Stonehearth: the townbuilding game with an unfortunate name


Okay. First things first. Stonehearth, developed by Radiant Entertainment and currently in alpha, was announced in 2012, when it had already been in development for a year. Hearthstone, Blizzard's popular collectible card game, was announced at PAX in 2013 and came out a year later. So, no, Blizzard won't be suing the pants off the makers of Stonehearth unless they've got access to a time machine. Which, let's face it, they probably have enough money to build at this point.

Back to Stonehearth! Yes, it looks very Minecrafty indeed, as every game with blocks does, and the developers have stated that Dwarf Fortress was a major inspiration as well. But Stonehearth is attempting to dabble in a number of different genres, with elements of city and civilization building, strategy, simulation, resource management, and RPG trappings, all in a procedurally generated fantasy sandbox setting. I think they just went down the list of popular Steam tags and checked all the boxes.

I put in a morning's work on Stonehearth, starting by searching the randomized map for a spot with a good amount of resources and wildlife, and founding a town there. Then, I put everyone to work. Beginning with only a handful of settlers, you designate a carpenter, animal trapper, warrior, or worker, and as they complete tasks they level up and can become shepherds, blacksmiths, farmers, masons, and so on. You'll be visited by traveling merchants and survivalists who will buy and sell goods, and you can construct default buildings or design your own to serve as residences and dining halls.


Adorable monsters! Kill them! Adorably!

The more building and crafting you do, the higher the value of your town becomes. The net worth of your town, along with citizen morale and food levels, will determine whether you can recruit new townspeople at regular intervals. You can play on peaceful mode to concentrate on building up your settlement, or leave yourself open to invasions from hostile creatures like marauding skeletons and thieving goblins.

You don't directly control anyone in Stonehearth, but are more of a taskmaster. Assign a worker to animal trapping duties, designate an area of the map their hunting grounds, then watch as they stroll over, set and bait traps, collect the raccoon and foxes that become ensnared, turn them into jerky, and bring them back to town. It works similarly with other professions: your townspeople will attend to their tasks, but take breaks to eat and sleep on their own schedule. It's your job to manage them, and make sure craftspeople have the resources they need to build shelter and tools for the workers, who are gathering the resources the craftspeople need to build them shelter and tools.


Wake up, you lazy townies!

Stonehearth's 10th alpha shows a lot of promise, which is important for a Kickstarter campaign that netted over $700,000. There's also plenty of room for improvement. While your craftsmen have a to-do list, it would be nice if the rest of your workers had a little priority queue, too. I'd designated a large area to be mined, and my workers got busy digging. When I wanted them to stop mining to work on something else, however, there was no way to directly communicate that to them. Instead I was forced to try to cancel the mining operation with the 'remove task' brush, which didn't seem to work. As in Fantasia, once set to work, my automatons never stopped.

Defending the village, in which you create war parties and direct them to a specific location to repel invaders, was also dicey. My first few fights went fine, but during a later invasion my villagers seemed unresponsive. Some stood idle, gazing thoughtfully into space as skeletons hacked them to death, others fled, and some didn't bother to respond to the call to arms and continued mining or farming.

Stonehearth's clock could also use a faster speed than just 2x, especially in the early hours of the game when you've only got a handful of workers and want to complete basic building projects quickly. I'm hoping for some robust tutorials to be added as well.


Goblins walking off with my property. My townpeople's response: duhhhhhhh

Aside from those issues, I found myself pretty engrossed in building my little town, attracting more settlers, leveling up my specialists, and of plotting terrible revenge on those heartless goblin thieves. I think I'll probably wait for the beta before I get too invested, though.

Currently you can purchase Stonehearth on Humble via their site, which includes a Steam key.


The first PC game Chris owned was Choplifter in 1982, and since then our staff writer has played at least three other games. He has a love/hate relationship with Early Access survival games and an odd fascination with the lives of NPCs.
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