The men are back in town.
As much as I like playing real-time strategy games, I must confess that I have much more enjoyment building my city and watching it grow than when I have to actually engage in combat with other enemy factions. Maybe that’s why I spent so many hours on a game like New Frontier Days: Founding Pioneers, despite its lacklustre presentation. Thankfully, now that the Switch library is much more diverse, we have many other options of the town-building simulation genre, although some are better than others. Townsmen lies in the midway on that scale – but it compensates with a high replay value.
Due to its medieval thematic and top-down perspective, the first time I saw Townsmen, I couldn’t think about anything different than the classic Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings. As I started taking care of my town, I’ve became surprised with some similarities between the two games. In Townsmen, you’re also the leader of a small village, striving to survive during medieval times. Just like in AoE, in order to develop your city, you’ll have to start from the very basics: gather resources like wood and stone to construct different builds; do activities like farming and finishing to feed all your population, and collect taxes to create your own economy.
Different to AoE, though: you don’t have direct control over your population. In Townsmen, all the micro-management of your city is done by selecting the buildings. In order to do that, you control a pointer with the left analogue stick (on handheld mode, you have the option of using the touch controls too). By selecting each one of your buildings with A, a specific menu will open, where you can access unique options. Due to that, Townsmen’s characters seem to be more independent than in other RTSs, as you can pretty much watch them doing their activities.
What makes Townsmen even more different than other RTSs is the fact that it doesn’t have a big focus on combat. Most scenarios and maps doesn’t even have military options available, but even when they do, it has a much simpler approach than in other games. Your bigger concerns during the game may lie on natural disasters, like fire, diseases and avalanches – but that only happens when you’re not focused on the gameplay loop itself. After all, it is hard to keep your people happy.
With different seasons and weather, Townsmen’s presentation is simple but competent. With its 2D hand-drawn art style, the game does a good job in animating the daily routines of each citizen. Its bland and repetitive soundtrack doesn’t add much to the picture, though, mirroring the gameplay loop you get on some scenarios.
You can’t argue that Townsmen lacks content. It has many different scenarios, with complete quests for you to follow. In addition, you can also play a huge number of maps on a sandbox mode, where you can develop your city freely. The problem lies on certain scenarios that have very similar tasks. Of course, it is good to have more content; but more variety wouldn’t hurt . Still, if you’re a fan of the town-building simulation genre, Townsmen can entertain you for a long time.
With a simple but competent art style, Townsmen delivers a town-building simulation experience akin to classic RTSs such as Age of Empires. Less focused on combat, but a bit repetitive, it compensates some of its problem with a huge amount of content.