Do you desire to give up your hard-working city life and retreat for a peaceful retirement in the countryside? Imagine leaving behind that world of buzzing corporate vulgarians, instead committing yourself to raising chickens and harvesting crops. Sadly, an agrarian reality is still consigned to your dreams, but you may be able to find a simulated one in Wayward Prophet’s World’s Dawn.
Due to the publication of the more popular Stardew Valley, the game flew under many radars when it was released earlier this year. Both games revelled on the nostalgia factor of hit ‘90s farming sim Harvest Moon. But just how close to the mark can World’s Dawn hit?
You are a newcomer to the enchanted farming village of Sugar Blossom. It’s a colourful town that delights in nature’s beauty that has since fallen on hard times and lost its magic. During your time here, you’ll be tasked with earning the trust of the Feral Shades, five hibernating animal spirits representing prosperous virtues, capable of restoring the town to its former glory. Alongside this, you’ll be advised to pursue social and agricultural activities, be it raising a bunch of cute farm animals, growing and harvesting crops, building your homestead or maintaining relationships with your fellow townsfolk. The game runs on an internal clock, meaning as time progresses and the seasons change, so do the aesthetics of Sugar Blossom. Snow will fall in winter, and the villagers will be out enjoying the heat in summer. A full day runs from six in the morning until midnight, during which you’ll be under time pressure to oblige to your duties and perform errands around town.
I started the game in spring by planting wheat on my farmland, fostering a little chicken and flirting with the blonde barmaid at the local tavern. As time went on, I began to feel the world change around me. Throughout the summer, I donated money at the town hall, feeding fish to a stray cat and played LockBall (a sort of 1v1 football game) with my friends. It made the townsfolk more open and receptive to my actions. During each month, the whole town attends events such as market days and festivals, where you can buy discounted items or engage in celebrations. It infused a sense of community within me. My character wasn’t at the centre of everything like a lot of games, but instead was part of a larger unity.
You’re also encouraged to keep up your relationships with the other townsfolk. You can earn someone’s friendship by talking with them and giving them gifts. I appreciate that the game wants this dynamic aspect to the characters, where every NPC feels like an actual person with their own behaviour and desires. If done properly, it makes the town feel more alive. While the characters and dialogue have been incredibly well written, the relationship system is flawed. You’re encouraged to speak to everyone in town on a daily basis, but outside of your romantic partner there aren’t any substantial benefits to strengthening those relationships, but also no downsides to letting them decline. I tested this by going a few weeks of only talking to my girlfriend and began ignoring the other villagers. I don’t think they cared about how rude I became.
There are some unfortunate technical problems that afflict the game as a result of Wayward Prophet’s use of the easy-to-use RPG Maker engine. The controls feel blocky, and don’t offer rebind options. In fact there isn’t an options menu at all, and no way to fix the incredibly low resolution it wants to run at. I couldn’t use WASD to move and instead had to settle for the arrow keys. Some of the mini-games also suffer, such as LockBall, which I had to give up on after a few attempts. I even tried my Steam Controller to see if there was any improvement, and while it was definitely better, it still felt very limited.
While World’s Dawn prides itself on being a child born out of Harvest Moon, the farming aspect is lacklustre. There are only 40 tiles to grow crops on, and it at best takes about half a week for them to mature. This may just be my consumerist brain talking here, but it often seemed like I was spending more money than I could earn through farming. I had to buy food for my animals and improvements for the house, and the money I did earn was only a fraction of that outcome.
One thing that stuck with me is how much of a sensory experience it is. Featuring Studio Ghibli-esque illustrations by Ivyree Rosario and a beautiful score by Eric Matyas, I really loved exploring and walking around the town and finding things to do. It’s a flawed farming simulator but can have some really striking moments. If you like games with enchanting locations, World’s Dawn is the game for you.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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