raw materials and not actually return them to the settlement. For example they take fruit off of trees then they just leave them lying as opposed to taking it back to the stockpile I had laid out. When this starts to happen everything just goes downhill because when they become hungry they have to travel across the map to reach the fruit that one of their fellows had so graciously left on the ground and this of course slows down everything to the point it is just a matter of time before I have no food or materials left because the workforce is travelling huge distances to find apples and pears lying around. Insanely frustrating. I'm not sure if this is an issue with the game or I'm doing something wrong and if anyone happens to have some idea do let me know.

Other than that however the game is fairly sound. There are no real bugs that I'm aware of and most things that could said to be missing such as quite a few animations are getting added in as the game is developed. All I would ask is for the game to be a bit more forgiving not only in terms of the workforce getting lazy in resource collection but also even with the tutorials the game can feel somewhat overwhelming. In the new update more possibilities were added in terms of how you make buildings like adding multiple floors but I had to struggle a fair bit to actually use the new system and even though I finally did manage to build a two floored building, the amount of wood I had to waste partly due to my mistakes and also due to some confusion that my peeps seemed to be having about how to get where they were meant to go left me starting a new game as it turned into such a mess.

Really though I can't stay mad at Towns. For a start I got it for pennies thanks to an indie bundle from the Mod DB Indie Royale but also as I keep reminding everyone the game is in alpha. By the time the game is actually released it will be much more polished and have a ton more features. This is at very least one to watch for those who are unsure. For those up to the challenge posed by Towns you can get to the website by clicking these magical grey words: and then head to the downloads page to grab the demo. I do recommend this game to those into city management, strategy games and it may even appeal to dungeon crawler fans providing you last long enough to reach them.

Again if you have any questions or comments about the review or Towns please leave a comment either here or on my Twitter: @birnyb . Until next time keep your eyes on those dungeons peeps.

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