Expectations can be difficult to express when it comes to Virtual Reality (VR) games. I often find myself surprised with the innovative ways games will tackle the limitations of the technology. A Township Tale, by Alta, is a perfect example of what Virtual Reality can accomplish. Unfortunately, I found the game to be quite rough around the edges.
In A Township Tale, you take up the role of a villager in an abandoned town. It is up to everyone on the server to get the town running again. Wood is to be chopped and ore mined to craft tools and weapons. Of course, someone must do the blacksmithing and crafting, so those roles have to be filled as well. All that work will make you hungry, requiring someone to gather and cook food for everyone. While the servers are small and only harbour a handful of villagers at a time, the game is active and has a thriving community.
“The locomotion and smooth turning features move the character too abruptly for my liking.”
On the Oculus Store, A Township Tale has a comfort rating of moderate, which I find appropriate. The game expects you to be decently familiar with VR, so there is no handholding. The locomotion and smooth turning features move the character too abruptly for my liking. Consequently, I found it difficult to stay in the game for an extended period of time. Teleportation and snap turning are options, so I suggest checking them out along with the classic colour setting if you experience nausea. Personally, these settings helped me, but only mildly. Also, keep in mind that the settings menu is only accessible before entering a server.
A Township Tale starts you off on a tutorial island with a few different goals to accomplish. While these goals are visible on large boards in the different sections of the island, they provide minimal direction. In the first section, you craft a backpack out of sticks and dried grass. The materials are easy to find, but it is unclear how much you will need. The crafting tables display a silhouette of the final product, highlighting sections as each proper piece is added. At certain points, nails are necessary to hold the crafted object together. Fortunately, making a basic hammer is simple, except the process of hammering is anything but easy.
“The idea of playing an archer was intriguing, but basic melee combat was a bit uninspiring.”
A Township Tale expects a high level of precision yet refuses to explain this is the case. Hammering nails becomes easier once you understand the expectations, but it’s far from interesting. Later on, you can craft pieces of wood into objects with a chisel and hammer. However, I found this to be extremely tedious and exhausting, and I was bored long before creating anything.
After finishing the backpack, I immediately wondered how much more effort it would have taken to make one in real life. Additionally, collecting materials feels like grinding. While the distance you must be to pick something up feels realistic, the character’s belt often gets in the way when trying to pull something from the ground to your hand. Of course, you can always bend down to pick up a stick or rock, but for me, this grew old fast.
I did not get far enough to test out the more challenging aspects of combat, but I don’t know if I remain interested in doing so. The idea of playing as an archer was intriguing, but melee combat was a bit uninspiring. Equipped with a stone hammer, my first fight against the basic bird enemy had me zooming in circles to avoid its lunges while, simultaneously, trying to get close enough to hit the creature. My second fight was with locomotion turned off, but the bird chose to just run from me so I was left teleporting back and forth. In both cases, it was hard to track the creature’s position. I was too often unsure if my strikes landed or not.
“While A Township Tale succeeds at being a realistic multiplayer RPG experience, it may push for realism to its detriment.”
My biggest gripe with A Township Tale is how barren the world is. Going from the cramped tutorial island to such a vast world is less exciting when you move at a snail’s pace. The teleportation range feels extremely short for the distance travelled between your starting point and the village. Even the village feels empty when moving between buildings. I do think locomotion helps here but not much. I also found the tools to be clunky and oversized. Using the chisel and hammer to carve wood felt unnatural as I was basically just as tall as the wood-turning table. I felt I had been shrunk to fit the world rather than transported to a new one.
While A Township Tale succeeds at being a realistic multiplayer RPG experience, it may push for realism to its detriment. Most of the information I learned about playing the game was through the wiki page and seven-minute-long intro video. While I’m no stranger to games that require a bit of research to master, A Township Tale lacks the quality of life features that would make it easy to pick up and enjoy.
That being said, A Township Tale definitely accomplishes what it set out to do. I love the concept and was willing to push through the discomfort, but the payoff was not worth the strain. Hopefully, after a few updates, I can give the village life another go. If you are eager to fully invest in a new world as a dedicated villager this is right up your alley. If you are looking for something simple and less committal you may want to look elsewhere. A Township Tale is available now on Oculus Quest.