By Chris Picone, 01August 2022
I’ve always loved survival games, and really the theme in general. I think it’s because I love the idea of survival and crafting in games but find that those elements generally aren’t designed or executed well so playing an actual survival genre distils the experience. Clanfolk in particular grabbed me because survival games can be a bit samey but Clanfolk seemed to have a bit more end-game scope. In similar games I’ve played you start with nothing, compete against environmental challenges while collecting food and water, and by the time you’ve built yourself some kind of house and collected a stockpile, you have successfully survived and that’s the end of the game. In Clanfolk, though, it looked like that was going to be the start of the game, and the real challenge comes after – trying to build a thriving community in the midst of the usual environmental challenges. I mean, the trailer features births, funerals, and what looks like a whole village burning down. A survival game that potentially spans generations has my interest.
So far, the game’s playing out as I expected; I started with the “easy” difficulty setting, which means I began the game with a whole family including grandparents and children. I’m around three hours into the game at the moment; I had the basics – including food collection, resource collection, the construction of some basic tools, and the bare minimum of home comforts like somewhere to sleep and somewhere to poop (seriously) – sorted long ago. Next I put some wattle walls up around my food and resource stockpiles to keep critters and potential miscreants out and I’ve since learned how to make clay daub walls so I’m using those to build houses now. Or house, at least – my little community is now attracting potential workers and visitors so I had to turn what was going to be a family home into a longhouse. When that project’s finished I suppose I’ll start building smaller houses for my families and convert the longhouse into a sort of tavern and then work on trying to make things a bit more comfortable. I haven’t faced any major challenges yet – no rain or snow, no fires or anything like that, but I think I might also still be in the tutorial phase of the game. I think I’ve unlocked about two-thirds of the game’s incredibly detailed tech tree but the world is just starting to really open up.
I haven’t mentioned it yet but Clanfolk also includes all the other expected features of a survival game, such as villager personalities which sees you trying to juggle work distribution to maintain morale while collecting food and building houses. Unlike most survival games I’ve played, however, Clanfolk includes tons of automation options, so you can micro-manage if you really want to, but otherwise you’re free to focus on the decision-making. What it does mean, though, is that the gameplay’s very different to many other survival games. It feels like a bit like an idler game, to some extent, although that isn’t accurate either because you are constantly making decisions. In any case, it’s slow and relaxing.
The verdict? I think that anyone who’s a fan of survival games will enjoy Clanfolk but go in with an open mind. It isn’t Rimworld, it isn’t (oldschool) Minecraft, it isn’t Sim City. It’s trying to do something new, and that’s playing the long game, trying to keep your clan alive across the generations. I’m enjoying it.