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Windy Meadow, out now, is a delightful smalltown fable from the world of Roadwarden

Experience a single village through the eyes of several characters

Characters in Windy Meadow discussing village life against a forest backdrop.
Image credit: Assemble Entertainment

If you played a videogame at all in 2022, I hope it was Roadwarden. A blend of RPG and visual novel from Polish developer Moral Anxiety, it cast you as lonesome wayfarer maintaining the paths and investigating the mysteries or grievances of a thinly populated wilderness setting. It's a game of immense feeling, craft and cleverness, inspired by table-top games, which puts hoarier ideas about videogame role-playing through the wringer. In the world of Roadwarden, there's no grinding for XP or mindless loot-crafting treadmill. Knowledge, empathy and insight are worth far more than material wealth or wielding the shiniest axe. Quests can hinge on something as minute as your ear for dialects or knowing the correct form of address. And each village along the trail is a world in itself.

Moral Anxiety's Windy Meadow - which actually dates back to before development of Roadwarden, but has been substantially remastered since the latter's release - essentially narrows the focus to one of those villages. Out today, it's a quietly gorgeous visual novel in which you follow several characters in different timeframes, building up a layered understanding of one and the same setting, with scene transitions plotted on a beautiful pixelart map screen.

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I've played through two chapters - one stars a young huntress who is weighing up whether to travel to the big city, while another is the story of a disabled man who is training to be a bard - and am having a wonderful time. The absence of Roadwarden's RPG elements is deflating at first, but there's a similar wit to the execution of certain visual novel mechanics. Each character gets their own version of the codex, for instance, which can be accessed using rollover tool-tips for highlighted text in dialogue. There's no one-size-fits-all description of every last person or place in Windy Meadow. As in Roadwarden, it depends who you're talking to.

There are life-or-death questions to reckon with - do you try to help your father rescue somebody from a burning forest, or obey his instruction to head back to town? - and a few scenes of gruesome bloodshed. Running themes include the lure of the Big City, a few days travel away, and the importance of not over-depleting the forests nearby, lest the woodland creatures rise up and stamp the settlement flat. But Windy Meadow often seems less interested in these grand dramatic stakes than in cultivating smaller, inter-personal dynamics.

How do you want to handle your sister's back-biting - in silence or with harsh words of your own? Should you indulge in small-talk with a candle-maker you're helping out, or ask more personal questions that might offend him? And then there are conversations that offer windows on the game's wider setting, Viaticum. I'm especially enjoying learning to be a bard. What kinds of story do I want to tell, as a professional lore peddler, and where should I seek them out?

The new version of Windy Meadow is available now on Steam. There's a demo, if your curiosity has been piqued.

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