Back in the day I was a huge fan of the Settlers games, particularly Settlers II. I spent hours building towns and fighting off attempts by other settlements to take over. Since then, there haven’t really been too many games that could match the style and gameplay of the medieval town sim, until now.
Townsmen certainly feels like a spiritual successor to those early Settlers games. Though it has gained some of the more complicated management aspects of more recent sims, it remains a simple game to get to grips with and the ability to zoom in to watch everyday life in your town is still a bit of a treat. It started life as a mobile game around four years ago, but don’t let that put you off, the developers at Handy Games have worked hard to make this feel like a true Switch game and, aside from some control elements that aren’t very clear, it feels like a full fat console title.
While games like Cities: Skylines have introduced the strategy genre to Switch already. Townsmen’s unique medieval angle, cute graphics and interesting story help to make it feel pretty unique on the system. It starts with an introduction to the world via the first part of a tutorial mode that, to me, is actually the main game mode, as new buildings and features are gradually unlocked. While on paper that sounds like a terrible idea, it works well in practice, with the story providing a reason for introducing new skills and the game then offers rewards for completing tasks. You begin with a castle and some villagers and a single fisherman to feed them, but soon find yourself needing more food and shelter, as well as building up to creating defences for potential threats from outside your village, as well as more natural disasters within.
At any point in time you can zoom in and see what individual villagers are up to or zoom right out and witness your busy town in action. It’s always been one of my favourite aspects of this type of management game to be able to focus on the individual lives of the citizens as well as managing the whole town and Townsmen does a great job of providing some entertaining characters to watch. There’s also the opposite end of the spectrum with micromanagement screens that trawl through every single resource and requirement your town has. Eventually trading is opened up and this provides yet another layer of strategy, but even though there is so much going on in the game, it never feels overwhelming.
The game can be controlled either via the touchscreen on handheld mode or via controller. The latter option occasionally poses an issue when you’re not told about how to access a function you need to use and it took me a little trial and error a few times to get to perform a couple of the tasks, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it becomes second nature.
Outside of the Tutorial game mode, you can choose to play different scenarios with a ready built town, where tasks such as stopping a threat from a neighbouring village or supplying food are given to you. The other mode on offer allows you to build a town from scratch via a sandbox mode. This offers a set of different maps to choose from, some far easier and full of resources and others more barren for an extra challenge. This helps keep the game alive beyond the main story and will require all the knowledge you’ve gained from the main mode to keep your growing town thriving.
Townsman is something quite unique on Switch at the moment and with its lovely presentation and in depth strategy it’s easy to recommend to anyone looking for a new management game to play.