Game Review: Townscaper by Oskar Stålberg

 
 

Townscaper is a cute, relaxing town building game. No puzzles, no goals, just placing colorful buildings around and next to and on top of each other in the middle of a peaceful ocean.


Townscaper Promo Image depicting little colorful houses in a row up against each other

Official Description:

Build quaint island towns with curvy streets, small hamlets, soaring cathedrals, canal networks, or sky cities on stilts. Build the town your dreams, block by block.

No goal. No real gameplay. Just plenty of building and plenty of beauty. That’s it.

Townscaper is an experimental passion project. More of a toy than a game. Pick colors from the palette, plop down colored blocks of houses on the irregular grid, and watch Townscaper’s underlying algorithm automatically turn those blocks into cute little houses, arches, stairways, bridges, and lush backyards, depending on their configuration.

More Info:

You can get more info and buy the game on Steam or the official website, and you can try a demo on the developer’s website!

Long Review:

I’ve played for over 40 hours so far, and I can still see myself playing some more. This game is so chill, and I love it! A lovely little sandbox town building game. Cute art style. Colorful buildings. Fun little details that pop up sometimes (like clotheslines between buildings, or little sculptures in gardens). Simple to play. No puzzles or goals or objectives or obstacles, just creative expression.

I’m finding this game is also great for inspiration. Some of the towns I’ve created have happened sort of by accident or just evolved into something once I started messing around, but now they’re giving me ideas for stories or art. I’ve also seen people suggest using it to make maps for D&D campaigns, book worlds, etc. I’ve even seen fan art and animations, so clearly I’m not the only one feeling inspired!

I would personally like if there were a bit more customization. As it is right now, all you can choose is the color of buildings, where to put them on the grid, how to stack them, and the location of the sun for lighting. Certain build features can be manifested by learning little tips and tricks, but they still only work if you build in that exact way (e.g. you can get stairs, but only if you create a platform between two buildings with a certain setup). Roofs, archways, etc. form automatically based on certain rules (so you have some control, but you might have to adjust what you’re building to make it work). You can get a grassy area, but only if you enclose a section fully within buildings. I’d love if you could at least choose between pavement or grass for each separate area, and if you could add walls without whole buildings. Maybe some control over roof vs flat surface. But judging the game on exactly what it is meant to be—a super simple automatic builder—it succeeds. And there is still so much room for variety and creativity, even within the limitations.

Some good news though for people who want a bit more customization is that there are mods, created by other players! They don’t solve the problems I mentioned above, but so far I’ve seen ones that offer different texture/color palettes (you can also make your own pretty easily), the ability to change plant color, and weather. Just these few things can open up whole new possibilities (e.g. I used some darker color schemes to turn one of my builds into a vampire town). Here’s where I downloaded the mods, in case anyone is interested! And here’s how to create your own color palettes.

There’s also a mod called Townshell that I find really helpful for starting with specific shapes or big filled in areas, as well as some other things (though it’s a bit confusing to use). Also, it lets you press the space bar to add blocks, and if you hold it and move your mouse around, it just goes wild, which I find useful for getting ideas or making sections of towns look less stiff.

So if you want something to just chill with, or an easy way to explore your creativity, this is cute, and I recommend it! If you’re looking for real gameplay or detailed customization, it might not be for you, since there’s not much more to it than plopping down buildings. But there can be a lot of creativity and planning involved, if you really get into. Even more so if you download or make your own palettes and textures. With the amount of time I’ve spent playing, clearly I’m enjoying it!

*Source/Cost: I purchased this on sale for $4.19 on Steam.*

Short Review:

– No puzzles or goals, just creative expression
– Simple to use
– Cute art style
– Little customization, but you can change it up a bit with mods
– Gives me inspiration for other creative projects
– Super chill and relaxing game!

Accessibility:

(May not include everything)
– No accessibility options.
– Available for computers and some other devices, including touch screen.

Miscellaneous:

Here are some of my builds! (Click anywhere on the tweets to open them and see the pictures bigger.)

Here are the files, if you want to use my Christmas palette and textures. If you don’t have the Texture Manager mod, you’ll have to save these and swap them with the defaults when you want to use them. If you have the mod, just add the palette to the palette folder and then create a new folder inside the “ModTextures” folder and put the TownMaterial and TownColor files in it. If you play with Steam on a PC, you’ll probably find the files in C:\Users\(YourUsername)\AppData\LocalLow\Oskar Stalberg\Townscaper\Textures Please don’t reupload these, but feel free to use them in your own builds!

Townscaper Christmas Palette
Townscaper Christmas TownColorTownscaper Christmas TownMterial

 
 
 
 

Talk to me!

Have you played Townscaper?
Do you like chill sandbox games that just let you be creative with no set objectives?

 
 
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  1. Greg

    We honestly need more games like this. I love the simplicity of just building city in the ocean. Plus the art definitely inspires- I can definitely see using maps for a D&D game. I like to imagine living in places like these. 🙂 The Christmas themed ones are great.

  2. Roberta R.

    “OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION: Build quaint island towns with curvy streets, small hamlets, soaring cathedrals, canal networks, or sky cities on stilts.”
    And, it turns out, Christmas-tree-like buildings 😂.

    I tried the demo – it’s fun!