IF you’re a fan of city-building, resource-management and gigantic fauna-themed creatures, the team at Stray Fawn Studios have just released a game that will be right up your alley – The Wandering Village.
Set in a world where toxic plants are spreading at an uncontrollable rate, a group of humans seeking shelter have established themselves on the back of a giant, wandering creature, that they now have to build a symbiotic relationship with in hopes of survival in the now post-apocalyptic world that surrounds them.
At its core, The Wandering Village can best be described as a city-building and resource management game with survival elements (when it comes to the management of the actual villagers you control), which all revolve around the incredibly unique theme and setting atop of the back of a massive beast known as ‘Onbu’.
From the onset of the game you’ll be put in charge of a small tribe of humans that you’ll need to farm crops for to maintain a food source, set them out on foraging missions to collect valuable materials and scout out the living environment you inhabit to ensure the safety and survival of your village. This of course all happens atop the back of a living, breathing beast that you’ll also need take care for and build trust with (just in case there wasn’t already too many things to juggle with).
In Hindu mythology, Chinese mythology, the mythologies of indigenous peoples of the Americas, and of course in the fictional Discworld universe there’s the belief of ‘The World Turtle’, also known as the ‘Cosmic Turtle’ which is the belief of an indescribably large mythological tortoise containing/supporting the entire world/galaxy.
I’m not suggesting that this is the motivation behind Stray Fawn Studio’s newest game, but it’s a literal representation of what a society might look like if it sat upon the back of an enormous roaming beast, and for a game still in the Early Access program on Steam, is an abundance of fun that I really didn’t expect.
Thematically and artistically, I really don’t think you’ll find a much more unique approach to this genre of game. It’s absolutely exceptional, and the depth in which you actually engage with Onbu wasn’t what I was expecting at all, but was easily the most enjoyable aspect and challenge of the game for me.
As an example, small hills of stone are a collectable resource in the game, but cause damage to Onbu each time you harvest them, so juggling the delicate balance between resource collection and the relationship management was a curveball I really wasn’t expecting. The better relationship you cultivate and maintain with Onbu, the easier the survival and management aspects of the game, and on the opposite ends of the spectrum, the worse the relationship, Onbu is more likely to disregard any instructions, or shake when minerals are being collected, which can entirely destroy structures.
Another element of the game you need to look out for (and prepare for) is the ever-changing biomes Onbu wanders through. Should the player have enough trust built up with Onbu, they can issue commands to the beast to guide it toward or away from specific events on the map, but if the trust isn’t there, you’ll just have to deal with any potential catastrophe that the beast decides to heads towards, which can take the form of natural disasters like a tornado.
Dependent on the difficulty setting you decide on when first starting the game, it’s also possible for Onbu to die if too much damage is dealt to him, which makes the requirement for early bonding a necessity (unless of course you want the RNG gods to decide your fate).
On the city-building side of things, The Wandering Village takes a much more scaled down approach to how it presents it’s user interface when compared to some of it’s peers, which; for someone who only dabbles in the genre – I had no issues with.
Hardcore fans of the genre looking for an in-depth city-building experience may feel a little underwhelmed with the minimalistic options presented in The Wandering Village. There’s not a lot of control when it comes to customisation of the gameplay experience that has become a bit of a mainstay in city-build type games (specifically in terms of environmental settings being optional) , but as the games still in Early Access, there’s all the potential for this to be implemented down the line (so we’ll leave an asterisk next to this one).
Again, if it isn’t abundantly clear at this point – The Wandering Village is still very much-so an Early Access game. There’s bugs that pop up every now and then (noting game-breaking from my time with the game thus far), there’s some quality-of-life improvements that are needed (and I fully expect will be addressed) and there’s a few small clunky aspects of the game. I am more than willing to overlook all of this, because the building blocks for what is already available, and for what I’m sure will come down the line is overwhelming positive.
For anyone intrigued, I really think the game is best experienced with some direct hands-on time, which from my end; I’ve enjoyed every moment with. The Wandering Village is out now exclusively on Steam in the Early Access programme, and has also been confirmed for an Xbox release in the not-too-distant future.