Hearthlands – What We Think
Still early in development but recently approved on Steam Greenlight, Hearthlands is a medieval fantasy city builder – or village builder, at least – from Russian two-man development company Artefact Games. A little like Majesty and a lot like The Settlers, the game sets you up as a king and lets you do the city planning, but you won’t have any direct control over your town’s residents, so you’ll need to keep them happy in order for your kingdom to grow.
Home Is Where the Hearth Is
You’ll start with houses, of course, and then as immigrants arrive, you’ll need to keep them fed and happy by building farms, possibly setting up a hunting lodge, and most importantly brewing alcohol for them. Eventually they’ll want additional luxuries like furniture and pillows, all of which will need to be produced by workers in specialized buildings, allowing you to upgrade your dwellings and accommodate more residents.
As the game progresses, you might have to deal with monsters; in the game’s current state, this amounts to a possibility of skeletons raiding your village if it’s anywhere near a graveyard. You’ll also have the opportunity to parlay with other nearby kingdoms; although the developers haven’t year implemented full diplomacy, the current version of Hearthlands does allow you to buy and sell goods with your neighbors.
Everybody’s Got a Hungry Hearth
Because the game is still in alpha and has no tutorial or manual yet, it can be a bit tricky to figure a few things out. Your residents will go consistently hungry, for example, if you don’t set up peddlers’ tents nearby the houses to enable food delivery. Even if you do, it’s not always obvious how resource distribution works, so if you have a bakery and a brewery that both need grain, you can’t just assume that your workers will distribute the ingredients evenly.
Thankfully, the game is mostly self-explanatory, with pop-up descriptions for the various buttons for building placement and the like, and an in-game hint system to remind you to set up scarecrows near your turnip fields.
My Hearth will Go On
The developers have a lot of plans in the works as Hearthlands edges toward a full-fledged beta release. There will be more monsters (Goblin camps and rampaging Elementals!), a more fleshed-out diplomatic system, and even a magic and religion system, which looks to give this casual town simulator a bit of a unique spin.
As it is currently, though, Hearthlands is charming if not yet exceptional. The characters are cute and respond to being clicked upon with a sort of dull goofiness that recalls the original Warcraft game, and an optional system for creating your village in one of four specific cultures keeps things from being too generic, (though good luck keeping enough booze around if you choose to play as the cider-swilling Easterners.)
An amusing time-waster for now, Hearthlands has the potential to be quite a clever take on the classic village-builder as the developers continue to add features.
Watch the trailer for Hearthlands below: