First I would like to provide my credentials for reviewing this game.
I am a PC gamer of over 30 years. I have participated in not only alpha and beta testing many different games over the years both full AAA titles and Indy titles. I have most recently played Minecraft, Terraria, Dwarf Fortress, Project Zomboid, and many other games prior to final release within the Indy community and consider myself a valuable resource for bug locating and feedback for developers to call upon during testing to polish their games.
I have also played Towns for 100+ hours and climbing (check my profile on Steam). I actually enjoy playing the game in the state it is in. However, I will point out in this review that it is a far from finished game that has been inappropriately released as a final version. This single most important fact has lead me to review the game as is and provide honest and critical feedback on the functionality and features of the game.
I would like to start by sharing that this game has one of the best concepts out there. Not only that, it has actually gotten as far as being able to provide a relatively ok environment for accomplishing what it sets out to do. The game is currently in a “playable” state, though I have to stress this is a terribly subjective statement. I will make note as to why further in the review. All in all, if I was reviewing a pre-release, ‘currently in development’ game, I would provide a generally favorable review of the current state of the game…understanding that it would see further development and eventually be completed.
As it stands, the initial release of the game on Steam has created a terrible first impression for customers. Though the development site clearly has this version still in development, there is no indication on the Steam Store Page that this is the case. People are buying the game without realizing that it is actually riddled with issues. These issues are what I would like to focus on in the coming pages.
Now I want to make special note. Though I would consider this game to be in pre-release stages, the developers have made a point to say that they believe it is release ready, therefor I am not pulling any punches on the game due to its development stage.
1. Options - The first thing that a player will notice is that the options don’t always save. This means that you will have to correct your options for the game every time you start the game. Not only that, if you save Full screen mode, you will have to continue to set that setting every time you reopen the game. This is a small issue yes. However, it is indicative of the current state of the game.
Edit - This is a quote from a post made in this forum -
Maybe it's been said... Number one on your list is in fact intentional. They make the game open in a window instead of full screen due to some early version crashes in the game when opening full screen on some computers (never happened to me personally). Now all my other game options save as they should and I need only press F11 to go into full screen or again to go back into window mode.
It seems that the full screen option is in fact unavailable to work around a game crashing bug on launch. /End Edit
2. Tutorial - The in game tutorial is practically useless. Each tutorial mission is like its own saved game. Even though the actions required for the missions are progressive, you are forced to restart your game for every successive tutorial, forcing you to spend extra time in the game to learn how to play. Basically I have to rebuild everything I built in the prior mission to complete the current mission…. This goes on through several missions.
The tutorials also leave several key concepts out of the mix. An important piece of knowledge is you actually have to place a section of flooring on the board designated as a dining area for your Townies to eat anything you have harvested. So, if you do not look elsewhere for help outside the game, you will quickly experience that your townies are dying of starvation.
The tutorials also neglect to share how to call heroes into your town to fight in the dungeons below or protect your townies. There is much lacking in the tutorials and how they are implemented. It means that in order to actually enjoy this game the player needs to conduct intensive research into the wiki and streaming tutorials out on YouTube. It wasn’t until I watched a 3 hour long stream of gameplay by one of the Towns fans that I was able to properly set up a town that persisted after an hour of gameplay.
Edit – The tutorial also lacks information on how to deal with dead bodies so they don’t spawn game killing ghosts early on. More on this under dead townies. / End Edit
3. Townie AI Issues - Your first few attempts at playing the game you might wonder,”Why are my Townies walking across the board naked to fight armed frogmen and dying like lemmings?” This statement sound like a joke, but it is exactly what I experienced my first few times of playing. Without understanding how to get heroes in to my town right away, one of my Townies would battle a frogman and then all of the townies would rally to help him only to incur the wrath of the frogmen village and wipe out all of my townies. It took me a while to realize they were doing this because of resource management issues and bad AI. The Townie would wonder off looking for something he needed to make an item. Perhaps there was a bone lying all the way over by the Frogman village that was left as a result of an animal dying. My Townie would somehow know that it was there, and run to the other side of the map to get it! Then he would be attacked by Frogmen, but instead of running away when he is apparently going to die, he stays and fights until dead.
Now several things will happen as a result of his death. If you are new to the game and have not disabled moving bodily remains to your stockpile, your townies will all run over to try and pick up his remains. One by one they will be executed by frogmen. And there is nothing in the tutorial or wiki that tells you this about the game. Only though the advice of other players in steaming games was I able to realize the reason this was happening.
Further along in the game you will see that townies run to their death trying to get items in many different ways without any regard for personal safety. This wouldn’t be a problem if you could manage what they were picking up in a reasonable way, but the resource management is buried in terrible UI that is not intuitive and a stockpile management system that requires micromanagement on a per tile basis! More on this later….
4. Dead Townies - Now what you truly want to hope is that none of your townies actually returned with the remains. If they actually got them back to town to store in your stockpile, the remains give off a poisonous gas and actually spawn deadly spirits that will run amok in your town killing your townies. This is another really important piece of information that is not shared about the game. It is a game killer unfortunately and I personally played through several games that ended like this before finding a way around it. You can delete the remains from the game. A simple and easy remedy that many players consider a cheat remedy for a bad coding issue. Yet this still can’t protect you from remains that are hidden from your site view. You might lose several townies to spirits in a dungeon before realizing that the first one died an hour ago and his remains are behind that wall that you cannot pivot view to actually see…..
Edit – I have been told that another way to get rid of remains is by placing graves down on the map. Townies will take the remains to the graves and prevent them from spawning ghosts. HOWEVER, your townies still need to find and pick up the corpse which more than likely puts them in grave danger (pun intended) especially if that corpse has already spawned ghosts or the original dead townie was eaten by an ogre or something else more dire. /End Edit
5. View – not game breaking, but a feature that is in nearly every other game I have ever played is the ability to rotate or change your view. This game is a sandbox with only one view angle available to the player. This can make it extremely difficult to see things behind walls and other areas of obstacles.
Edit – There is a button in the upper right corner on the minimap that flattens tiles. This is meant to allow greater vision behind obstruction. This works to some extent, but you still have to be uber diligent in looking for things by scrolling through the whole map level one screen at a time.
There is also the lack of a zoom feature that is already present in games like Gnomoria. Sometimes it can be difficult understanding where on the map you are down in the dungeons. /End Edit
6. Resource Management and Stockpile System – There is nothing short of terrible to describe this system. It is broken in the most horrifying way. First off the management of what and how many resources are gathered by townies is buried in a confusing UI that is difficult to manage unless someone walks you through it. You get to set numbers for stockpiles, however, you have to manage containers and stockpile zones individually to manipulate what you want stored. This management has direct impact on the entire game and what your Townies will gather and where they will go to get it.
When my containers are enabled for Green Gel the Townies go wherever they can on the board to get it, even into the maws of danger awaiting them in the dungeons. And for me it usually seems like they go to the furthest option available to them first. To get around this, you need to make sure that your heroes clear out a full level of dungeon prior to setting your containers to accept certain items. This is the only way to ensure that your Townies won’t jump into the mouths of hungry Cyclops.
There is probably a protocol for the order in which they grab drops, but the player is not made aware of this and you are left to try and micro the stockpiles and manage the tasks of the townies until you understand the pitfalls of the actual code yourself. After you spend hours doing this you can minimize the damage to your town and townies by adjusting your game play in order to prevent their deaths. How is this adequate use of the player’s time? My frustration continues along this path as I get past 20 hours played. I am still met with issues like this that continually plague the game based on my ability to micro and limit the amount of tasks I give my townies.
Unfortunately, this takes away from the game in a big way. I now have over 700 containers that I have to individually micro because there isn’t a mass micro feature for containers. The alternative is leveling the top level of the map and making it one giant stockpile where every tile holds only one item. Then you have one stockpile to manage instead of hundreds of little ones.
7. Task Priority Feature - Another major issue with stockpiling is that it works terribly with Townie AI. When a resource is used to create a good, that good is dumped on the ground in the nearest open tile space. Even when there is a container made to hold that good 2 spaces away, the Townie still runs 15-20 spaces away to drop the good on the ground. Then, once all tasks are completed that you have in queue, the townies will return to pick up the good and transport it to the container.
So let’s say that you have some mining, harvesting, and building queued, but you are trying to stockpile some food so you can allow your townies to go idle and get more townies to migrate to your town (more on this later). Basically your whole town gets filled up with food everywhere. I will try to post a screenie of this but I mean it’s in every building, every street, and even out in the wild! Then the Townies will go about their tasks and business until they are all completed before running out to collect all the food they dumped in your streets and store it!
There is supposed to be a feature that allows you to set the priority of tasks for your townies. Hauling intuitively seems to be the task for picking up things and storing them. It is also last in the priority list. However, when you place it in first position, nothing changes. The Townies still do not collect the scattered food and other resources! This in my opinion is simply a broken feature and a terrible bug that needs to be fixed immediately.
8. Pathing – You may at some point while playing see notice that one of your Townies has starved to death. This might come as a shock especially after you put the dining room area down and still have HUNDREDS of items to eat in inventory and probably lying all about your town and the board. Have you checked the dungeon or perhaps the tops of your buildings yet?
Townie AI seems to be so poorly coded that they will travel so far into the dungeon to gather drops that they will starve to death before making it back to your town. Yes, you heard me; they purposely starve themselves to death.
Townies can also easily get stuck on top of buildings as you build walls and roofs. Now this is where it gets interesting. In order to get around this particular pathing issue the game include ‘scaffolding’ which allow you to make makeshift steps up the side of buildings to prevent any townies from getting stuck. This simply seems to be a quick fix to circumvent recoding the pathing issues.
9. Auto Equip – Now you might actually find out somehow that your townies can be equipped with armor and weapons. When you see this you also immediately notice a whopping Auto Equip button, how convenient right? WRONG. This button should come with a giant sign that says HIT THIS BUTTON AT YOUR OWN RISK. The worrisome thing about hitting this button is that you are relying on the AI and pathing of townies finding their own gear. This means if there is a new uber sword drop in the dungeon where your heroes are still killing the monster of the day, your townie will make the journey down into the depths of hell to try and retrieve it. I am pretty sure you can guess where this is going next. It is basically a repeat of any death of your townies mentioned above and the problematic results of his demise.
Edit - Now I would also like to mention that SOME, not all, of these issues have remedies in the Mod world of Towns. For those of you that do not know what mods are, they are code packs that you can ‘modify’ the game with. The modding community for Towns is quite industrious in they seem to try and solve issues with the game even before the devs can actually tackle them.
However, though some of these mods are great, there are several problems I see with mods:
1.They will break every time the actual game sees a real update patch. The mods will have to be adjusted to work with the new version of towns.
2.Modding isn’t for everyone and can be more work to employ than the average gamer may want to invest.
3.When the modding community has to resort to fixing bugs in a game for the developer instead of modding in new environments, art, items, and introducing completely new features, this is a sign that the devs are not keeping pace with the demand of the game. I am sure you can figure out what this may mean for Towns in the future. /End Edit
In conclusion, I would say that the points above pretty much sum this game up. It is a fun and entertaining game to play. However, it is taxing to learn how to play it, and even more difficult to navigate through the various bugs and coding issues by changing your game play to ensure it is still a playable game. If you are not willing to spend at least 3-10 hours digging into this game to learn how to play it, don’t even think about trying to play this game.
Personally, I don’t believe that a paying player should have to change style of play and be laden with tedious micromanagement simply to overcome the lack of completion in a game. This game is far from complete. It is a great game with a great concept, however should not be in final release. As a result I have to give this game a big ZERO for charging customers for play testing their beta level gaming experience. Not only that, since they feel that development stages are subjective, they are arguing that this is a game in a finished playable state. I say we hold them to their word and review the game as is considering it to be a final release. Otherwise, other Indy developers will push their unfinished games to market with the expectation that there are no repercussions for selling a subpar rendition of a game.
DON’T PAY TO BETA TEST THIS GAME UNLESS THAT IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO, AND PLEASE DON’T LET OTHER GREENLIGHT GAMES GET RELEASED IN THIS MANNER.
/sign this Petition if you would like Steam to mark these games in some way to let buyers know about the development stage of games like this prior to puchase: http://steamcommunity.com/discussions/forum/10/882966056543195053/
PS: If you are looking for other sources besides this forum for information about the game in advance of purchasing, please check out these links:
Penny Arcade Report Editorial: http://penny-arcade.com/report/editorial-article/the-perils-of-greenlight-how-towns-enraged-a-community-by-selling-a-game-th
Towns Official Forums: http://www.townsgame.com/forums/viewforum.php?f=8&sid=3c64731967f70d300c9762333bb68eba
Other threads in the forum that are also helpful:http://steamcommunity.com/app/221020/discussions/0/882966056252855435/http://steamcommunity.com/app/221020/discussions/0/882965239706117458/http://steamcommunity.com/app/221020/discussions/0/882965239837101296/http://steamcommunity.com/app/221020/discussions/0/882965239810751560/http://steamcommunity.com/app/221020/discussions/0/882965737270522758/http://steamcommunity.com/app/221020/discussions/0/882965239940062938/http://steamcommunity.com/app/221020/discussions/0/882965239801179172/http://steamcommunity.com/app/221020/discussions/0/882965737305081469/
List of concerned individuals: http://steamcommunity.com/app/221020/discussions/0/882966056331586151/