Regular readers will know that I’m a fan of most genres but there are a few which a clearly love more than others. One such genre is the resource management variety such as games like The Settlers, Tropico and Railway Empire. Sure, there is more to these games as you create vast cities, manage thousands of miles of railways, or expand your land in order to invade other factions, but they’re all resource management games at their core. So, when I was asked if I wanted to take a look at Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt, a remaster of 2016’s ‘Townsmen’, I couldn’t say no.
Also, as a rather nice gesture to existing owners (as the game isn’t that old), everyone who already owns the original game will get this remastered version free of charge upon release. So, if you picked up the original previously but don’t see the new version in your library, restart Steam and it should pop up. I’ve not actually played the original game, so my observations are going to be based upon being a fresh set of eyes within the franchise. However, I have played a lot of similar games so I’ll most likely be comparing it to those as my review goes on.
Anyway, enough blabbering, let’s talk about why I was so hooked on playing Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt that I’m now late in putting out my review!
Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt has multiple scenarios for you to work your way through yet they all have a similar core-narrative. You must develop your village from a few small structures to a thriving eco-system that can self sustain and efficiently grow into a much bigger establishment. Just like with games such as Tropico and The Settlers, you’ll start off by creating essential structures, such as woodcutters or farms, followed by sawmills, slaughterhouses and mines in order to further advance your distribution merchandise. Also, you’ll have to create defences as you’ll be under threat from various factions depending on which scenarios you take on, threats which can be a bunch of bastards and seriously screw you over within minutes!
I’m not 100% sure what the base game originally came with, but Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt has a six-chapter tutorial (which I’ve spent about five hours playing through), 24 sandbox maps, and 26 scenarios, each with their own tasks and requirements. Each scenario will easily take you over an hour as well as the many, many hours which are waiting for you in the sandbox mode. However, as each scenario is technically it’s own confined story, there is no progression from one to the next other than a few aspects which seem to move over based upon your actual ‘character level’. This is common among games like this, but it was a shame that, outside of the tutorial, there wasn’t an on-going storyline.
The scenarios and tutorial levels have you set within a pre-determined map with a set start-up village and pre-defined resources/villagers. You’re then given a number of tasks that overlap each other, both mandatory and optional, for you to complete in whatever order you want. These are there as both an objective to work towards and a guide on what to do next. Completing them gives you rewards and usually allows the next task to pop up. If you’re playing the sandbox mode, you can pick whichever level you want to play and you begin with a castle – that’s it. No tasks, no goals, nothing. It is, quite literally, a sandbox for you to play in.
Learning the ropes
As previously stated, the tutorial isn’t simply a one-mission affair, it offers six scenarios that covers everything from building your first townhouse to fending off invaders whilst storing food for the winter. It’s a very long process but one of the most satisfying and fulfilling missions I’ve had within Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt so far. Don’t get me wrong, the game is great (which I’ll come to soon), but the tutorial didn’t feel like a guide, it felt like it’s own self-contained story, a story that kept most of my buildings and design choices as we progressed from one chapter to the next.
My only gripe with these missions is that it becomes very hard and takes you to a point where you can’t really recover – even if you stick it on 5x speed and leave it for an hour (which I may have done at one point…). But, because it’s only the tutorials, you technically can’t lose, so a restart is your only option – especially if you hadn’t saved before it all went tits up!
It really does spiral out of control though. For example, in the last chapter, I got invaded by some trouble makers who proceeded to set fire to my buildings, this cased others to combust and people to leave my town. This then snowballed into having to use all my money to repair buildings so they would operate again but then having no money to build houses to bring people back. Then I ran out of food because other buildings stopped working, and ultimately, every penny I was making was being auto-used on repairs and I was stuck in a circle of poverty and lack of motivation from the townsfolk! And yes – this was still whilst I was in the ‘tutorial’ levels!
So, having put on my big boy pants and insisting I was ready to take on the real scenarios, regardless of my lack of completing the final tutorial, I found out that the main game can be just as brutal and frustrating! Again, this isn’t bad or knocking the game, it just highlights my lack of taking in what the game was trying to teach me. In this instance, my buildings kept combusting and literally wouldn’t stop setting on fire! At first, I presumed it was my townsfolk as it was the taxman’s office that kept going up in flames, but then it was the farms, so I knew it wasn’t an aggressive stance they were taking!
However, having starting again and being more reserved with my resources, taking my time, and actually listening to the complaints and needs of my tiny tenants, I had a much smoother experience as things seem to go a lot better for me. It wasn’t perfect, things still combusted and I ran out of food in the winter a lot, but I was getting the hang of it and I realised I could build water towers to put out the fires!
Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt has a lot of things you can build, a lot of which are common structures you’d see in any city building game, such as taverns, houses, and barracks, but there are a few fun ones such as jousting arenas. Just like in games such as Tropico, you must balance out the needs and desires of your inhabitants as well as account for profit and sustainability. It’s great having a load of houses and manual labour to help around the town, but if you can’t feed them, or you don’t have enough places for them to work, maybe you should think twice about if you should bring more people into this eco-system yet…
The main thing I struggled with, within Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt, was managing my stock. For a game that basically falls into the resource management genre, there appears to be very little in terms of managing your resources. Other than purchasing new warehouses or a marketplace for you to sell your goods at, there is no control over the flow of merchandise. Now, you may ask yourself, “why is this an issue?” For the answer, we have to look at alternative games. Railway Empire, you can tell the game what resources the trains transport, so that you know the flow of goods and where things are going; Tropico, you can easily manage your trade routes and enable/disable local consumption; The Settlers, you can create efficient routes so you have a certain resource in set locations; etc…
Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt is rather simplified in regards to its resource management, simplified to the point where I’ve had to re-write this section of the review a few times as I had to go back and play the game a bit more to understand all the things you can and can’t do. You start a scenario with a storage of 600 items, this seems big yet you’ll be wanting more space after about 30 minutes. This can be expanded by creating warehouses, but these can’t be constructed until you have a Marketplace, which also increases your storage by 100 items. Getting to the point of being able to construct these essential buildings, however, may take up to an hour depending on the resources available and the tasks you’re currently working on.
Now, this wouldn’t be an issue for me, as I like working towards things that ultimately will make the game easier as if gives you a sense of accomplishment, but I didn’t like the lack of control we have upon purchase. Unlike the games I mentioned above, you can’t direct the flow of items to certain buildings, you can’t create efficient routes, and you can’t stop consumption by the locals. However, the carriers will simply drop off any resources at the nearest storage unit and that magically becomes accessible from all storage units – so what’s the issue? For me, the issue was the lack of control. Many tasks require you to collect X amount of something, such as wine or bread, yet you can’t stop the locals from eating it just as fast as you’re making it! This results in some of the tasks going on for a lot longer than they should do. It’s the same situation with prioritising resources to a particular building. If I want Logs to be used in building before the Sawmill, I have to literally turn off the Sawmill – I would have liked more control and automation to go with the micromanagement.
Research and upgrades
I previously mentioned that you can carry over certain things from one scenario to the next, as your ‘player level’ increases. This is basically your research. Every time you complete certain tasks which the game has asked you to complete, you’ll be rewarded with XP. This will gradually fill up your level meter until you ‘ding’ and increase by one. At this point, new research opportunities will be unlocked for you to select. Now, unlike in other games such as Tropico, you don’t need to meet any criteria, pay any money, or sacrifice any resources in order to do the research, all you do is pick the one you want and then wait for five minutes. Whatever you successfully research will stay with you as you move between scenarios, this means if you have an issue in one level, you could level up and then come back later on for a boosted start.
So far, I’ve seen upgrades such as increasing the storage by 25%, increase soldier walk speed, allow the ‘essential’ buildings to hold onto more goods if your storage is full, and other ‘boost’-like options.
Similarly, some tasks you complete will give you a form of prestige points. These can be used to either instantly build structures (which is great if you’re low on cash) or you can level up most of the buildings. The boost you get from levelling up will vary from increasing productivity to reducing repair costs. However, by far the best level up you can do is that of your castle as once unlocked via research, you can literally double the storage space! However, these upgrades don’t stay as you change scenarios, so you’ll have to earn the points and apply the upgrade in each one.
From the information I’ve been given, it states you have over 70 technologies to unlock via researching (although a lot of them have up to three levels of upgrade, so that’ll be why it claims 70), each one granting a permanent boost moving forward. I love games that do this as it means you can always move on (as there are 26 scenarios to play) and just come back later on if you’re struggling, which is exactly what I did!
The biggest issue is how small it is…
When I started the tutorials, I was a bit put off by the size of the map as it was barely as big as a 1080p monitor when you were fully zoomed out. However, I saw the game had this listed as a ‘small’ map size, so I thought nothing of it – it was the tutorial after all. A few hours in and I began to realise that the map hadn’t seemed to get much bigger, I mean, it’s about twice the size in each direction, but it’s not huge, yet that was classed as the biggest map size in the game. It’s not really an issue, just an observation I guess. I would have loved maps the size of Tropico or The Settlers, but after playing a few hours more, I imagine bigger maps wouldn’t be as intimate and claustrophobic as these were purposely created to be.
One caution though, if you felt Sim City 2013 was too small in its map size and it annoyed you, Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt will most likely annoy you even more with its very limited room.
One aspect which I thought greatly impacted the game was how it deals with the various weather conditions. Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt has all four seasons and it flips between them every 15 minutes or so. The bad news is that it’s not seamless, the game has a short loading screen of around three to five seconds as it swaps to the next season, but the visual and mechanic changes are very welcomed. As you’d expect, in winter your crops will die and the lakes will freeze over, yet it also brings with it snowstorms which can damage your buildings. In summer you can get flash storms which can also damage your buildings as well as rain in the other seasons. However, unlike some more simulation-based games, such as harvest moon, you don’t need to plan out things based on the season and then re-build after winter, anything that dies in the snow will be instantly reborn in Spring.
I have an issue and a request with regards to the controls. The issue is in regards to both controls. There’s an option in Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt with increases the speed from 1x to 5x (nothing in between, just 1 or 5), but whenever you click on anything at all, such as to look at your storage or check on the progress of a build, it goes back to 1x speed. This got annoying pretty fast. Thankfully, you can press A on the keyboard or click the icon to speed it back up, but I would have liked it to stay at the speed I set it to.
Also, the game has brilliant controller support! Literally, every gamepad is supported, from the Switch Pro to the DS4 (PS4) controller. However, it seems the game only displays Xbox button prompts, so you’ll have to look at the diagram if you’re unsure how it maps to your controller. But, what impressed me most was how the game doesn’t just emulate a Mouse and Keyboard, the UI changes the moment you touch the controller, as does the reticule and other UX elements.
After a little investigation, I realised that this game is basically a port of the enhanced ‘Townsmen’ game on the Nintendo Switch, which was released late last year. So, if you would rather play the game on the go then there’s that version as well!
Visually, I was hit in the face with nostalgic love as soon as I began to play Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt. As an avid Settlers fan, the game was screaming Settlers II at me, the best Settlers game in the franchise. It’s all 2D pixel-art with its own personality and charm about it. This doesn’t give it a pass though as there were a few visual issues I noticed, some of which are already fixed in a patch that is due out tomorrow. However, I did notice that zooming right in made the image a little blurry, if you have storage space over 1000 then the number of space available is placed behind the storage icon, some of the images in the menus are low quality, and it’s hard to select things behind existing structures.
But, none of the above impacted my enjoyment or affected gameplay, apart from being unable to select things being built behind existing structures, but that’s one of the issues which will be resolved in the patch. So, I would say, the above were the things I noticed, yet they are all listed as things that should be gone by the time you get to play Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt.
Soundwise, the music isn’t as memorable as The Settlers, but it’s a very similar style of music; it’s very upbeat and happy as you’re building, yet intense when there’s a disaster or enemies attacking. Again, I’m not sure if the sound was actually touched during the remastering, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
Official Trailer (Switch version, but practically the same game):
Despite its rather steep learning curve and love of screwing you over, Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt is a really good resource management game. The tutorial is about as close to an actual story as you’ll get, but each of the 26 scenarios has its own self-contained narrative which is displayed through character interactions and unique tasks you must complete. The game is quite tricky, even in the tutorial, as not everything is explained very well and once you get stuck in a cycle of poverty, it’s very hard to get back out. However, if you have a lot of patience and time on your hands, there are countless hours of fun to be had here as you work your way through everything the game has to offer.
Whether you’re looking for a new strategic resource management game to play at your desk or on your couch, Townsmen – A Kingdom Rebuilt works perfectly with both the Keyboard and Mouse or Game Controllers as the UI alters accordingly to offer the best experience. Also, if you already own the original 2016 game then you’ll get this remastered version for free upon release!
Townsmen - A Kingdom Rebuilt£16.99
- - Lots of content with 26 scenarios and 24 sandbox options
- - Very addictive and challenging
- - Full controller support which works perfectly
- - You'll be playing for hours without even realising
- - The art style is very reminiscent of The Settlers II
- - The option to run at 5x speed is constantly set back to 1x if you click on anything
- - The game is challenging but it's a little unfair at times, especially if you run out of money and get stuck in a loop and can't recover
- - Not all of the mechanics and options are fully explained within the tutorial
- - For a resource management game, you're very limited on the management of your resources