Zürich-based developers Stray Fawn Studio’s new city-building simulation game comes with a twist – you build a village on the back of a giant, wandering creature called Onbu. The objective is to build a settlement and “form a symbiotic relationship with the colossus” as the game describes it – as the world around is littered with poisonous lands. This makes The Wandering Village a unique and challenging game – not only do you have to manage your village, its inhabitants, resources, food production and the like – but you also must pay close attention to the creature and take care of it.
The game starts you off with building a settlement atop a platform on the six-legged wandering creature’s back. The tutorial immediately gets you into doing the usual – building a farm, buildings to access water to support the farm, and water tanks to store it. I found the tutorial focused more on the villagers’ side than on Onbu’s upkeep.
Onbu the Gentle Giant
As Onbu keeps wandering, munching on food and sleeping, it travels through different biomes. You would encounter areas that are too frigid, or too hot, and this affects your plant production and ultimately, your villagers’ efficiency. You also must maintain a certain level of trust with Onbu so that it would listen to your commands when you want it to run quickly through areas that badly affect the village, for example. That is why it becomes important to give equal attention to your village and Onbu. If the creature doesn’t trust you enough, it won’t listen to your commands and that can prove detrimental to the village. Onbu can shake its back violently and destroy most of your buildings if you take too many of its stone spikes to get stones. The workers have to leave their tasks and go repair the buildings, which wastes in-game time.
There’s a research tree which is divided into three sections: Village, resources, and the Onbu itself. I found myself forgetting about building stuff for Onbu in the early game and then panickily building buildings to prepare for its food when it starts to feel hungry and starves to death. The ideal way is to equally give attention to all three sections of the research tree. However, some of the research tech appeared to be there just for padding and the waiting time didn’t pay off. I shouldn’t have to go through researching three technologies just to get bread.
Being a Village and Onbu Caretaker is Not Easy
As the game progresses, you will be able to recruit more members of the community, gather rarer resources, etc. Some of the nomads that you encounter can be poisoned as well and will die soon. This brings me to poison. Perhaps the most annoying part of the game. Some biomes have poisonous air, which can make poisonous plants and trees sprout on Onbu’s back. These plants can then reproduce and multiply their numbers, so they should be harvested or incinerated quickly. Once poisonous plants start sprouting up on Onbu’s back and you’re not already prepared with multiple buildings to treat villagers and remove the poisoned trees, it’s game over. I also found that the village quickly becomes understaffed. There are too many things to do and very few people. It all becomes chaotic very quick.
The UI, at first, appears a bit overwhelming but becomes extremely simple once you spend a few minutes with the game. Managing the workforce and redirecting them to different jobs becomes really simple with the intuitive interface. The controls or the interface never got in my way; it became second nature for me to check on Onbu and manage the villagers, prioritise tasks, and so on.
The artwork of the game was the first thing that pulled me in. The game is inspired by Hayao Miyazaki’s film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, and it shows. The cute villagers, to the beautiful surroundings and Onbu itself, the game is a treat to the eyes. The background score is a mix between serenity in the village and the chaos and disruption elsewhere on the planet.
The Wandering Village ticks all the right boxes as a city-building game. Managing not only your village but also a giant creature is a unique concept that is mostly well done. It isn’t just a gimmick; the theme adds to the challenge of the game. Research tech could use some improvement but as an Early Access title, The Wandering Village is a solid game that is worth the price.