The Stillness of The Wind Review
by Dylan Blight (Nintendo Switch)
A quiet game of life and loss. One by one, everyone left the village for the city. Everyone, except Talma. Approaching her final years, she maintains a simple way of life tending to her homestead, surviving, subsisting, whilst increasingly disturbing letters arrive from her family in the city.
The elderly Talma tends to her farm, slowly moving about, hunched over every object she carries and interacts with, then she eats dinner and repeats it all the following day. Talma lives very far away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. She’s alone, well, except for her goats and chickens which she maintains as well as the merchant who appears from the far city, visiting every couple days offering letters from family afar and the ability to trade for items. Talma’s family left her some time ago for the bigger city life, as did Talma’s friends who once lived a quieter life — but not Talma who maintains her quite farm life and continues to run things alone, even though her growing age makes things harder and slower, day by day.
On Talma’s family farmstead, you can choose to go about your daily tasks any way you see fit, or simply wander around the desert instead, sending Talma on a mission in search of lost memories, ingredients, or treasures. You can breed your goats and produce a decent supply of goat cheese to trade or eat, collect eggs and trade for more chickens, or spend your time digging dirt and watering seeds to grow a lush garden for show or sale. It’s evident through the sigh she releases when picking up an object or sitting down that each day is hard for Talma, but she continues on. It doesn't matter what you choose to do though, every day the sun will rise, the sun will set, and as the days continue on, they grow shorter, Talma moves slower; life becomes harder.
I primarily played The Stillness of the Wind on my Nintendo Switch in handheld mode, which I assumed would be the best play to play and use the touch screen to interact with the game, but alas, you must use the left analog to move an on-screen cursor around to do everything. It’s very janky to use as I dropped and clicked on the wrong objects constantly which made for a somewhat frustrating experience. The game is available on iOS and PC as well and although I haven’t tried either version, I’d assume the phone’s touch screen and more precise mouse controls on PC would make playing the game more enjoyable.
From a certain perspective, The Stillness of the Wind may appear to be a farm-sim akin to Stardew Valley, but the game isn’t designed to reward your hard work and time management on the farm, it’s designed to tell you a story about life, love, loss, family and death. The game itself, put simply, isn’t very fun when maintaining the tasks and jobs you can perform. They’re all meandering and very slow with Talma waddling from one place to another. You rarely finish a day feeling like you’ve achieved much and when you can lose your growing gardens to a weather condition the following day, or your animals to wolves attacking in the night — even when you tried fending them off with a shotgun — it really does feel like The Stillness of the Wind is trying to shovel your face into the barren desert landscape surrounding Talma’s home and bury you there along with all that you are trying to build. Of course, all of this is part of the story and Talma moving slowly isn’t a bad gameplay decision on its own, but as much as I understand the overall tone the emotion developer Memory of God was attempting to portray and make me feel, I just found the game design to be too boring for me to get sucked into Talma as a character and look past the slow tone.
Several days into my journey with Talma I began wondering what the point of anything I'm doing even is. As a player, I'm doing it for hopes that the upcoming story beats will reward me and what I'm doing, but why's Talma doing it? I realised that as much as I didn't like playing the game, I really wanted to keep playing in hope of learning why she's doing this and that’s the hook for The Stillness of the Wind.
The Stillness of the Wind is worth pushing through the mouthfuls of sand you need to take for its poetic and poignant story to see where Talma’s life leads her. Her family might be scattered and long-gone, and you never see the bigger world in which The Stillness of the Wind takes place in, but through letters the merchant delivers, you get to hear from her family and get an understanding of what’s happening with them, along with the political landscape of the world the game takes place in. And it is an interesting world, but that might make it more frustrating for some players to get stuck in a very clockwork farm life while there appears to be so much going on elsewhere where you can't reach. Believe me, I tried to reach the city.
Everything in The Stillness of the Wind looks like it was put together like patchwork. The design of Talma’s roof matches her coat and chicken house. Different coloured sections show years of repairs. The farmstead is obviously old, but it’s all cared for by Talma and the beautiful papercraft look of the game adds to the overall tone wonderfully.
If you choose to explore the desert you can come across items that will give you more insight into Talma’s younger years and those who used to roam the farm with her. Sounds of children lingering on the wind in the distance may lead you to a monument in the desert. This, amongst other things, is a good reason to make sure you’re playing The Stillness of the Wind in a quiet place, or with headphones, as the subtle and peaceful sound design is an important piece of the 3-4 hours experience.
The Stillness of the Wind is an interactive poem, which does make it a hard sell. It can be a very peaceful and relaxing journey with intrigue popping up at just the right moments to keep you interested in Talma’s story, but the farm caring itself is boring and a chore to play. A shorter, tighter experience may have been able to use the tedium and slow tone it delivers for a more consistent experience and resonance with the player, but The Stillness of the Wind was too long a chore for me to enjoy enduring.
Developer: Memory of God, Lambic Studios
Publisher: Fellow Traveller
Platforms: iOS, PC, Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
(The Stillness of the Wind code provided for review)