REVIEW: Townscaper

A mesmerizing box of toys and building bricks waiting for your imagination and creativity.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-player
Genre: Sandbox, Casual
Developer: Oskar Stålberg
Publisher: Raw Fury
Release date: 26 Aug, 2021

This incredibly simple box of building bricks has one of the most satisfying placement “plops” I’ve ever heard. Granted, I don’t play many city builders, only looking for some weird and out of the box ones, like Buildings Have Feelings Too!, but Townscaper’s “plops” bring me much joy.

A Box of Building Bricks

It’s a calming, effortless, seaside or island town city builder, a trip down memory lane remembering your favorite LEGOs, wooden construction toys or whatever you had when you were a kid. When you played for hours without any goals or objectives, just using your mind to propel you forward into tinkering, maybe making up a story along the way, and seeing what you could come up with. There isn’t really a game hidden behind Townscaper’s serenity, but it’s not shy stating that on the store page. Imagination and the will to play as a child are one way of approaching this wonderful toy.

To mind comes another way, a meditative one, the uneven building grid and the large expanse of water representing the white space of a painting, evoking distance and emptiness, but still carefully framing the subject, your haphazard shanty town or a giant cathedral reaching for the sky, both crafted or dismantled by simple mouse clicks, melodious “plops” and a satisfying, organic growth of the buildings.

Intricate Simplicities

There are no different rooftops to choose from, no building shapes for you to decide and no boring infrastructure or city planning to do, only the quiet stretch of water waiting for your inspiration to strike each time you create a new town. You only pick the color, Townscaper’s engine does all the other work for you, dynamically changing the buildings depending on how and where you click, producing tall, lanky houses or quaint cottages with greenery shrubs. Click and explore further and you’ll reach walled gardens, rooftop roads, buildings on stilts, clotheslines stretching between neighbouring homes and secluded alcoves hiding romantic park benches. You can manipulate those intricacies of creation up to a point, and discovering how to do that makes this a very charming and engrossing toy.

All the towns you create will look lived in, with tell-tale signs of habitation, but no villagers or citizens. It feels like they’re stuck in that early dawn bubble, no matter which time of day you choose, with gentle shoreline sea slaps and squawking of seagulls being the only sounds disturbing the silence. But, even without humanity, the towns will feel naturally humane and homely, a credit to the ambience the game manages to create.

Shapes of Play

You can also preserve your towns with screenshots, changing the time of day or turning all the buildings into white sculptures for some truly expressive cityscapes. There’s even an option to export your town into a 3D object, allowing you to print a model it and give it as a gift, keep it on your desk as a reminder of your dream home, use it as a painting project or as a part of a diorama.


And that’s it. If you’re looking for a real city-builder, a challenge and need goals for your games, you won’t find much enjoyment here. If you’d like to stir your imagination, create your own stories or meditate, choose your path. Follow the seriousness of a child at play or meditate on the tranquility, peace, and look inside you for your walled Zen garden. Or forge your own path, and whatever you pick, enjoy this strangely compelling box of building bricks.

Written by
Quirky Custodian
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September 2021

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