Islanders, the focus of this review, is described by Grizzly Games as a minimalist strategy game about building cities on colourful islands.
I’ll go going through a bit of example gameplay, explaining how Islanders works, sharing my thoughts and naturally, leaving a final comment on whether or not I’d recommend the overall experience to you, my review readers.
Limitless Islands, limited buildings
Minimalist is certainly an apt description for the game. Islanders will start by generating you a random, mostly empty Island.
The gameplay consists of the player building up their score by placing buildings on these randomly generated Islands to unlock, you guessed it, a new randomly generated island to build on. Pressing the plus sign at the bottom centre of the UI will allow you to select from a limited set of building packs to use to begin your Island decoration journey.
While this may sound like a simple, easy time, there’s quite a bit more complexity than you’d likely expect because of how these mechanics interact. You see, your score needs to reach certain thresholds to unlock the next set of buildings each time, and you need a certain score to unlock the next island – but some buildings have location constraints. Lumberjacks like to be near trees, for example. But they also don’t like being near other lumberjacks, who will use the same trees. Both of them will want to be close to a sawmill, which gains extra points for nearby lumberjacks but doesn’t care about nearby trees.
Almost all buildings enjoy a bonus for being near a Statue, but you only get at most a few of those per island, and they’re typically pre-placed for you when you arrive, making them a high demand resource – do you build around it now for an early boost or save it to cash in later when buildings that gain more from the Statue can be used? These simple interactions combine and stack atop each other to create an increasingly complex web of ideal locations for each new building as you progress. The better you manage to juggle all the components of that web, the better heights your score will reach, and the more Islands you’ll unlock to build on, allowing you even more space to expand that score higher still.
Choice and Consequence
At a certain stage, your previous building choices will begin to heavily influence where other things can go, rather than the layout of the island being the primary deciding factor. In this example, I locked myself into trying to build housing around the large triangular city centre building and fountain, but doing so meant I couldn’t place enough mansion and house buildings in the range of the city centre while keeping them adjacent to each other – I ran out of building options, and without undoing, I am now faced with game over for this Island.
With that said, my score is high enough that I can continue on.
This will entail venturing to the next Island Islanders will generate for me – there will be no way to return to this island again, but short of undoing and trying to redesign my buildings thus far there is nothing else for me to do here, and so this unique combination of building placements and random island generation is gone in favour of starting anew and pursuing an ever-higher score.
And so we begin again, on a new, larger island, with reddish-brown grass, sand, exposed rock and a gold vein. Some of these factors will influence how this Island is played and others are purely cosmetic – but those purely cosmetic things do still matter.
That should give you a sense of the game pretty well by this stage, so let’s switch to a more overall scale to cap this review off.
Islanders: Game or Art?
This gameplay loop is the core essence of Islanders, chasing a better score by moving to a new Island when you run out of buildings to improve it anymore on the current one. At the same time, it’s a bit like creating art. The Islands act as your canvas and buildings as your brushwork. There’s also a clear artistic theme to the continued creation and discarding of various Islands in pursuit of improvement.
Islanders has a consistent and visually pleasing visual design that supports this too, and it’s equally happy to support both score-chasers or those just looking to kick back to build something that looks both unique and attractive with its high score mode or sandbox mode options respectively, – and while the audio isn’t that much to write home about, you can expect both modes to be accompanied by a simple and enjoyable music track throughout that suits the atmosphere of the game flawlessly.
Islanders is a game you can play either in short bursts or hours at a time if the mood for a longer session strikes you. The entire product is a thoroughly enjoyable exercise in creation, the mechanics layered on top make the game a complete and compelling experience, while the core gameplay remains simple – and at £4.79, the hardest part is finding a reason to not own it already.
That’s about everything I have to say for my review of Islanders, you can find a link to buy the game yourself below if this has caught your interest, as well as a final score and a breakdown of it. You can also find more reviews just like this one for Islanders in our review category.
- Suitable as a casual game or a score builder challenge
- Relaxing, laid back gameplay
- Visually simple yet appealing
- Incredibly fair pricing, no Microtransactions or DLC
- Might not be flashy enough for some
- Could do with more variety of gamemodes and music