Initial Thoughts: MicroTown

Ever want to build cities? Wait, I feel like I started my most recent review with this. And in that same review, I mentioned how I’ve been trying to find a game to play to hit my itch for city builders. Well, let’s talk about MicroTown!

MicroTown is a new, Early Access game on Steam in which you get to take charge and build your own settlement! Currently there is a Sandbox mode, and a “Build the Monument” goal option. I didn’t do much with Sandbox, but I did go all the way through to build the monument.

The game nails down the basic city builder elements. You’ve got your houses, your resources, your general buildings, and your citizens. You have to place your pieces – the loggers near the forest, your miners near the rock, and so forth. Each building will initially have one worker slot, with some able to have three worker slots. As long as you choose the “Starter Techs” option, you’ll receive technology as you complete tasks related to the various buildings that can be used to unlock more buildings. Even with just the small set available at this point, I found myself getting a bit lost in the buildings, and in the map.

See, the biggest problem with the map is there is a singular zoom level. One of the things I always do in these types of games is zoom out. I need to see more of the map at once, and you really need this at times. As you really start expanding out further and further you’ll be going around the map a lot, or at least I was.

Then there’s the speed of play. The default speed feels almost torturously slow, but fear not for there’s a speedup button! So what’s the issue? Well, you have to hold it down. It’s not a toggle. So I’m here just holding down tab then entire time, and well my hand definitely started cramping. Making it an actual toggle would make a huge difference, since the speedup speed actually felt tolerable. Oh, and there’s also the fact that to multi-build you have to hold shift, so whenever I tried to do that while speeding up… Well, I made good friends with the Steam overlay during my time playing.

The AI needs some desperate work. Judging by the notes so far, it seems that work has been done for how it works, but it has a long way to go. In my time sitting waiting for things to happen I would watch some of the workers, and it just seemed off. For instance, at the Sawmill, an NPC would grab a log, bring it to the sawhorse, and then return to the default starting position. They’d then go back to the sawhorse, turn it into a plank, and again return to the default starting position. Finally, they’d once again return to the sawhorse and bring it to the spot for a carrier to take away before once again going to the default position to start it all over again. There’s a ton of wasted time in that, which just holds up the entire production line.

Speaking of getting held up, it turns out the AI gets totally backed up if you try and pre-emptively build too much. The AI prioritizes trying to bring items to build sites over actually building. You can set your minimum carriers and maximum builders, and even if you set carriers to 0, they’ll still run around trying to carry stuff to places instead of getting things built. You can sit there for 20 minutes – all while holding speedup – and things don’t get built. Sure, I’m a very notorious pre-emptive builder, but it was a little silly. Oh, and if any piece has been delivered and built on, you can no longer demolish it.

The early game can also be rough depending on how you place your logger. If the area near it runs out of trees too soon you can get yourself totally stuck, unable to proceed, forcing a restart. There is a knowledge thing you can unlock to be able to regrow trees, but this requires planks, so if you’re out… Well, you see where it’s going. When I unlocked this it wasn’t even clear how to do it, so I ended up making myself stuck even further.

The game has a lot of promise but is definitely still early in the Early Access process. There are spelling mistakes littered throughout (in fact, the Arborist building is typo’d as Arbotist in the buildings menu), the AI is a mess, more goals are needed, the goals don’t update properly at times, and it really needs the ability to zoom in/out. I’m going to stay hopeful for this one, and hopefully it will see some good updates!

MicroTown is available now on Steam Early Access.

I received a free code from the developer for checking this out on my personal Twitch stream. These thoughts are based on that playthrough.

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