Outlanders – Cottage Core Town Builder With a Lot of Heart

I’m new to the Town Builders, and usually, the amount of micromanagement needed is an immediate turn-off for me. So when I decided to give Outlanders a try, I was a bit unsure of how I would find the experience, but thankfully it proved to be an enjoyable one that has warmed me to the genre in a way other games could not.

Anyone who has played a Town Builder game will be familiar with the basics of Outlanders. As with others in the genre, you are responsible for cultivating a community,  meeting their needs while expanding and growing it. With that comes responsibilities, such as keeping your people fed, happy and busy. You’ll need to harvest crops and materials, such as wood and wheat, to build new structures allowing you to produce better food while tending to the needs of your people. In that sense, Outlanders isn’t too different from its Town Builder peers, which may be off-putting for some. But, beyond those genre staples, there are some quirks that give Outlanders a distinct flavour.

Outlanders has a more hands-off approach to handling your people, as you have no direct control over them. Instead, you’ll place buildings and gather resources by assigning the adults of your community to different jobs such as forager or builder, and deciding how many will take on each role. From there on they figure the rest out for themselves and go about their business. It does give you a few tools that provide some level of control: You can give your people a nudge when needed, thanks to prioritising tasks, which lets you select specific buildings or tasks for them to focus on, such as gathering food or building a much-needed home for villagers. Decrees are another option and pass wide-reaching changes such as rationing food or encouraging your people to “get busy”, but these can also lead to unhappy followers if not used wisely. It’s just enough control to keep things engaging in the slower moments. 

It’s also a smaller-scale simulation than others in the Town Builder space. Instead of dealing with huge skyscrapers and massive populations, Outlanders takes a more quaint, cottage-core approach to the genre with a  vibrant and colourful look and laid-back vibe. It’s also void of combat, random weather changes, or sudden raids or attacks. It’s just you, your followers and the task of survival, and it’s all accompanied by well-made music and soundscapes complimenting the game world.


You have two ways to play Outlanders; both offer unique experiences. The sandbox mode provides creative freedom and showcases all its systems and offerings. There you can select and customise all aspects of a game world: the map size, your starting resources, the biome, and other variables, all to craft the experience how you see fit. This mode also throws you right into the deep end, giving you every building and tool at your disposal from the start, leaving you to play around and enjoy the game how you see fit — whether that’s building a thriving massive community or trying something a bit more outlandish (tehe).

The other option is campaign mode, another of Outlanders‘ distinct twists and the one that I enjoyed most. This mode has you take on a series of mission-based levels, each with its own primary and secondary objectives. Things like building specific structures or stockpiling enough food before a certain amount of days pass. They increase in complexity as you progress and introduce new buildings, characters, and styles of communities you’ll be playing as. For me, it’s a more structured, puzzle-like experience than other games in the genre, but it feels right at home here. It provided a healthy challenge and some helpful, steady progression that let me learn how to best use and manage different kinds of structures, something that proved to be a big benefit when playing Sandbox mode.

It is, by no means, devoid of challenge and is very hands-on when it comes to simulation mechanics. Even from the outset, you’ll need to be smart and resourceful to make progress, which is something I learned after a few failed startups. It requires a lot of micromanagement as you’ll constantly have to consider rearranging workers and building new structures to find new food sources or materials. The helpful tactical view option highlights workers and makes checking and managing your buildings much easier when it gets busy and crowded. There’s also the plethora of new structures that you’ll unlock along the way that you’ll need to learn and integrate into your community, as though adding more and more parts to a machine. 

This was quite a learning curve for me at first, and I had multiple failed civilisations as a result of depleting resources and overzealous expansion, or usually from a lack of food. It’s a balancing act that occasionally feels like it tips into being a bit unfair. Make no mistake, it could be rage-inducing. It wasn’t uncommon for me to find myself in a spiralling situation that I couldn’t salvage and had to restart, and after a couple of times, I would be rather annoyed. But once those initial mistakes are gone it’s easy to find yourself getting to grips with the game and noticeably improving. If you make a mistake, you learn from it, adapt, and try again, and it generally felt good to do so, and felt rewarding when the pieces clicked and all parts were working together.


Outlanders was a new experience for me, and having little experience with the genre made it a bit overwhelming and frustrating at times. But once I had wrapped my head around the concept and micro-management needed, I became invested in my followers’ well-being. It felt natural as I began understanding and adapting confidently to changing situations and demands. Where I couldn’t figure out how to balance building and feed my people or how to solve a puzzle, I ended up feeling confident enough to leave my followers on autopilot while I got a cuppa. They were still working diligently and had more than enough food to go around, and that’s when I realised that I had got it.

Outlanders is great for players who love the genre but fancy something a little different than usual. Both game modes provide plenty of fun and distinct experience, and the amount of depth and complexity to the game — once you get to grips with it — is enough to keep you busy for hours. Top that off with a great visual style full of colour and charm, excellent sound design, and plenty of room for expansion and potential new content, and you’ve got a real winner. 

Outlanders is out now for PC and Apple Arcade. Check out the developer’s Twitter or website for more information.

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