At first glance, Townsmen appears to be a port of a mobile game. The aesthetic certainly feels unmistakably familiar from any number of mobile village building games you find on various app stores. It’s a top down village building game for Switch with pixel art visuals, so perhaps the comparison is easy to invoke, but it thankfully turns out to be a comparison that’s skin deep.
Townsmen is actually a rather complex game with a lot of content to discover, much of which can be found through an extensive campaign of scenarios. As you build your towns, you will need to manage multiple chains of production, including food, alcohol, more food, clothing, tools, jewellery, and yet more food. You’ll even have to defend it from attack on occasion. Most of these things have multiple stages in production, each requiring villagers to staff them, move the materials, sell or dispense them, and so on.
Thankfully a series of tutorials will introduce you to the various mechanics, and while these take an hour or two, they are pretty much indispensable. That can’t only be blamed to the complexity of the game, but also down to the finicky nature of the controls and menus. There a few problems to using the menus as, when playing in the Switch’s handheld mode at least, the touchscreen is a great help when actually placing things in and navigating around the game world. Put the Switch in the dock, however, and the menus feel a little cumbersome to navigate and the information a bit too dense.
Despite the control issues, Townsmen is a village building delight with many options and a tons of content. The campaign is long, if a little repetitive, but you can turn to sandbox mode to build up your village however you like. This is where the game shines, much like many strategy games, as the lack of direction means any problems you encounter are probably your fault from a few hours ago. The only thing is that building production chain after production chain might get repetitive as there isn’t much of a focus on combat here.
The game is delivered through a visual style that, as mentioned, doesn’t exactly stick out as interesting or original, and the same goes for the sound as well. It has exactly the kind of medieval-style music you are imagining and it begins to grate after a little while. It seem like a mobile game, which is a shame as it is likely to put people off what is a good building game on a system that doesn’t have many of them. A little more production value could have elevated Townsmen from a good game to a great one.
Townsmen is a good game that will keep strategy fans happy for a good while, but it’s held back by some awkward controls and its basic aesthetic. Despite this, it gets a solid recommendation if you enjoy the genre and especially if you are itching for some town building on the train.
Available for Nintendo Switch