I picked up Towns over the weekend off Steam (the wait for Darkfall continues), and got to play it a fair bit. Consider this a Super Eurogamer review (mmm, Darkfall…)
First things first, Towns is not a finished game. It’s not in an alpha state, and in this post I’ll go over some of the features, but if you can’t handle less-than-perfect games, this might not be the time to jump in. A solid comparison would be Minecraft in its earlier purchasable states, or something like Terraria before that got major updates. Again, very playable and fun, but not finished despite being on Steam for $15.
The game itself plays a lot like Dwarf Fortress. If that means nothing to you, enjoy the learning curve, it’s a doozy, and the included tutorials should be called Trolltorials for all the help they are. Indie gaming baby! But don’t be scared if you enjoy a sim/sandbox title, Towns is worth the initial WTF headaches.
Basically your goal is to build up a town for your AI-controlled villagers, doing the usual stuff like giving them housing, setting up food production, and making it all look pretty so they stay happy. As sims of this type go, I’ve found Towns to be pretty good. Not the deepest or most feature-packed, but what is there now is solid and making a functional town is fun. The graphics, which are only about on par with Tortanic (performance is much better, don’t worry), are charming and represent what it happening well-enough in most cases (melee-humping ‘combat’ could be improved).
Where Towns shines however is in the inclusion of its RPG elements. As stupid as “RPG elements” usually is on a box, here it’s actually true. Below the randomly generated world (again, think Minecraft random) lies a huge, multi-level dungeon filled with a good selection of monsters. Once you dig down to access a floor, NPC heroes that come around your town (assuming you have a tavern and rooms for them to hang out/live in) will venture down to do what heroes do; kill stuff, level up, and get loot. I like to imagine the NPC heroes are WoW players, and I play the role of Blizzard and hand out welfare epics to always allow them to clear a dungeon without too much trouble. I’m meta like that (whatever that means).
I like games like Towns in large part because I enjoy watching AI NPCs live their lives, and here Towns is great. Not only can you watch them do basic stuff (eat, sleep, bake, chop wood), but you can also equip them and see them fight off monsters, venture down into a dungeon, and basically live a virtual life in a fantasy RPG-ish world that you help build/shape.
I also think the game has a lot of promise, and assuming the devs stick with it (I’d imagine just getting on Steam and the cash that will bring will only help to accelerate this), things will only get better and deeper. Just watching some of the older videos of the game shows me that many things have improved or been added already.
For $15 you could do a lot worse (like subbing to SW:To… oh never mind), so if you enjoyed Minecraft or something like it, I’m guessing you will enjoy Towns. If not buy a hotbar!