The Stillness of the Wind (2019)
Developer: Lambic Studios
It's been a while! Last week, I decided to take a little hiatus from reviews. I had just gotten back from vacation - obviously I loved the nice break, but I also hadn't finished any games yet. Back at work I was super busy right away, so the break was much needed. I'm now in the middle of a couple of games I'm really enjoying, and today I'll be covering a short one that's been on my backlog for a while. The Stillness of the Wind is an atmospheric, point and click version of a "farming simulator" where you play as an old woman tending to her homestead. The Stillness of the Wind is not what I would call a "fun" game, but is a uniquely melancholy and solitary experience of doing all you can to continue your life as you know it while the world crumbles.
You play as Talma, an elderly woman who now lives alone on her homestead, tending to the farm and the animals. She used to live here with her whole family, one by one they've all moved to the city now. She receives letters from her family members from time to time, telling her about life and current events. Beyond that, it pretty much starts off as a farming sim. You grow crops, cook, take care of the chickens and goats, and make cheese. The only difference is that you do this slow and meticulously. Your crops need water? You have to walk outside of your farm, slowly, and retrieve water from the well, slowly. You don't make cheese by throwing it in some magical machine - you pour the milk in a large pot, stir it vigorously (with your mouse), let it cook for hours, then press into shape by tapping the mouse. Obviously this is still not representative of how difficult the real process is, but, it's also much more tedious and laborious than it is in any other game I've played.
The environment of The Stillness of the Wind is such a stark, overwhelming sandy orange that really makes you feel like you're away from all civilization. The world is colorful but vast and empty. The music starts out being peaceful, bright and relaxing. It very slowly starts to change and become slightly more eerie and melancholy. It's impressive that the game gives you such a little space to work with but it you always have a lot to do within it. During dream sequences, the art style becomes dark and blurry, making the farm look more like a shadow of itself.
The gameplay in The Stillness of the Wind is not the most easy to learn or responsive. The game doesn't tell you what to do at all, only how to pick up and drop items. From then on, you're on your own. Unfortunately, this means I didn't realize a lot of things I could do on the farm until several days in, such as checking the chicken coop for eggs. You have to be holding the right item to do certain tasks, and you can only be holding one item at a time, so you have to be strategic about how you plan your day. I had a couple mishaps where I accidentally picked up the wrong tool while gardening and accidentally ruined my crops. Thankfully, the game does allow you to "reset" item locations, as sometimes you end up leaving them strewn about anywhere on the farm. I also didn't realize the letters you receive had to be read from the table in your home rather than your mailbox. I was confused and first then frustrated when I found out way later, after so many letters had already piled up. The letters are an important part of telling the story, but they were less impactful to me because I read them all at once, somewhat our of order. I also felt rushed to read them because everything you do takes time in your day and time was too precious to waste. These letters are supposed to give you an insight to the chaos going on in the outside world, far beyond the farm.
The Stillness of the Wind from the start was a pretty challenging experience. I only had so much time in the day and had to make sure I kept myself and my animals safe and fed, while also trying to produce enough to do so. I actually really like the fact that there's no currency - you instead trade items with the merchant who comes by your farm. You have to figure out what you're willing to give up. However, if the merchant doesn't happen to have the items you need on him, there's not much you can do... I realized this game was not going to give me any mercy when I had a goat drop dead on me. Even though I put out hay as quick as possible, a second goat died literally on its way to the get food. This was absolutely brutal. However, I don't dislike this about the game. I respect the fact that it takes you through the real consequences. It made me feel heartbroken and defeated, but I made sure to never run out of hay again. That is, until the end of the game. Things were hard in the beginning, but at the end they start to become painfully difficult and basically impossible. The tides turn against you and nothing seems to work anymore. I won't give away any more than that, but I will say this game slowly chips at you until you're ready to give up once and for all.
The Stillness of the Wind is a really bold experiment in what a game can be and feel like, because in a way, there's no way to win or feel satisfied. It tells us that sometimes all we can do in the face of adversity is just keep surviving, living your life the way you know how. That life is an eternal struggle. If it that sounds incredibly somber, that's because it is. In the end, all you have to hold on to is your memories. I wouldn't say this was a fun or engaging game to play, but I am glad I experienced it. It's a hard one to recommend, but if you like more artistic games that take a different approach to the medium, this may be worth checking. I could see it being very frustrating for many players, though. It's definitely a short experience so if you're feeling up to it, it may be worth diving into the struggle.
The Stillness of the Wind is available on PC, Switch, and iOS
Played on: PC
Playtime: 3 hrs