Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
The Wandering Village by developer Stray Fawn Studio and publisher WhisperGames is a beautiful new entry into the colony sim genre. Taking control of a small group of nomads who are fleeing the slow corruption of their land by toxic spores, you climb aboard a giant creature known as Onbu to make your home as it slowly plods across the land. As you build your home, you must be mindful of the limited resources within reach as you travel. You will need to balance not just the familiar needs of your village, but those of Onbu as well. You will need to watch for poisoned air affecting your people, toxic plants taking root near your village, and even ailments affecting the Onbu on which you live.
Like most colony sims, The Wandering Village has the player balancing the resources available to the settlement. Food production, housing, happiness and various construction materials are familiar territory for players. As has become more frequently seen in titles lately, there is also a focus in the game on scarcity and interaction with your environment. In this case, the Onbu that carries your village around is the personification of that (more on that later). The resources available to the player on Onbu’s back are inherently limited to what can be found within that limited area. Only so many trees and rocks are on Onbu’s back, and the creature’s size creates a limit to how far your village can sprawl.
As the player is traveling on the back of Onbu, there are opportunities to investigate and scavenge the environments as you pass through. Certain buildings will allow the player to send out teams to investigate points of interest nearby: forests, quarries, mines, ruined settlements, and the list continues. Depending on how far away from Onbu the teams have to travel, their total job time will vary. Investigating something just ahead of Onbu’s line of travel is quick, while investigating things far off to the sides or already behind Onbu take considerably more time. Your investigation options are also limited to a specific area around Onbu that you can see – once you’ve moved past a location, it is hidden and inaccessible to you.
The other part of The Wandering Village is your relationship with the creature Onbu itself. Onbu needs to eat and sleep, has its own health and sickness (poison) pools, and needs to decide where and when to wander. The player has access to various buildings that can interact with Onbu directly, from trebuchets to feed Onbu to doctors and dung collectors (hey, its massive amounts of free fertilizer!). The darker side of this is that the player can also choose to do things that hurt Onbu – extracting blood and minerals to fuel the village, feeding it medicated foods to alter its metabolism and so forth. Onbu will react to this by altering its trust in the player, making it less likely to heed the player’s suggestions on when and where to move. Lose enough trust, and you might find Onbu wandering into a desert full of storms that will wreck your buildings!
The Wandering Village includes a few nice touches that help it stand out. For example, players will find on the main settings menu that Twitch integration is built in. In The Wandering Village, this allows the game to pick up the names of people in stream chat and use those as the names of the villagers. Don’t like the jokes that PookyPie423 is making in chat? Maybe a stint manning the dung collector is in order!
The way that The Wandering Village uses variations in biomes is a great touch as well – moving from forest to plains to desert to frozen tundra forces the player to adapt. Different crops, different methods of obtaining water, and even different job priorities can be appropriate depending on the local climate. This variety really gives The Wandering Village a nice leg up on other colony sims that try to use weather and seasons to influence play, by breaking the predictable cycle of seasons that players are used to.
Moving to Full Release
The Wandering Village just launched into Early Access on September 14, 2022 and developer Stray Fawn Studio has been very open with their plans on how to move through Early Access. The developer speaks to this directly on the Steam store page, and gives about as much certainty as could be reasonably expected at this stage:
How is the full version planned to differ from the Early Access version?
The full version will have a bigger set of features and more content. We plan to add new building types, new biomes, new events/missions and expand the background story of the game. It will also be more polished, having gone through lots of testing and QA. We are also planning to add controller support to the game alongside other Steam features such as trading cards and achievements. And finally, we’re sure players will have lots of interesting ideas during Early Access which we will consider implementing as well.”
The Wandering Village is a solid, well-balanced colony sim with a broad enough feature set at the point it has entered Early Access to keep many players happy for quite a chunk of play time.
Consistent, high-quality graphics and animations make both the village and the giant creature Onbu come alive, and a relaxing sound score manages to not become repetitive or intrusive even after hours of play. Variations in biomes as you travel and build keep play fresh and challenging, avoiding the stagnation of a single “ideal” build style that other games sometimes create. This is a great entry for colony sim and management sim players, and definitely worth wish-listing if you can’t buy it right away.Score: N/A