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The Wandering Village's demo is like building a Lego set on a cat's spine

Keep your friends close...

I've been playing the Steam Next Fest demo of The Wandering Village, a city-builder that has you rustle up a community on the back of a roaming beast. It's called Onbu and it couldn't give a monkey's that you're on its back just trying to get by. At first, that is. Eventually you're able to strike up a bit of a relationship with the big lizard and build a sort of symbiotic relationship. Onbu stays on track, Onbu gets a treat. Good Onbu.

I'm not usually one for strategy games where you've got to manage rocks and wood and allocate workers. Some of that comes down to their many systems frying my little brain, but Onbu has me persevering. Why? Because the resources I'm harvesting and community I'm building help or hinder Onbu. My enemy isn't some army a mile away, it's Onbu.

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I'll just come out and say it. Onbu is a doofus. He's a massive beast that wanders a planet ravaged by poisonous spores and arid deserts. Often, he'll decide that it's a great idea to shuffle for days through a desert and you'll see his hunger bar climb and all you can do is lower your head into your hands and close your eyes. Sometimes he'll mix it up and stumble through a poisonous jungle, which then cakes his back with toxic spores. His back being YOUR land.

This is your relationship with Onbu at first. You're trying to chop wood and build tents and farm crops while he's out there traipsing through baking hot sand. Sometimes he'll have the audacity to sleep in these sweltering conditions too. Which then, of course, means that you'll have trouble collecting water to feed your crops. The seasons don't always change when you're on the back of an Onbu.

So, you've got to adapt. Maybe pack up your farms for a bit and push your citizens to go stock up on berries. Maybe build a kitchen and turn those berries into a slurry that'll last the drought. All of the systems in place are robust and easy to follow, which makes the act of managing your troupe a breeze, at least. The weather conditions and toxic spores are challenging to deal with, but the rhythm of research and development keeps your spirits and chances of survival ticking over nicely.

Folks chop wood and haul logs in The Wandering Village.
The 2D-3D art style is gorgeous. And the ability to zoom right the way in is welcome too.

Survive Onbu's early silliness and you're able to strike up somewhat of a relationship. Whether that's growing mushroom feed, sticking it on a trebuchet, and launching it into his maw. Or building a big horn that'll help steer him in a helpful direction as he comes to a crossroads. Toot it and he may decide that the desert isn't for him anymore and move towards a lush environment, like a watery paradise for your parched wheat.

But Onbu's back is your land too! So, you can harvest his blood if you'd like. This won't go down too well, mind. Sometimes, he won't listen to your toots and choose his own path, probably because you've harvested his blood. If you're nice, though, he'll probably listen. The element of unpredictability can be frustrating, but that's what sets this city-builder apart from the others. Yes, its building systems are similar to other offerings, but you're totally dependent on the spine of this wild beast. You don't fear encroaching armies or stockpile for tough winters. Instead, you make the most of land that's barely under your control.

This brings me to my hard-hitting, carefully formulated conclusion: The Wandering Village is a bit like building a Lego set on the back of a cat. You can train and practice with your feline friend and they might let you snap the pieces together peacefully. But, they're cats and can't be tamed. So, you'll end up chasing your Lego-strapped cat down the street as it dips under cars or leaps at birds. Will your Lego set survive? Depends how well it's constructed. You can give the demo a go yourself and see how well you get on with Onbu. And do be sure to give our Steam Next Fest tag a glance as we've got some other recommendations from the RPS Treehouse lying in wait for you.

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