2019 seems set to be a year for the bombastic AAA ‘event’ video game. Kingdom Hearts 3 and Resident Evil 2 lead the pack, and the release schedule of the year is unrelenting, filled to bursting with action-packed adventures moving at a breakneck pace. Then again, 2018 was pretty bombastic, too, and 2017 before that. In fact, it feels like I haven’t stopped playing the new ‘big thing’ for at least half a decade now.
Perhaps it’s time I took a break, slowed down, and appreciated new indie title The Stillness of the Wind.
Developed by Memory of God, The Stillness of the Wind is a meditative farming experience set out in a rural desert landscape. You play as Talma, an elderly lady who lives alone on her tiny farmstead, her only company are the chickens, goats and the travelling merchant who visits daily. Her day involves collecting eggs, making goats’ cheese and reading letters from her loved ones.
This game is deliberately small and deliberately slow. Outside of Talma’s day-to-day subsistence on the farm, she can explore the desert ruins surrounding your farm, ghosts of the bustling village Talma grew up in, before everyone moved off to the city or passed away. She reminisces about the mines, now in disrepair, which fueled the expansion of the city that claimed her family and friends, a city which now seems to be eroding their souls and plunging into chaos.
If you’re in the market for something more fast-paced, with challenging combat and incredible vistas, look elsewhere. Talma and her goats aren’t about to embark on an epic quest to a distant land; instead, she must journey across an emotional landscape, coming to terms with her life and her relationships with distant family.
The game is aided in its mission statement by painterly, low-polygonal visuals that are characterised by the desert’s warm, all-encompassing orange. The sound design further complements the game’s meditations on the passage of time, a quiet piano accompaniment in an otherwise silent landscape; that is, asides from the distant snatches of laughter or discord you may hear from the far-away city.
Every little detail in The Stillness of the Wind adds up to a feeling of an impending apocalypse. The land directly around Talma is sinking into the sands; time relentlessly marching forward as time slowly claims the remaining monuments of her life.
The Stillness of the Wind, perhaps accidentally, evokes the central theme of novelist Kazuo Ishiguro’s literature. Ishiguro explores memory and loss, his central characters often lost in a nostalgic haze of memory that, quite often, were never truly real. They must come to terms with the reality of their presents and, often, the fictions of their memories. Talma’s only news from the outside world comes to her through letters; instead of expanding her horizons, she has only the places within her reach to reflect on.
I found myself worrying about Talma’s family. The letters she receives grow increasingly dire every passing day. They tell of riots in the city, and disappearances. Still, these worries would melt away once I tended to my duties on the farm. While milking my goats, bartering for more chickens with the merchant, and collecting mushrooms in the desert, I forgot the things ailing Talma’s family, caught in the immediacy of living. Those worries would return in the desolate night, haunting dream sequences occasionally breaking the monotony of Talma’s daily living.
Perhaps I mistook my own feelings on the end of the world. Apocalypses need not be great calamities, snarling zombies, vast asteroids barreling towards the earth. Instead, The Stillness of the Wind reminds us that a million little apocalypses happen every day, in a sigh or in a scream.
REVIEW CODE: A FREE Nintendo Switch code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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