Although it has been around for some time, VR still very much feels like a fledgling industry. Games making their way to the medium still have a ton of growing pains and can often get caught up in issues that would be so hard to detect otherwise. This being said, there’s something special about getting in there yourself and feeling your own presence in the world. A Township Tale is the perfect representation of both of these sides and comes out interesting but very raw.
The tutorial itself immediately clues you into this dichotomy. As you walk forward, you find a handful of places designated as tutorial areas. One teaches you the basics of crafting where another teaches you all about mining. The issue is every area has small problems that let them down somewhat. The crafting is unintuitive, despite directions. It makes sense after a little while but is a little too flimsy and prone to breaking. A good example of this was when creating your own backpack. Some pieces that fit together just didn’t, with some items just not slotting as intended.
A Township Tale is a very intentional mix of a survival crafter and a social experience and it shines best when combining the two. The first server I joined felt a little confusing. I was still getting used to the controls and finding my way around until someone fell from above and died right in front of me. Bewildered and having not quite figured out the unmute button yet, someone came up to me and showed me how to use the stick I was holding in my hand. He attached a piece of flint to it and a bit of straw then instructed me to bang it off a rock. This lit it up and I had light.
This random player didn’t owe me that little tutorial. I was just some random silent person struggling in the dark — yet he chose to help me out. This is the strangest and most heartwarming thing about playing A Township Tale. People just continued on and helped each other. Those obtuse tutorials become a talking point among villagers as people transfer the information they picked up through trial and error. On singleplayer, this poorly put together (and unskippable) tutorial may put many off but, once you’ve got over that challenge, you have a world of players there to help you out.
I ran into taverns to find groups of people regaling others with tales of their adventures or blacksmiths where players were teaching others how to build great swords. There’s this organic fostering of communities that VR just innately gets so well. Seeing the physical presence of someone's arms or their head as they look around in confusion lets you connect with them — it lets you empathize. A Township Tale, despite its issues, has stumbled upon something fascinating and a nice way of socializing in a more single-player-driven medium.
Unfortunately, as you step out of the tavern and move onwards, the world itself often feels empty and strung together. It opts for that social aspect above all and offers a world with little depth. The loop of picking up things, killing birds, or chopping down trees to build out your inventory can be pretty fun if you have the time and stamina but I can’t help but feel like I'm preparing for some difficulty or battle that will never come.
This being said, the way you make your way through the world is interesting. You will find little spots where resource numbers can be found on the side. Fill that with what they’ve asked and a nice device or path will be built, allowing you to make it just a little further. The way you level up or build high-level gear is also really interesting but so unintuitive that it ruins a little of the shine of building your brand new sword.
Ultimately, A Township Tale is a much better excuse to talk to friends than some competitive environment to solve world-ending quests and loot precious armor. Its quaint and rather slow-paced world leaves a lot to be desired for the full release at some point in the future. The biggest challenge is working out its main systems and collecting items. Unfortunately, there isn't a way to play this seated comfortably yet so picking up rocks, ore, and basically, anything else you may need requires you to physically bend over and pick it up. This is initially fun but gets tiring very fast as you may need ten or fifteen sticks for a single idea. It does have a way of grabbing from a distance but this is fairly unintuitive and very imprecise. It also doesn’t work on some items.
A Township Tale — Verdict
A Township Tale does a much better job with the tale part than the township part. Offering very natural watercooler moments and genuinely nice social moments, it’s a game I can’t wait to play more with my friends, even if I have to talk them through its many issues and glitches. I’m perhaps a little more excited for what it can be than what it is but after taking that headset and surveying my surroundings, I can’t help but feel myself smile.
TechRaptor previewed A Township Tale on Oculus Quest 2 with a copy provided by the publisher.
- Great Community Building
- Barebones of an Interesting Survival Game
- Some Great Ideas
- Looks Good on Oculus Quest 2
- Rather Unintuitive
- Quite Buggy
- World Could be More Interesting