Review of Timberborn

Timberborn Review

Dam Good Fun

Step aside, humans, the beavers are taking over! Welcome to the world of Timberborn, a unique city-building survival game that truly stands out in a sea of similar titles. This charming yet challenging game offers a fresh take on the genre, pitting you against the elements as you build a thriving society of industrious beavers in a post-apocalyptic world stripped bare by humans. From its distinctive beaver-centric concept to its engaging gameplay, Timberborn is a game that grabs your attention from the get-go.

Concept

Old and New Buildings in Timberborn

Timberborn is a delightful mashup of city builder and survival genres with a lighthearted twist: a beaver-themed society. This quirky idea is executed impeccably and gives the game its unique charm. While it does offer the standard mechanics of city builders, it brings innovative elements inspired by the beaver theme to the table, making Timberborn feel like a breath of fresh air in the gaming landscape.

Setting

PostApocalyptic Setting in Timberborn
Remnants of human civilization still remain.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world where humans have depleted the planet’s resources, Timberborn assigns you to guide a society of intelligent beavers in building a TimberPunk city. Using primarily water and timber, you construct a stunning city adorned with lumber and machinery.

The game’s fun graphics and playful lore make it easy to fall in love with the game from the get-go.

But don’t be fooled, this adorable veneer conceals a tough-as-nails city management game. Fail to care for your beavers properly, especially during a drought, and you’ll face tragic consequences. However, Timberborn strikes an excellent balance between challenge and enjoyment, making for a satisfying gaming experience.

Tutorial

Timberborn’s tutorial serves as an effective guidepost for players, doing an impressive job of laying out the game’s fundamental mechanics, while also encouraging a healthy sense of curiosity and exploration. It gracefully introduces the core gameplay elements—resource gathering, city-building, and environmental manipulation—without overwhelming the player with a deluge of information. Instead, it provides a solid groundwork to understand the basics, then steps back, allowing players to learn and experiment at their own pace.

Building a Water Wheel in Timberborn

The tutorial achieves a sweet spot in its balance between guidance and freedom, ensuring a learning curve that’s neither daunting nor overly simplistic. It subtly nudges players to interact with various game elements, from assigning tasks to your beaver workforce to designing and implementing complex water systems. This design choice encourages players to explore the mechanics of Timberborn more deeply, fostering a sense of discovery as they find their own strategies and solutions to the game’s challenges.

Individual Stats

In Timberborn, each beaver comes with unique stats that players must monitor closely. The survival aspects of the game involve managing their happiness, hunger, thirst, and more. While this could easily have felt overwhelming, Timberborn integrates this element in a way that enhances the game’s fun factor and engagement level.

Lumber and Water Management

In Timberborn, the intelligent management of lumber and water isn’t just an option—it’s the very lifeblood of your burgeoning beaver society. The gameplay places a heavy emphasis on interacting with the environment, where manipulating the landscape and controlling the water flow become vital for your survival in the harsh, post-apocalyptic world.

A Water Dam in Timberborn

In the beginning, you’ll find yourself working with a district center and a handful of industrious beavers to start gathering the three early-game resources: wood, food, and water. The beavers will happily chop down trees for wood at lumberjack stations, but it doesn’t stop there. You must strategically decide which trees to cut and which ones to spare for future use.

A key aspect of the game lies in making judicious decisions about forestation. It’s not enough to merely chop down trees; you also need to focus on replanting them, ensuring a sustainable source of lumber for the future. Not all trees are created equal, however, and you must plan your reforestation efforts accordingly, considering factors like growth rates and the specific needs of your beaver community.

Planting Pine Trees in Timberborn

Water management is another crucial gameplay element, turning Timberborn into a unique blend of city-builder and environmental puzzle. The game’s map features a dynamic water system, where you can build dams and use landscaping tools to alter the flow of rivers, creating reservoirs to stave off droughts and irrigate previously barren lands. Mastering this system is no small feat, demanding both time and patience. However, when you finally manage to transform an arid desert into a lush, fertile land teeming with life, the sense of accomplishment is incredibly rewarding.

District System

One of Timberborn’s standout features is its district system, which adds a layer of complexity and intrigue to city expansion. Establishing new districts can be a daunting task, but once you’ve tackled the challenge, your beaver city begins to flourish, and new resources become available. This system feels fresh and innovative compared to other city builders, adding another layer of a fun challenge to the game.

Fun Vertical Building

While building your beaver city in the wastelands of the old world you are often limited with the space you have to work with. In order to maximize the available space you must build upwards to create a vast and thriving city. The vertical building aspect of the game adds to the creative aspect of the game and lets you make some very cool-looking cities.

A developed district in Timberborn

As you gain access to more building items, you get the freedom to keep expanding your housing, storage, science buildings, and more up into the sky. Most buildings and walkways allow you to build on top, creating endless building possibilities. Additional items like suspension bridges can really bring your city to life.

Graphics

Timberborn’s graphics strike a delightful balance between cartoonish charm and a hint of realism, creating a visually appealing world that is both whimsical and believable. While they may not be pushing the envelope of current graphical standards, they are very much a strength of the game, perfectly encapsulating its distinctive theme and mood.

Beavers harvesting plants in Timberborn

The game employs a stylized art direction that matches its unique premise. The beavers are imbued with character, from their determined expressions while working to their joyful frolicking during their leisure time. The buildings, too, are designed with a touch of fantasy, yet grounded in a sense of practicality that one would associate with industrious beavers. This combination of whimsy and realism extends to the environment as well, with lush forests, flowing rivers, and arid drought landscapes rendered in a way that is both visually pleasing and contextually fitting.

Audio

Timberborn’s audio design is an integral part of the overall experience, adding significant depth and immersion to the game. The soundtrack is atmospheric, lending a unique charm that is in perfect harmony with the game’s theme. Each melody serves to enhance the feeling of building and maintaining a society of industrious beavers. The music ebbs and flows with the rhythm of the game, providing a soothing backdrop to the flurry of activity in your growing settlement.

The soft hum of machinery, the splash of water, and the rustle of trees all contribute to Timberborn’s immersive world.

Even the changing environmental conditions, such as the onset of droughts, are signaled by subtle shifts in the ambient noise, alerting players to the upcoming challenges. The sound design, thus, not only contributes to the overall ambiance but also plays a functional role in gameplay.

Playability

Menu System in Timberborn

The user interface of Timberborn is highly intuitive, making it easy for players to navigate the game’s complex mechanics. Everything you need to manage your city is neatly organized into tabs at the bottom of the screen. Detailed overviews of resources and individual beaver stats are readily accessible, making it simple to track and manage your society’s needs. The game strikes a perfect balance between complexity and accessibility, making it both challenging and enjoyable to play.

Entertainment

Beaver running in a wheel in Timberborn

Perhaps the most important aspect of the game is it’s a blast to play. The world is fun and you get a true sense of accomplishment when creating a successful and thriving city. Even just zooming into your city and watching the beavers live and work is entertaining in itself. Building and designing your city is fun and engaging. Even managing your resources and finding the most optimal way to do so is quite fun.


Verdict

Timberborn is a unique city builder that manages to be both familiar and innovative. It captures the charm and fun of a beaver-themed society while providing a challenging city-building experience. Its engaging gameplay mechanics, delightful graphics, and immersive audio design make it a standout title in the city-building genre. The game’s complex water and resource management systems and the innovative district system offer depth and complexity to keep players engaged and satisfied. For a modest $25 on Steam, Timberborn offers an engaging, unique, and satisfying city-building adventure that’s worth every penny.

For more on Timberborn, check out our guide on the basic mechanics.

Avatar of Tyler Vareski
Tyler has over 11 years of experience playing strategy games. He has a particular fondness for Europa Universalis IV, of which he has logged over 900 hours. Despite the challenges that come with playing a complex game like EU4, Tyler finds it incredibly rewarding and loves sharing his knowledge and strategies with fellow gamers. On top of this, Tyler is a massive Star Wars junkie. He also likes 2K too much and doesn't eat enough vegetables.