A rodent-based city builder now in Early Access
Timberborn is a city builder simulation game, but with beavers. When you think about it, the concept makes total sense. I mean, who else in the animal kingdom makes elaborate dams and other structures? Ok, birds, sure. Ants? Check. Bees, they make pretty elaborate hives. Naked mole rats make underground warrens with specific-use chambers, but who wants to play a game about naked mole rats? I think you’re missing the point.
Timberborn is a post-apocalyptic city builder game in which beavers naturally posses the technologies to make the world inhabitable again. Being experts with water-based construction, they can make the kinds of structures and systems that irrigate fields and power machinery, but of course first they need to use their always-growing teeth to harvest wood, the primary construction material for everything from multi-story lodges to elaborate dams, waterwheels and pumps. Occasionally they need to scavenge metal from the ruins of civilization, which you’ll discover as you expand your city and found outlying colonies. Currently, the game contains seven pre-made maps but players can download community made maps and also use the included map editor, always a great addition to any kind of sim or RTS game.
Still in early access, Timberborn doesn’t include all of its planned features, but there has been a steady stream of updates, additions and bug fixes, so that there is already plenty of content to explore and enjoy. You play as one of two beaver factions, the bucolic Folktails and later, you can unlock the more industry-focused Iron Teeth. Each faction has specific building variations, strengths and weaknesses when it comes to construction. You start with a small colony of rodents, then slowly gather resources, harness the power of nearby water, scavenge, grow and harvest food, create pathways and generally follow the city builder template of growing your city by adding more elaborate, specialized buildings. As the cities grow, they expand into new districts and part of the challenge is deciding if the districts will be focused on one aspect of production, or be more generally self-sustaining. Though it takes a lot of practice and planning, it’s possible to create some impressive, sprawling rodent metropolises…er, metropoli?
There is a day and night cycle in Timberborn that impacts production — as beavers need to rest at night — as well as population growth as the beavers use the nighttime hours to…ensure the survival of the species. Seasons and periodic times of drought impact the colony, and proactive planning for low food and water supplies is important.
The needs of beavers are many.
Like humans, beavers have needs beyond the basics, so you eventually build structures for entertainment, education and general happiness enhancement. Generations of beavers are born and enter the workforce and you can monitor their lives and levels of contentment, and provide for their comfort and even spiritual satisfaction. Everything is delightfully beaver-themed and made of wood. Like with most city builders — rodent-based or not — there is a puzzle aspect to Timberborn as you figure out the optimum way to balance growth and sustainability, efficient pathways and connections, and how to help your beavers lead their best beaver lives and be productive workers. A lot of the engineering challenges naturally focus on water, dams and hydroelectric power, but also how to stack structures to make the best use of limited space and power.
Built on a modular system and with a blocky art style for its landscapes, Timberborn looks generally very nice, with its Tudor-ish buildings and timber-themed machines feeling totally appropriate for the setting. Sometimes path-making feels a little primitive and awkward, but in general construction is fun and there are a lot of options for making buildings look unique. Although environmental audio is fairly minimal and there is no voice acting, the soundtrack by Polish composer Zofia Domaradzka is fantastic. Ms.Domaradzka’s score is like melancholic, melodic chamber music and perfectly suits the nature-based themes of the game.
More factions, building types, an actual campaign or more focused challenges will bring more depth and variety to Timberborn but what’s already in place is working well. Like any good city builder, playing Timberborn is a relaxing way to spend many hours, tinkering with the colony and its resident beavers, expanding the community and generally enjoying the incessant rodent productivity. There are a lot of city builders with boring old humans, and not nearly enough with beavers. Timberborn is a good first step in balancing the scales.
.***PC code provided by the developer for preview***
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