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Developer Stray Fawn Studio has been creating games since at least 2016 with cute art styles and imaginative concepts like the genetic survival game Niche. This Swiss studio consists of just a handful of developers who work to create games that are not only fun to play, but also have messages that players can leave the game with.
These messages are present throughout their new game The Wandering Village, where the player often has to decide how they will survive on the back of the giant creature named Onbu. The Onbu’s name appears to come from the Japanese word for piggyback, referring to the civilization that survives and thrives on the creature’s back.
Throughout The Wandering Village, players are faced with various choices in how they will benefit from or care for the creature that gives them a home. The Onbu is not hard to please as long as you don’t rip out its spikes and remember to feed it occasionally. Players can of course ignore Onbu, but that will quickly end your session due to the poison and lack of resources.
Instead, you can bond with the Onbu and work together for mutual benefit. The Onbu will give you the materials you need to clean its back and power your equipment, while you give it guidance and food to ensure it stays healthy. On the other hand, you can always just mine resources from the Onbu, but that will quickly drain the animal’s health and kill it.
There are several ways to view the world and your home, whether from the village view, the Onbu view, or the world view. Each of these provides perspective on how the characters fit into the larger world. Onbu is just a regular sized creature on this planet and it’s cool to see your little village built on its back from afar. The worldview gives even more perspective on how small the village is.
The wandering village acts as a fine balancing act where you have to worry about whether your decisions will further damage your home. If the Onbu dies while you’re on it, your home will once again be destroyed by the poisonous spores that infect parts of the planet. These poisonous mushrooms are the ultimate antagonist of The Wandering Village, and almost always spell death.
Literally every playthrough so far, I’ve succumbed to the poisonous fungal plague invading the Onbu’s back. When a poisonous cloud hovers over the large creature’s back, it will infect the Onbu with poison and at the same time create poisonous plants around its back. These plants spread very quickly and can get out of hand if you don’t have someone constantly working to get rid of it.
A lot of the time it felt like there was no way out of that kind of hole. When you manage to wade through a toxic cloud and the invasive plants start sprouting around your island, you can pretty much kiss your settlement goodbye in a matter of days. Since it’s a core part of the gameplay, it’s unfortunate that this prevents the player from accessing all of the late game.
While not impossible, this one negative force in the game feels overwhelming in a way that dominates the player, even on the lowest difficulty. Hopefully Stray Fawn Studio will offer more ways to address the mushroom threat in the future as the game progresses through Early Access Steam. It’s one of the only downsides when playing for extended periods of time.
Managing population growth is also a big part of this game as there was more than one session where you will lose a large group of people because you had too little food. Managing your population with the resources you have is imperative if you want to go without losing groups of people. It also means scaling up production to ensure you have enough crops and kitchens for your population.
Be aware that playing for an hour or two on the same file will cause your buildings to crumble as they decay over time. It will happen when you least expect it, potentially taking an entire area of resource gathering or home. While they can be repaired, having to disable certain buildings while everyone works to get things rebuilt will come at a cost.
Players less inclined to care about the giant fictional creature can take advantage of it, robbing it of its natural resources like blood and bile. The blood can be used as a food source, while the bile can be used as fuel to get rid of the poisonous mushrooms that pop up. However, you will hurt the Onbu and cause it to lose trust in you over time.
When the Onbu doesn’t trust you, you lose control over how your home behaves. However, if you gain its trust, you can command it to do a number of things, such as choosing which path to take or having Onbu drive through a dangerous poison cloud to limit exposure. You can tell the Onbu to rest if you want to send Scavengers out to look around the surrounding area.
However you decide to proceed, you do so with difficult choices ahead of you. If you want to build a truly thriving village, then you may need to balance taking some of Onbu’s resources and giving him extra love to show your appreciation. However, everything must be in moderation, otherwise you will not be able to make the gentle giant your friend again.
Finally, The wandering village is a great management game that has an important message, it doesn’t try to shove it down your throat. The mechanics will tell your story, whether parasitic or mutual. Stray Fawn Studio has done a wonderful job of creating a game that teaches the player the importance of being kind to nature before nature leaves us.
Try Hard Guides were provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!