A Township Tale on the Oculus Quest 2Source: Nick Sutrich/ Android Central; Alta

Some gamers gravitate to early-access games because of sheer potential. The initial product is rough, but each patch generates hours of new content or redefines the gameplay itself, making it an event to experience with friends or discuss on the Discord. But it's not a complete package, nor does it provide the structured, polished experience other gamers want.

Launching today on the Oculus Quest 2 in version 0.0.1, A Township Tale is all about that raw potential. It was available on PC VR headsets since 2018, but fantasy RPG multiplayer games are almost nonexistent outside of App Lab games on the Oculus Quest 2. Its money-to-time ratio is much better than even the best Oculus Quest 2 games, costing just $10 for likely dozens of hours of questing with friends.

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The flipside of A Township Tale's potential is that, in its current form, the game feels unpolished. While graphically pretty for an open-world game on a mobile platform, you'll immediately run into a steep learning curve, questionable UI choices, bugs, and microtransactions that can hold back your experience. You'll need to invest plenty of hours alongside a dedicated posse of VR regulars with equal amounts of free time to get the most out of A Township Tale.

My colleague Nick Sutrich and I both spent hours exploring A Township Tale together — which we thought would be fitting for this MMO-ish game. After I complete my portion of the review, he'll hop in with his own impressions of the game below.

A Township Tale Logo

A Township Tale

Bottom line: This open-world, sandbox, social VR game fills a gap on the Quest 2 for multiplayer that doesn't involve shooting, sports, or just sitting around. A Township Tale is all about crafting and exploration, but buggy mechanics, a barren world, and an endless tutorial detract from the experience.

The Good

  • World and characters look great for a mobile port
  • Plenty of content to occupy dozens of hours
  • Super-detailed crafting system
  • Gameplay that's built for multiplayer interaction

The Bad

  • Tutorial is both boring and obtuse
  • Main world can feel empty
  • Performance issues on Quest
  • A general lack of accessibility options

A truly "open" world

A Township Tale: What we liked

A Township Tale Screenshot FriendsSource: Michael Hicks/ Android Central

In its best moments, A Township Tale made me flashback to my first hours playing Minecraft. I built an axe to chop down firewood so I could cook some spriggull (or dodo) meat before I ran out of stamina. I only realized I needed to cook the spriggull drumsticks I picked up because eating one earlier poisoned me, which made sense in hindsight but the game never explained it to me. I gathered some dead grass, formed a pyre, and struck a flint against a rock to spark it to life. Just in time, too, because the sun was going down and my arms were tired from my lumberjack routine.

In its best moments, A Township Tale reminds me of a sweaty Minecraft LARP.

Like any good survival sim, the game encourages you to explore your world and see what it has to offer without forcing you in a particular direction. You can forge weapons via the smelter, go as deep as you can into the mines to find increasingly rare ore, craft goods, or just wander the world while chatting with friends.

The major difference with A Township Tale is that you have to do all the work because it's in VR. Chopping down a tree can get you sweating, especially if you don't have good technique. You have to swing so your axe goes into the cut or else it will bounce off, and once the tree falls, you can't just collect the materials. You'll then have to break the tree into portions, then break those into pieces you can use for crafting. Some will find that tedious, but others will find the hard work more rewarding than just holding down a trigger on a controller. I (mostly) fell in the latter camp.

A Township Tale Screenshot MonsterSource: Michael Hicks/ Android Central

At one point, I wandered into an area called the Dust Bowl full of ore goodies to mine. As I mindlessly hacked away, I suddenly got struck by a spray of acid to the face. I eventually spotted the creepy monster, called a wyrm, in the photo above and engaged in a stressful battle with low health and a weak weapon while it shot and swiped at me. The wyrm's ambush made the world feel more alive and dangerous than before.

A Township Tale will be different from what you like, by design. First, you can focus on the activities and professions that appeal to you or your friend group. Second, you can join or create a server world that's specific to your friend group, so you can work together on tasks without worrying about strangers ruining your fun.

Sometimes baffling, sometimes boring

A Township Tale: What we didn't like

A Township Tale ScreenshotSource: Alta

If I didn't have this review compelling me to press on, A Township Tale's tutorial world might have driven me away from the game entirely. You start off with a series of dull tasks meant to teach you the controls, but there aren't any in-game instructions. Until you complete every task, you can't choose another server and explore the rest of the game. We ran into a VR YouTuber who had played the game before and did his best to walk us through the controls, but not everyone else will be as lucky.

Making or bringing friends is essential. Without them, some tasks will take forever, and your server will feel unbearably quiet.

Once you make it onto a proper world server, things get somewhat better because the world doesn't shackle you to boring tasks, and you can focus on tasks that sound enjoyable. On the other hand, the main world is surprisingly sparse. Aside from the occasional angry spriggull or breakable rock, there really isn't much in-between the different buildings and locations. Compared to something like Minecraft, you'll feel in less danger with fewer enemies about. Also, less of your environment is useful or destructible. As far as we found, you can't craft anything large and permanent, like a house.

That's what makes playing with friends so essential for A Township Tale: filling the emptiness with fun conversation. I also found that certain tasks were very repetitive, like collecting 250 sandstone rocks to build a bridge. While that would take an hour or more of tedious arm-swinging alone, it was much more manageable as a group. Because world servers are invite-only, you'll either need to have VR friends or make friends on another server because spending your time alone in a world completing fetch quests wouldn't be very exciting.

A Township Tale ScreenshotSource: Alta

Your appearance is randomized every time you turn on the game or change servers. When you first create your character, it'll likely have several paid items attached to it that you'll have to find and physically remove before you play the game. Even if you create a custom appearance, you have to drag-and-drop it onto the mannequin every time you play, or else you'll find yourself with a random face and tons of fancy clothing and jewelry that will cost you money. I don't mind microtransactions in theory, but not when the game pushes them so blatantly. Let people decide if their character needs a makeover.

A Township Tale has plenty of room left to grow to feel complete and polished.

I won't hold it against A Township Tale that its servers were buggy during early access. When you jump back into a server, you keep all the items in your pack or hands and often respawn where you were last standing. But for anyone with iffy Wi-Fi, a single disconnection can kick you out of the game and force you to restart, fix your character, and so on. It wasn't a common issue for me, but some folks will resent the always-online model.

As a game with plenty of growing to do, sold for a bargain price, and offering much more replay value than most VR games, I don't want to be too hard on A Township Tale. There's no doubt some gamers will lose themselves in the worlds, treating servers as fantasy hangout spots like you would in VRChat or Rec Room. But I definitely want to know how the developers plan to grow the world moving forward.

Tagline

A Township Tale: A second opinion

A Township Tale on the Oculus Quest 2Source: Nick Sutrich/ Android Central; Alta

To put it plainly, A Township Tale is an incredibly ambitious game filled with charm that falls short of expectations because of its meager instruction and hefty amount of quirks. As a multiplayer RPG — not an MMORPG — the game can be played solo but is infinitely more enjoyable when played with friends. Worlds that you create are persistent and always available, not unlike a world in Minecraft Realms — sans the subscription cost.

Tasks and adventures are far better experienced with friends or random players, as the game's goal is mainly to build up your town by adventuring and collecting loot and resources. A Township Tale sports an impressively intricate crafting system that reminds me a bit of how tedious, yet rewarding, EverQuest 2's crafting system was when it first launched nearly two decades ago.

There's almost no instruction for anything in the game, turning normal tasks into frustrating trial-and-error.

Some crafting stations are designed for solo building, such as backpacks and small tool parts like handles, while other stations, like the blacksmith, are intended for several players to operate at once. The complexity of these larger stations isn't a problem — that's actually a positive since this is a multiplayer game; it turns a chore into a fun event — rather, there's almost no instruction for anything in the game. Even when instruction is provided, it's so meager that normal tasks become frustrating ones.

In fact, I can foresee several players straight-up quitting before they get to any of the real meat of the game. I know I would have if I weren't reviewing the game and trying to learn as much as I could. Similarly, two of my friends preordered the title and played with me during the early preorder release on July 13, and both of them needed a lot of help because they couldn't figure out how to finish the tutorial. Let that one sink in for a minute.

A Township Tale ScreenshotSource: Alta

While I could nitpick individual issues I found throughout my time in the game, I think two major things would massively improve the experience. First, as said above, instruction is super important, but a helpful community reduces that issue's importance beyond fixing the initial tutorial (that absolutely needs fixing). Second, despite being out on PC for a while now, A Township Tale's number of accessibility options is still a bit on the anemic side.

One example revolves around player height since there's no way to virtually crouch or adjust your height. This is a huge detriment to smaller players or players who cannot — or don't want to — stand throughout their experience. In addition, picking up items requires a full kneel or bow to the ground, something that gets tiring after a while. I'd also like to see more granular options for audio, including the ability to mute or block players who are toxic.

A Township Tale ScreenshotSource: Alta

Once you finally get past all these issues, A Township Tale morphs into a rather impressively deep game, especially when you consider it's only $10. Given the incredibly short length of most VR titles, $10 for a game that you can literally sink dozens of hours into is simply astounding. It's a value that's unheard of in the world of VR and, for that, A Township Tale's developer, Alta, should be applauded.

While Alta certainly needs time to polish the game and add important quality of life features, it's well on its way to building a unique experience that feels authentically VR. Chiseling tools out of a wood block just doesn't make sense without being able to physically tap them away with tools in your hands, and plenty of other mechanics play to VR's strength in a way that's worth trying out. For $10, I heartily recommend the game; just don't be surprised when your first few hours are undeniably frustrating.

A Township Tale: Should you play it?

A Township Tale ScreenshotSource: Alta

Whether or not you like A Township Tale will hinge on a few key question. Are you ready to invest enough time in the game to understand the controls? Do you have friends who you think you can convince to play regularly with you? And would you call yourself a patient person?

This game doesn't just have replay value; it basically requires long play sessions. I want to dive back into the world so I can smelt some proper weaponry and quest down into the mines, then keep exploring the overworld to fill out the map. Even after a few days of playing, I feel as though I've just scratched the surface in-game. But that's partly because the game just doesn't explain how to do things well enough. I don't have as much time for trial-and-error as I used to, and taking off the headset to look up solutions on the wiki would break the immersion.

3.5 out of 5

If you're a regular VR gamer looking for something to take up your evenings that won't break the bank, A Township Tale is honestly easy to recommend. But in our minds, the developers have work to do in order to make this game live up to its open-world premise. And to be a true "tale," you'll want to create a story with other people. Otherwise, a more structured multiplayer fantasy game like Demeo might be more your cup of tea.

A Township Tale Logo

A Township Tale

Bottom line: Want to live out your fantasy as a blacksmith, warrior, merchant, or carpenter? A Township Tale gives you surprisingly in-depth gameplay and goals for each area, making it pretty immersive. It has hack-and-slash fighting, deep mines with increasingly dangerous levels, intricate crafting, and individual servers for you to enjoy with friends.

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