The Wandering Village early access review: a gorgeous city-builder with a loveable colossus

I’ve always thought that each of the sixteen colossi in Shadow Of The Colossus is a little cute in their own special way. There’s something about the animal antics of these huge, lumbering creatures that makes them naturally lovable, though they wouldn’t hesitate to break every bone in my weak little frame.

The developers at Zurich-based Stray Fawn Studio fully understand what I mean and have created their own lovable rock giant in their city-building simulator. the wandering people. His creature, Onbu, is a colossal six-legged beast, and the walking platform your village sits on, a flat landmass plateau on his back that makes for excellent settlement ground. Onbu is best described as a gentle giant. They move slowly but carefully, loving to eat in fields of wild mushrooms, nap in meadows of soft pink flowers, and hide their paws and tail when they sleep.

Onbu is the best and I will do everything in my power to protect them, which is the goal of The Wandering Village. You must take care of your human settlement and at the same time take care of your new giant dinosaur friend. It will take some time to make Onbu trust you, but throughout my time with The Wandering Village, I was determined to make this magnificent, huge monster love me.

Starting a settlement on the back of a megasaur isn’t ideal, but the humans in The Wandering Village are desperate. It turns out that the planet is slowly being eroded by toxic spores that make living on the ground almost impossible, so the only hope of survival is to climb on the back of a giant beast. It’s a good idea for a city builder, and as Onbu roams the planet, you’ll encounter different biomes that will force you to adapt to dangers (including regular encounters with the deadly spores). A big part of The Wandering Village is how you plan for and adapt to these changing environments, often on the fly.

If you’re looking for stability and the best option is at the back of a living, moving island, you know times are tough.

The beginnings of my settlement began like any other city builder, when my villagers began cutting down trees for wood, collecting stones, and harvesting berries. I then built several shelters, a research center to start unlocking new technology, a water harvesting system, a kitchen to feed hungry mouths, you know, all the usual stuff. As you play, you’ll skillfully move your workforce around and utilize them to the best of your ability, and it’s as simple as assigning workers to buildings using the plus and minus buttons – it’s all very intuitive. You can also prioritize tasks that need to be done quickly, such as fast-growing herbs to cure poisoned villagers. The delicate delegation of jobs with post-apocalyptic survival elements makes The Wandering Village feel very Frostpunk but, you know, with less forced child labor. Not that I’ve ever done that. Ha ha. say oh

It’s the same heavy lifting we’ve seen in other city management sims, but it’s completely different in terms of vibration. The buildings are painterly looking and super detailed, like the doctor’s hut that has medicinal herbs hanging outside and how the kitchen bungalow has a spout with smoke coming out of the top. Each building is a different shape and size, making them easy to identify, but also aesthetically matching as a cohesive whole.

The music blends perfectly with the images. Percussion-heavy traditional instruments underscore the entire game’s OST, and moments of intensity are accentuated by a powerful choir of vocals. There’s also an incredibly deep didgeridoo that shakes your heart when you play it. Everything is so rich and colorful and compared to other city builders, that’s honestly one of the best differences. But the biggest difference is of course Onbu, so let me tell you about my colossal BFF.

The 2D villagers are dressed in blue robes and have cloth face masks to help prevent inhalation of toxins.

When you first meet Onbu, they are sound asleep, giving you some preparation time to set up your village. But I will never forget the first time she woke up. There was a thud and a loud yawning groan, and suddenly the bottom began to shake as they stood up and began to crawl forward. I’ve spent a good number of hours in the Wandering Village and the thrill of riding Onbu never goes away. Even when they got a little grumpy and started shaking their backs, destroying a bunch of my town’s buildings in the process, I couldn’t get mad. I mean, look at his goofy face!

watch your step
Toxic spores are a great threat to your village. Toxic spores are a great threat to your village. If Onbu goes through some unavoidable toxic points, the spores will start to appear on the plateau. They spread incredibly fast and will poison your villagers if left alone, so equipping your humans with flamethrowers is the best way to handle the infestation. If you can avoid these toxic spots, it’s vital that you do so, and asking Onbu to choose a different path is an easy fix, that is, if they’ll listen.

At first, Onbu doesn’t care too much about his new passengers, barely paying much attention to your village and its people, but as you begin to gain their trust, you can give them instructions and directions, which is vital for weathering the dangers ahead. they are coming Speaking in the most reductive terms, taking care of Onbu is like maintaining a ship. It’s something you need to maintain and then eventually use to navigate the world.

If you don’t take care of the Onbu, they can mostly take care of themselves: they eat when they want, sleep when they want, and move when they want. It’s great that Onbu does what they love, but is it ideal when they decide to take a nap in the middle of a scorching desert? Not particularly, no. Unlocking parts of the tech tree allows you to build gadgets and buildings to earn Onbu’s trust and also take care of them. I unlocked a special kitchen to make food for them, a catapult to launch food into their mouths (repeat, a trebuchet), a hot air balloon to cure them of the poison when they are sick, and then also the option to pet them (many thanks to the Kickstarter backers for that option). It’s a lot of work, but the goal is to make life easier for the village and, at the same time, make life easier for Onbu. It’s a somewhat symbiotic relationship.

“Even when Onbu gets a little grumpy and shakes his back, destroying a bunch of my village’s buildings in the process, I can’t get mad.”

When they started trusting me, I built a giant horn and started tactically using my instructions, like asking them to go in certain directions on the giant map. I also regularly asked them to sit down before entering a desert, so I could prepare supplies, and to run through toxic regions, keeping the impact of the spore minimal. I say request, because sometimes they listen and sometimes they don’t, which, for anyone without a cat, is something you’ll have to get used to.

The three viewpoints in The Wandering Village: the village view, the Onbu view, and the world map view. Switching between them is as easy as scrolling the mouse wheel.

The tech tree also has other more… uhhh relentless options I innocently unlocked and built a manure collector, hoping to use the fertilizer as a way to make my crops grow faster. But I realized with sheer horror that the way to collect it is by piercing Onbu’s back which then reduces their trust in you. Distraught at my discovery, I destroyed the hideous creation and gave Onbu many pitiful pets. The tech tree also includes a gadget that can draw Onbu’s blood as an ingredient to feed your villagers, and it not only reduces Onbu’s confidence, but also his health. Nu-uh. No. Not on my watch. Absolutely not.

I can’t say that it hasn’t crossed my mind how attractive these options are. Climate disturbances cause food shortages, during which fertilizers could be incredibly useful. My villagers have lived on berry puree and beetroot soup for as long as we’ve settled in some areas, and something more hearty and meaty might increase their productivity. Those options are there if you are focused on the best survival strategy. No one is going to judge you, promise me (heartless monster).

My first town. This was before we went through a desert that wiped out all my crops, stunted my water supply, and everyone starved to death. Onbu was not eliminated in the slightest.

Its city-building mechanics may seem familiar to many, but the setting, aesthetics, and the fact that you’re taking care of a giant colossus make The Wandering Village a top-tier management sim. There are definitely some strong inspirations taken from Ghibli’s Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind, but Onbu is a completely unique creature from Stray Fawn’s brilliant design.

As someone who yearns to build worlds, I’d love to see a little more lore and world intrigue through the use of your village scavengers (a two-person team that you can assign to go out of the village in search of more resources). Your band of humans is pretty isolated on the back of Onbu, so a few bits of how the rest of the world is doing would be a welcome addition. There are also a few Kickstarter unlockables I’d like to see added, including flying merchants, bird taming, and a ruins biome. But for a game currently in early access, The Wandering Village is pretty much at its destination, and it’s a beautiful and captivating destination.

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