The Stillness Of The Wind: review

A game that casts you as an elderly goat farmer is going to be very, very silly, or very, very serious. The Stillness Of The Wind takes the latter approach. It’s essentially a sequel to the cult indie hit Where The Goats Are, but you don’t need to have played that in order to understand or appreciate this. You will, however, need an open mind.

The entire game takes place within the confines of a homestead so small, referring to it as a farm seems rather generous. There’s your single-room house, a single-room building for making and storing cheese, a tiny area that is to all intents and purposes a playpen for your goats, and – apart from the surrounding and almost-but-not-quite empty desert – that’s it. The only variety comes from a few brief dream sequences. It’s a brave way to present a game, and one that pays off.

Both for better and for worse, you’re given almost no direction. You discover through play that there are a handful of tasks to be done each day, all of them theoretically optional. You can milk the goats, and use the milk to make cheese. You can collect eggs from the henhouse. You can plant and maintain flowers and crops, for which you’ll need water from the nearby well. There are occasionally wild crops to harvest, should you venture away from the house. How you look after yourself and your animals is entirely up to you.

The day/night cycle proves to be an extremely important and clever (if, we suspect, also inconsistent) mechanic. Your character Talma is no spring chicken, hobbling along slowly. The longer your journey, the more of the day is lost to it. You’ll soon learn that it’s best to make goat milking one of your first tasks of the day, as they’ll take shelter in their little goat house once it starts to get dark. If you’ve planted crops, going to and from the well alone will swallow a huge chunk of the brief in-game day. If you want to wander further afield to investigate something in the distance, you’re welcome to do so – but be aware that you’re unlikely to have time left to do much else.

So it is that, quite naturally, you will begin to plan each day and make the best use you can of what little daylight is available to you. You may even develop a largely unbroken routine which, rather than dull, is oddly comforting. Yet this isn’t a simple rural life simulator, in part due to the comings and goings of the only other person you ever see.

Every few days, Talma is visited by a man who acts as both merchant and postman. He’ll usually have a letter for you from a friend or family member, telling you about life in the big city. Although their communications start off shining with optimism, it’s not too long before things start to descend into darker territory. Rather oddly, Talma never makes any attempt to reply, which taps a crack across the game’s illusion.

The visitor’s merchant function gives us cause for both praise and frustration. Brilliantly, there is no money in the game. It’s all about trading items, and each item that you can use to haggle has value to you in and of itself (so, amusingly, somewhat like bullets in the Metro games). Deciding what to cultivate on your little farm in the brief period before the merchant’s next visit, and what to buy from him, becomes a delicate balancing act. You need food, yet the goats need hay. The chickens, best we can tell, subsist on a diet of air and arthouse storytelling. There’s one more consumable, and this is probably our biggest irritation.

Shortly after beginning the game, you may notice that there’s a shotgun lying on the ground outside. You’re given no indication of why it’s there or why you might want it and so, not having experienced any sort of trouble or danger, we barely gave the shotgun shells that appeared in the merchant’s inventory a second glance. Then one in-game day, we woke up to discover that one of our goats had disappeared. It took us a while to work out that it had almost certainly been eaten by wolves (or maybe it ran away to join the goat circus, who knows).

This loss didn’t feel like our fault. Heck, we didn’t even know what had happened for a while. We did our best to stock up on shotgun shells, yet it wasn’t enough. Two wolf visits later, we ran out of ammo, and were completely goatless. Whether or not this was scripted, that first early loss still irked us. Later, our chickens disappeared, and we honestly have no idea whether or not this was wolf-related. Nonetheless, it’s a melancholy sort of wonderful that when we found ourselves with no animals, there was no game over screen. No being reset to a checkpoint. We were simply a goat farmer with no goats, and life carried on, a little darker and sadder than before.

There are a few minor technical quibbles. We played the game on Switch, and the night sequences are so dark as to be virtually unplayable in handheld mode (it’s occasionally a struggle on TV), which seems a bizarre oversight. There’s also some unfortunate unintentional hilarity. Closing gates can lead to brief amusement, Talma’s wizened frame being pushed along by the gate that she seemingly opens and closes telekinetically. Most unfortunate of all is the game’s final moment, where just a few frames of animation are enough to turn what should be a poignant conclusion into laugh-out-loud slapstick.

Still, it is on balance a game that is relaxing rather than boring, and thoughtful rather than pretentious (even if some of the letters veer dangerously close). It’s a brief experience of just a few hours that you’re unlikely to replay, but likely to remember.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

Leave a Reply