By Chris Picone, 16 November 2022
Wandering Village is a city builder sim with a difference: Your village is on the back of a giant animal. I thought that would just be a gimmick but it’s actually core to the game’s mechanics.
At first I thought Wandering Village had low poly graphics – it sort of looks that way when you’re zoomed right out – but actually the graphics are more “paper-style.” Zooming in presents you with a 2d view with the paper cut-outs layering in front of you as you look ahead; zooming out pulls the camera up as well as away, presenting you with an isometric view. You can zoom all the way in to watch your villagers in action and all the way out so you can see the beast and your village in entirety. It’s nicely done and the artwork features a curious style that’s semi-mythical, semi-historical and non-Western. It’s very exotic and really captures the tribal vibe. Wandering Village also features a top-down world map, used to guide your Onbu and send out scavenging parties.
Initially, Wandering Village starts like any city builder with resource management. You have a handful of villagers, you cut down some trees and mine some stone, then start building little huts and farms and things. Once your immediate needs are met you can look toward expanding – but unlike other city builders, your village is on the back of a wandering creature. As I mentioned earlier, this actually has a huge influence on the gameplay. First, it means you have limited room to expand and limited trees and rocks available for harvest, so you can’t be wasteful. It also means climate changes much faster as the Onbu crosses through swamps and deserts and snow climes so you need to grow a range of different crops to survive. The world’s a dangerous place; you will face cold snaps, tornadoes, and toxic clouds that spread spores that poison the Onbo and your villagers and infect the environment. The Onbu and your villagers are forced to live symbiotically; while your village relies on the Onbu for living space and food and resources there are times where the Onbu will rely on you to guide it away from danger and even to keep it fed when food is scarce.
I think Wandering Village will appeal to most fans of city builder sims, although its hybrid nature makes its target audience a little more difficult to pinpoint. It’s smaller in scope than some city builders but that’s because it also features some survival and resource gathering elements – but not enough of either to push it into a different genre. Personally, I enjoy city builders and survival sims and resource management sims but find they can get tedious over time whereas I found Wandering Village’s combination felt fresh and interesting.