Visiting the mobile app stores in search of a casual RPG can be a bit of a Groundhog Day experience. Whichever way you turn you’re destined to go through the same basic motions of earning loot and levelling up until it’s time to move onto the next game.
QubeTown will not deliver you from Punxsutawney exactly, but it does a good job of differentiating itself from the mass of free-to-play farming RPGs with a charming, child-friendly story and look.
You play as a cuboid character called, well, whatever you choose to call yourself. Upon arriving in QubeTown you discover to your shock and dismay that the population expects you to be their lord.
This provides a good setup for the story cut-scenes, as a variety of friendly QubeTown residents explain and introduce you to new elements of the game while you frantically plot to leave.
The voice-acting is solid too, with some fine comic mumbling in particular, though the game has a tendency to stretch a joke.
The gameplay centres around your farm. As you level-up you gain access to new building types, clear more territory to occupy, and unlock new features, but your farm is the engine of your whole operation from the beginning to the end.
Initially the range of crops you can grow is very limited, and so is the range of buildings you can construct. Wheat goes into your bakery for bread, and into cows for milk. Eventually you’ll be able to construct a dairy and produce butter, then cheese. Corn, meanwhile, goes into pigs, to make bacon.
The process of growing crops is intuitive and satisfying. To plant a seed you hold a finger down on a square of farmland and drag the crop you want to grow onto it from a pop up menu. To harvest the crop once it’s grown, you tap on the square once to bring up a sickle, which you can drag over all of your field squares to harvest whatever’s ready.
The majority of the stuff you produce gets carried away by a dragon to be traded, earning you coins and increasing your XP. Pretty soon you’ll also unlock a second trading partner in the form of a rather demanding elephant, and access to a shop where you can trade directly with other players.
From this seed a huge forest of content grows. Soon you’ll be growing and milling cotton, summoning new units by rescuing them from goblins, sending citizens into a secret mine to retrieve materials and loot, and much, much more.
Early on in the game the tutorial directs you to visit another player’s farm, and it’s quite an eye-opening experience to contrast the cramped little hamlet you’ve been working on with the sprawling metropolis that somebody else has created.
But here’s the thing. We’ve been playing for hours now and we haven’t come close to that point. We can’t even imagine how long it would take. QubeTown is a big game, and – despite its cuddly appearance and child-friendly interface – it’s not the kind of game you can sleepwalk through.
Like any good farmer, you need to manage your resources – neglect to plant enough wheat and you’ll soon find that everything grinds to a halt, since you’ll have nothing to make bread with, nothing to feed to your animals, and nothing to trade.
You can replenish your stock of a crop by planting, since each planted unit of a crop yields two. But there’s only so much growing land available at each level, and many demands on it, including cotton, sugar cane, and so on. Different crops take different amounts of time to grow, too, so it’s easy to find yourself in a bit of a hole.
This QubeTown a pretty broad appeal. It’s amusing, easy to control, and easy on the eye, but there’s a huge amount of depth to the gameplay and a surprisingly demanding difficulty curve in terms of resource management.
The cut-scene dialogue sometimes falls short, and you could argue that the cuboid visual theme is just a way of selling the game’s graphical simplicity, but overall QubeTown is one of the better casual RPG experiences on mobile.