TownCraft
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2015-03-06 PC Simulation E (Everyone) Flat Earth Games

TownCraft caught my attention for its mix of Minecraft and Sim City elements. You begin pretty much empty handed, harvest resources, and start planning and building your little medieval town in order to attract villagers.

The game begins by offering a tutorial which you may or may not want to experience... I went through it and I have to say I still felt completely at a loss after that. I recommend you do the tutorial anyway, at least it gives you a few hints and a general idea of how to play. The rest however, isn't as simple as it looks and I was soon overwhelmed and lost.

There are a lot of resources to be found and you can start gathering your first ones with your bare hands: stones and sticks. Make yourself a little hatchet and you can move on to cut down trees. Trees produce sticks and logs, the latter can be turned into boards. Piles of rock give you stone in two sizes. There are several wild shrubs that you can harvest to obtain cotton, wheat, hops, berries, grapes and other things, which you can in turn plant and harvest them yourself. This will be your initial way of earning money, as you sell your crops to passing merchants. My first bets were berries, cabbages, turnips and potatoes.

Cooked food will sell for quite a bit more, but you must build ovens first or some campfires, the latter have limited use but also provide light.

You will see people walk up and down the road, some will be villagers looking for jobs and a place to live, others will be merchants, some will offer you quests. Sell what you don't need, earn some money, and gather enough materials to build a few little huts.

Here is where I first got lost. I have houses, I have money, I have employed someone to help me harvest crops, but he's built himself a crappy little shack to live in. What am I missing? After much searching, I found out I needed beds in the huts I had built.

A lot of the time I had no idea what I was doing, so I just kept harvesting resources, building houses, selling prepared food. Then I began combining random things to attempt to create other things, much like when I feel lost in any point and click adventure game: combine items in the inventory and hope for the best! Except here you eventually end up with several crafting stations and a whole lot of materials.

Basically, a little thought of what could be used to make a certain item is what keeps me going. Cotton turns into fabric, which I must make by weaving it in a loom, and in turn make clothes. Grapes and hops could make wine or ale, but I also need water, and for water I need a well, and to get the water I need a bucket... But I don't know how to make a bucket... Some planks maybe? A round wood piece? Everything was a logical thinking process, but also a lot of luck and random combinations in the several crafting stations - and there are quite a few of them.

Once you have discovered a new "recipe", the respective result will become an entry in your Craftopedia, the log of all the combinations you have discovered.

I'm always constantly getting lost in the menu as well. There are menus appearing on the left, some on the right, some more down below... I wish these were just all placed in a single side or at the bottom. I also wish there was an option to queue actions, instead of single clicks for everything (for example, to harvest a large area of crops) and to repeatedly create more than one of a particular item as long as we have the materials on any given crafting station.

I would have liked to have seen more useful hints, particularly when it comes to the quests that we are given. I have no idea what this NPC meant by scales, especially when I had just done a quest that required me to go fishing. I thought maybe I had to do something in order to get fish scales, but I was way off! Eventually and after experimenting with a lot of materials, I crafted some iron plates and rods, and discovered the scale... a scale used to weigh things. AHA! So from there I made a store counter, but now I don't know how to get a store clerk, so I'm kinda stuck again.

As for the technical side, I did experience a couple of issues. Issue number one: the game would randomly crash or freeze at times shortly after starting it or after saving it to go back to the main menu, but that's not so bad since there is an autosave feature. Issue number two: sound was randomly alternating between headphones and speakers, and I honestly can't figure out why. No other game on Steam does this, but TownCraft insists on being heard a few sounds at a time through either. Pretty awkward, and slightly annoying.

Even in all my moments of having no freaking clue what I'm doing, TownCraft always has something for me to do. The trial and error process can be frustrating but it's so immensely rewarding when you actually discover something new that you can use to make other things and further improve your town's rank.

TownCraft is a game that will appeal to patient gamers who like to explore, think and build. It's something you can play casually or get lost in for hours, be it in the Campaign without a timer or in one of the Challenges with a strict time frame. And with maybe a few improvements and modifications, it can become even better.