At a time when mobile phone games seem to be leaning ever more towards simple, one-button titles, it's almost surprising to find a game that's as complex as Townsmen 4. One of the deepest, most enjoyable and most strategic games we've ever seen on mobile, Townsmen 4 has a level of interactivity and detail that wouldn't look out of place on a PC, let alone on a phone.
Essentially a town-building game in the same vein as PC classic Settlers and, to a lesser extent, Civilisation, Townsmen 4 puts you in the robes of a monk, as you set about building and managing your budding metropolis towards financial prosperity.
Played from an isometric point of view, Townsmen 4 is accompanied by an intuitive control scheme, which helps to keep the game accessible. It's easy to select buildings and navigate through the menus, and each screen has been nicely designed and polished to make finding the options you need as easy as possible (although tooltips are notably absent).
Graphically, the game looks even better than its predecessors, and everything is well-detailed and stylised, from the scale of your buildings, all the way down to your individual townsmen (or Townies, as they're known in the game) who wander around going about their daily business.
The majority of the gameplay is found in the mission mode, which offers a number of levels to play through as you guide your town's growth from a tiny settlement to a bustling city. There's no real underlying story here. All you get is a monk who pops up at the beginning of each mission and gives you a few objectives, telling you what your villagers need. It's then up to you to see that they get it.
You can choose to construct a variety of buildings to help fulfil these goals, from farms to chapels to trading posts, and each of these is upgradable to one of three levels. Every building you construct produces a certain type of resource, and many can produce more than one thing.
Farms, for example, are capable of producing corn, wood or herbs, but each farm can only produce one type of resource at a time. This means that you either have to build a farm for each resource (which isn't normally economically viable), or keep switching the resource that the farm's producing to ensure a constant supply to the buildings that need it.
Each building also has a daily 'upkeep', and failure to provide it with the resource it needs (such as beer or bread) will result in the building temporarily shutting down.
Unfortunately, this can sometimes mean it's a bit too easy to fail a mission by simply running out of a resource and having no way of producing it again, causing all of your vital buildings to simply cease production. Thankfully, this doesn't happen too often – and once it's happened once, you'll be doubly careful to make sure it doesn't again.
Your town also only has a limited number of Townies, and each building requires at least one, if not two, Townies to run it. When combined with the need to balance resources, this leaves you constantly juggling, as you'll rarely have enough Townies to keep every building open at once. Having to suspend production at one building so you can free up Townies to work at another is a risky decision, yet one you'll often have to make in Townsmen 4 as you keep an eye on your ever-dwindling resource levels.
It's a balancing act that never lets up – but equally it's this addictive, if somewhat unforgiving, gameplay that's the butter to Townsmen 4's bread. This can be a fantastically rewarding game when all is going to plan, but it's certainly not for the strategically befuddled.
It's refreshing to play a mobile game as complicated as Townsmen 4, especially one so well-executed. A world away from the one thumb games we've been seeing lately, in Townsmen 4 there's a million and one things to manage, keep track of, and adjust, and we can't get enough of it. This game will suck you in with its unique, cutesy, but ruthlessly in-depth brand of town management, and once you've started, you won't be able to stop.