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The Wandering Village review – Built on the backs of giants


Developer Stray Fawn Studio has been creating games since at least 2016 with cute art styles and imaginative concepts like the genetics survival game Niche. This Swiss studio is made up of only a handful of developers, working 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 want to survive on the back of the giant creature named Onbu. The Onbu’s name appears to come from the Japanese word for piggyback, referencing the civilization that survives and thrives on the creature’s back.

Throughout The Wandering Village, players are faced with different choices in how they want to take advantage 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 ignore the Onbu, sure, but that will quickly end your session due to the poison and lack of resources.

Instead, you can form a bond with the Onbu, working with each other for mutual benefit. The Onbu will provide you with the materials you need to clean its back and power your equipment while you provide it with guidance and food to make sure it remains healthy. On the other hand, you could always just extract resources from the Onbu willy-nilly, but this will quickly drain the animal’s health and kill it.

Image: Stray Fawn Studio

There are multiple ways that you can view the world and your home, whether it be from the village view, the Onbu view, or the world view. Each of these provides perspective about how the characters fit in the larger world. The Onbu is just a regular sized-creature on this planet and it’s cool to see your tiny village built on its back from afar. The worldview provides even more perspective on how small the village is.

The Wandering Village works as a great balancing act where you have to worry about whether or not your decisions will further hurt 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 mushroom plague that invades the Onbu’s back. When a poisonous cloud roams over the large creature’s back, it will infect the Onbu with poison while also creating poisonous plants around its back. These plants spread very quickly and can get out of hand if you don’t constantly have someone working to get rid of it.

A lot of the time it felt like there wasn’t any way to get out of that kind of hole. Once you manage to wade through a poisonous cloud and those invasive plants start sprouting around your island, you can pretty much kiss your settlement goodbye in a number 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 stuff.

A screengrab from Stray Fawn Studio showing a forest of poison trees
Image: Stray Fawn Studio

While not impossible, this one negative force in the game feels overpowering in a way that dominates the player, even on the lowest difficulty. Hopefully, Stray Fawn Studio offers more ways to take on the mushroom threat in the future as the game progresses through Early Access on Steam. It’s one of the only downsides while playing for extended periods.

Managing population growth is also a major part of this game, as there was more than one session where you’ll 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. That also means upscaling production to make sure that you have enough crops and kitchens for your population.

Be advised 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 out a whole area of resource collection or homes. While they can be repaired, it’ll come at the cost of having to disable certain buildings while everyone works to get things rebuilt.

Players who are 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 spring up. However, you’ll hurt the Onbu and cause it to lose trust in you over time.

A screengrab from The Wandering Village showing the entire Onbu lying down with a village on its back
Image: Stray Fawn Studio

When the Onbu doesn’t trust you, you lose out on controlling how your home behaves. If you do gain its trust, however, you can order it to do a variety of things like choosing which path to take or having the Onbu run through a dangerous poison cloud to limit exposure. You can tell the Onbu to rest if you want to send out Scavengers to look around the surrounding area.

However you decide to proceed, you do so with tough choices in front of you. If you want to build a truly thriving village, then you may need to balance between taking some of Onbu’s resources and giving him extra love to show your appreciation. Everything should be in moderation though, otherwise, you won’t be able to make the gentle giant your friend again.

The Final Word

In the end, The Wandering Village is a great management game that has an important message it doesn’t try to jam down your throat. The mechanics will tell your story, whether it is parasitic or mutualistic. 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.

8.5

Try Hard Guides was 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!

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