Building a society takes a few things. You need people, resources, and maybe even a little money to grease the wheels. Well, how about building a city from scratch? Towncraft is just that; building a city in the middle of nowhere. How will you do it? Will you please the Queen to the west of you or the King to the east? Sleep? Who wants to sleep when there are crops to tend to?
Towncraft is very light on story. You are literally put into the middle of nowhere, between two kingdoms, and left to fend for yourself. What little story you get is in news and quests that merchants and travelers passing through tell you. For the most part you are left on your own to craft not only a town, but your own story of how it was built.
Controls and Gameplay
Towncraft started life as an iPad game. Certain controls on the Mac version hint at that, like moving your character to a spot simply by clicking on that spot. Still the developers, Flat Earth Games, have really expanded the control pallet to accommodate using a mouse and keyboard quite well. So moving can be done with the WASD controls.
Essentially Towncraft is part city building and part crafting, like SimCity and Minecraft had a baby. A tutorial walks you through the basics of how to get resources and use those resources to make items. For example the first item you make is a hatchet. You start by punching a tree to get a stick, and then you punch rocks until you get a small stone. Put the two together and viola, a hatchet. Now you can chop down trees for logs like the lumber jack you always wanted to be.
Crafting things is a lot of, will item A go together with item B? If they do, hey, you ve crafted something! If not, you can always try again with other items. There is also a sense of resource management. Unlike Minecraft your world in Towncraft is a set size. Which means if you use up a resource there is no hiking a few miles down the way to find more. Farming and building proper mines becomes a priority to keep you stocked in raw resources.
All that mining and farming takes time. All work and no play make Jack or Jill a very dull person. Lucky for you travelers, looking for work, are always passing through. For a few coins you can put them to work in the mines or fields while you continue the fun job of building the city and crafting things to sell to the travelling merchants. Someone has to corner the market on toffee apples. It might as well be you.
Graphics and Audio
Towncraft has the look of a hand drawn children's book. It is cute with its geometric shaped trees and short-bodied people with big heads. It is presented from a fixed isometric angle that lets you see a bird's eye view what is going on around you.
The voice acting is less acting and more basic sounds like sighs and wah-wahs similar to the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons. Sound effects are not only appropriate for whatever is happening, but also sensitive to where you are. For example if you've hired someone to mine for you as you get closer to the mine you can hear them working hard. The background music is light and airy, perfect to let you relax.
Towncraft is one of those charmer games. It is simple and cute at the start then the next thing you know you have spent hours clearing land for the perfect farm fields and trying to figure out how you are going to build a mine for coal without using up the coal you found on the surface.
I did run into a game breaking problem. I had built two mines, one for coal and one for iron, but I was only making enough money to hire one person. You can reassign a person from one mine to the other easy enough in the menus, but once I quit out of the menus to the game and tried to move the game would completely crash taking me to the desktop. Going back into the game it would start at the last point it auto-saved at, before I reassigned the worker. Eventually I figured out a work-around. I reassigned the worker then, after quitting out of the menus, I stood still and waited until it auto-saved. Once it auto-saved I moved, causing it to crash. When I reopened it I was able to continue my game.
Patience is the key word with this game. While it's working it is a lot of fun and you will lose hours to it. But Flat Earth Game is a very small development studio comprised of just two brothers and a handful of artists so it's not perfect and things break. On the plus side this game is their sole focus so it's getting better.
Towncraft is cute, fun, and will not doubt bring you hours of gameplay, but in its current Mac form it also has a serious bug. I'm giving it a 3 out 5 with a generous amount of room for improvement.
For more information see the Towncraft web site.