Is It Worth Your Time? A First Look At Townstar
Roughly two weeks ago, Splinterlands announced their partnership with Gala Games and they have been accepting Gala as a new currency for purchases ever since. Like many others, I had heard about Gala Games before, but I did not really follow it much. So after the partnership was announced, I decided to give their first game - Townstar - a try.
I've been playing on and off for several days now and with my first week in the game almost coming to an end, it's time to ask and answer the single most important question regarding any game - Is it worth your time?
The first thing you'll notice when starting Townstar for the first time, is that it is not your usual blockchain game. Contrary to most other games in the crypto world, Townstar is actually played in real time. You are given a small plot of land and are tasked with constructing a flourishing farm. The game has a look and feel that's closer to the classsical mobile games than to actual PC games and that's to be expected, since it's build by some of the creators of the original FarmVille by Zynga.
If you ever played any of these farm building simulations you know the drill. You start off with some basic buildings and crops, improve what you have, sell off what you harvest and reinvest the money you earn to further upgrade your farm. Over time, you slowly move up the tech tree, building more advanced constructions costing more money to build but also yielding higher returns.
What sets the game apart from other games of the genre (besides using blockchain technology) is that the game has no endless mode. Instead, each round only lasts for 7 days. Afterwards, all progress is reset and all players start again from scratch. I initially thought that this was only due to them being still in Beta but the game is actually designed to work that way.
Every time you sell any of your goods on the market, you are awarded a set amount of points and at the end of each season, the top players receive rewards according to their rank. These rewards are either Gala tokens or NFTs that can be used in the coming rounds. So far, these NFTs are special buildings that you can build once per season and that come with special effects or more powerful stats then the normal buildings.
While the game looks rather simple and is easy to pick up, it needs quite some thinking in regard to what to build when and where to place it. There are many factors like pollution or buildings blocking your windmills already in the game. Sadly, there's no indication for most of that, so a lot of these things can only be found by trial and error or by watching tutorials about the game.
In order to sell any of your goods, you need gasoline. You do start with some in reserve, but you need to produce more before you run out of it or it's basically game over. To produce gasoline, you need petroleum and to produce petroleum you need crude oil but also water drums and energy. Setting everything up takes quite a lot of money and time, so chances are you'll run out of money long before you are able to produce more gasoline on your own if you don't know what you are doing.
While it's great to have some actual challenge in the game, this also creates a wall new players will be running against inevitably. Getting to the point where you'll be slowly running out of gasoline takes several hours and if you don't realize you'll need to produce more early enough, you'll find that you just wasted 5-8 hours of playing time just to end up in a situation where there's no way for you to progress any further and you'd have to restart from scratch to have another shot at setting things up in time.
Given time, they'll probably add a tutorial and tool tips to the game, so it should become more apparent what you are supposed to do. Until then, this is probably the point where many new players will quit the game in frustration and will move away from it not looking back.
That said, the game becomes rather enjoyable for a while once you figured out how to make it work. Once you secured a steady stream of income, you start to improve your farm step by step and it's fun watching all the workers run around, minding their business.
It took me about 10 hours of playtime to get my farm to the state you can see above. It's probably far from perfect and I guess it could be done a lot quicker once you know what to do. Nevertheless, it serves to prove that getting anywhere in the game does take its time and I think that might be the biggest shortcoming Townstar is facing right now.
After a while, the game becomes more or less settled and you just wait for products to be finished so you can sell them off again. At this point, the game becomes rather stale. That's probably where the seasons should come into play, always forcing you to start fresh and rethink your strategy. Sadly, this is where the system is not really working (yet?) in my opinion.
I don't feel like putting in the amount of time again any time soon, simply because the experience would be rather samey for me. Sure, I'd avoid some early mistakes and I'd probably have a shot at making the top 100 next time, but I don't see why I would do that.
Here you can see the top 5 players of the week - in comparison, I'm currently sitting at rank 190 with 9,060 points. Getting to the top ranks probably would take a lot of dedication and effort and thus gaining any rewards is only possible if you really go for it the whole week. This is fine and I'm all for rewarding those that actually put in the effort, it's just that it doesn't seem to work well with the game they built.
To me, the farm management simulations genre is a rather casual and relaxed one. It's a game you typically want to play every now and then, just to relax and kill some time. Townstar is not that kind of game, so many people coming in expecting a typical farming game will be rather disappointed. At the same time, the weekly season restart makes playing the game casually rather pointless. If you don't compete for the top spots, there's almost no reason to start playing again next season.
That's not to say the game can't work for other players. So coming back to our initial question - Is it worth your time? It really depends, I guess. For me, the game did not click. I'll keep an eye on it and give it another shot eventually, but for now, I don't see myself playing it again next season. There's just no incentive for me to play it. I won't compete for the top spots, so there's nothing to be won. At the same time, anything I do will be void within a week, so there's no point to playing it casually either.
Nevertheless, I'd advise you to give it at least a shot. Playing Townstar is completely free and it's enjoyable for the first few hours at least. Maybe you'd find that you do enjoy it more than I do and you want to compete for these top spots? Anyway, it will be interesting to see where both Townstar and Gala Games are heading from here. They certainly are trying to become a big player in the blockchain gaming market.
That's all from me today, thank you all for reading and see you next time!
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