A new type of city-building game which will make you feel like you've been administered a digital Valium
The latest offering from the Swedish game developer Oskar Stålberg might loosely be described as a city-building game. There are no missions to complete or resources to gather. There isn't even a menu of buildings to pick from. Instead, Townscaper players add one block at a time atop a placid sea and watch as the structures they're creating morph automatically into streets, homes, apartments, and towers. That barebones simplicity, objective-free gameplay, and calming setting will make you feel less like a city administrator and more like you've been administered a digital Valium.
It's hardly a thrilling experience. But there's still a lot of Zen fun to be had in seeing your individual mouse clicks snowball into city blocks or castle-like complexes. That organic, incremental growth makes Townscaper a refreshing change from other city simulators, which typically revolve around zoning vast tracts of land and laying down miles of infrastructure.
Less appealing is the game's lack of people to populate the player's creations. Their absence can make the game feel sterile after a while. In the era of coronavirus, when dead downtowns are depressingly common, it can even feel a little eerily familiar.