Townscaper is a pleasant city builder without all the fuss

VIDEO: Why you should play Townscaper. Also on YouTube.

Townscaper isn't your usual city builder. There's no infrastructure to lay out, citizens to manage, or sewage lines to divert. Oskar Stålberg's toylike town planner is instead happy to let you focus on the good bits, turning a blank ocean canvas into a sprawling seaside getaway.

Leaving early access next month, Townscaper has already become a firm go-to distraction. All you can do is plop down or remove colourful tiled houses ripped straight out of Balamory—but Stålberg has gone to great lengths to make this as satisfying as possible. Buildings drop in with a delightful pop, sending ripples into the water as seagulls flock overhead.

It's just a little more complex than you'd expect, too. Rows of different coloured houses will sit a little crooked, gardens springing up in enclosed spaces. Towers that alternate colours will become lighthouses, and if you can find a perfect loop in the grid, Townscaper will let your neighbourhoods fly like a somewhat less racist Bioshock: Infinite.

Townscaper's lovely towers

(Image credit: Oskar Stålberg)

What you end up with is a lovely hodgepodge of islands, cobbled streets and quaint neighbourhoods. There is a grid, and you can very easily plan out your ideal island. But the best approach, I've found, it to just start laying down bricks without rhyme or reason to see what you end up with. With options to move the sun, turn off textures, and capture super high-res screenshots, Townscaper also doubles as a bloody good wallpaper generator.

Townscaper's best enjoyed as something to jump into when you've got a spare five minutes, popping down a few houses every day until you've suddenly found yourself with a lovely new holiday spot. 

Natalie Clayton
Features Producer

20 years ago, Nat played Jet Set Radio Future for the first time, and she's not stopped thinking about games since. Joining PC Gamer in 2020, she comes from three years of freelance reporting at Rock Paper Shotgun, Waypoint, VG247 and more. Embedded in the European indie scene and a part-time game developer herself, Nat is always looking for a new curiosity to scream about—whether it's the next best indie darling, or simply someone modding a Scotmid into Black Mesa. She also unofficially appears in Apex Legends under the pseudonym Horizon.