The fifth edition of the excellent Townsmen mobile games is finally out for people to download to their phones. For those unfamiliar with Townsmen, you start the game as a struggling knight order and have to become self sufficient while avoiding the pitfalls of the land. There are buildings that give you different supplies, travelling merchants that will buy those supplies from you or sell you new ones and the land itself, which at any time may wreck your carefully laid plans with an earthquake. Townsmen is to mobile phones, what Civilisation is to PCs. A solid strategy game with an excellent control scheme.
Each building in the game needs several different items to build as well as different supplies on a regular basis to keep the building running. In return they will manufacture new items which will give you access to the better buildings in the game.
Lets say you want to collect some taxes from the villages surrounding your lands. Well first you’ll need to build a tax collector, but he wont go to work without a constant supply of swill (the game’s name for alcohol), so you’ll need to build a tavern. The tavern wont work without a supply of meat so you’ll need a basic pig farm. This runs on water from the well in your storehouse so that’s fine, but now you find you’re short of workers. You put those buildings into sleep mode so they don’t drain your resources and plan an attack on one of the villages in order to suppress it and gain more servants. Knights can be sent from an outpost to do this but first they’ll need weapons, so you’ll need a smith. The smith needs wood for his fires and iron to smelt. You switch your farm to cut down wood from the forests around your lands, instead of breeding pigs, and build a mine to get some iron from the mountains. By this point you desperately need some more workers so you pay out some of your resources to upgrade the village and in gratitude they send more servants your way. Little do they know they’re working towards their new overlord’s evil plan.
Just at that moment a dragon attacks and trashes your farm. You’ll have to get that up and running again before you can even think about collecting those taxes. Maybe you should sell off some of your excess weapons to the travelling merchant who’s staying with you for the next few days?
Dragons are the big new addition to Townsmen 5 and much of the gameplay is centred around them. At the beginning of play you’ll be constantly rebuilding after dragon attacks and cursing them to high heaven. Survive that though and you’ll eventually have the resources to build a castle and hunt the dragons yourself. Once you’ve sent the soldiers into a dragon cave they’ll bring a dragon home with them unless the cave is too difficult for them. If the cave is a higher level than your castle you’ll have to wait until you can upgrade before tackling the dragons. But once you’ve caught one, you can get some revenge. Either sell it to a merchant for a load of gold or build a druid’s stone circle and have them make a potion out of it. Of course you’ll need herbs to keep a druid’s circle going so you’d best start a farm working on that eh?
I started playing the Townsmen games way back with Townsmen 2 and the games started to go downhill after that in this reviewer’s opinion. They got bogged down with extra features that made sense for the era but complicated gameplay a little too much. Those features have been redesigned and streamlined for this game with many of the decisions put into the player’s hands where they belong. While that’s the greatest compliment I can offer this game it’s also the greatest criticism I have for it. With the streamlining so many buildings have been combined together that there’s not an awful lot to build anymore. This can make it a little more difficult later on in the game when you’ve got three farms, two taverns, two smiths, and two mines each producing a different product. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’ll be playing this but keeping a copy of Townsmen 2 for some real old fashioned strategy gameplay.
Graphics – 5/5 The townies may be only a few pixels high but they’ve got character and it’s compulsive to watch them go about the routines you’ve set for them.
Sound – 2/5 While the generally excellent quality of music is still intact, the sound effects themselves are nothing more than rudimentary beeps.
Gameplay – 4/5 One of the shining examples of mobile gaming as always, but it’s still missing something from the days of Townsmen 2.