by Adam Nix
reviewed on PC
The Wind Cries Pupil
As Far as the Eye, a game developed by Unexpected Studio and published by Goblinz Studio, gives you the chance to be the wind. As the wind, you control a group of magical, fairy-like nomads called Pupils. These Pupils live in a world that gets flooded over and over again; the only place of safety being ďThe Eye.Ē Each time the world floods, everybody migrates to The Eye and holds festivals there until the waters subside. They then return to the world and start their lives anew.
As Far as the Eye is a rogue-like strategy game played on a hexagonal map. Players look to direct their Pupils by assigning them tasks. Each Pupil can move a certain amount of hexagons in a given turn. Once directed to the hexagon in question, they are able to collect resources for their crew: Herbs, wood, ore, stone, fish, etc.. These resources are used to either create new buildings that unlock new resources to gather, or to fulfill goals needed to make the journey to their next settlement.
The game is played across four settlements. In each one, pupils start in a completely unexplored map where almost all hexes are grayed out. You must direct your pupils to explore the new map, set up buildings that can support their food and shelter, and collect the right resources to make it to the next settlement. Usually, players are given options as to which settlement they will go to next, each providing for different goals on what needs to be collected for the journey. For instance, will it be easier to collect 300 fish in this area or 600 wood? This all needs to be done before you run out of turns, at which point their settlement will be flooded and they will have to start a new game.
As Far as the Eye has a lot of game mechanics that worked really well for me, largely because of how well it ties them into the theme. You get to play the wind and whisper to your pupils. How cool is that?
Your pupils are not just numbers either, they have names and expertise. Although pupils have no specific expertise at the beginning of the game, they immediately start gaining them through skill trees specific to different roles in their tribe. The pupil who gathers food will immediately become more skilled at that and most likely be your food gatherer for the entire playthrough; the one that chops the most wood will end up being your woodcutter. Each skill tree gives the player choices as to what perks they get as they level up.
Even the environmental effect of pillaging these lands is touched on: If you use too much of the areaís resources, there will be negative effects such as fires, rainfall, or swarms of bugs. Every game mechanic in this game ties back to something realized in the setting. My favorite example of this pops up once youíve collected everything needed to move to the new settlement. Once you decide to leave, you need to figure out how to fit everything on the back of the pack animal you are riding. This is done through a Tetris-like puzzle where each resource type has a specific shape. For instance, wood is a column of three squares while stone is a row of 4 squares. You need to fit all of these different shapes into a grid that represents your luggage, desperately hoping everything will fit and the hard work of your pupils wonít go to waste. It reminds me of trying to pack up after a long trip, my luggage strewn across the room; I know it can all fit back in my suitcase, but it just seems impossible to do. It was fun and infuriating at times to look at that grid and know that if I just had a better way to organize these shapes, I could keep all my precious resources.
Save the Pupils
Although the story and mechanics were fun and refreshing to delve into, I was surprised by how deceptively difficult the game was. Pupils need food to survive, and this involves each of them consuming 6 food resources every turn. This might not seem like a lot, but with 4 or 5 pupils, 30 food resources a turn is challenging to keep up with. Many times, I realized I was about to have a food shortage just a little too late. With this game, once you are out of food, you are basically doomed. The pupils lose their health so quickly when they canít eat and will die in less than 10 turns - not nearly enough time to remedy your mistake. Even if you get the food resourcing down, there are a lot of random events that will completely change up your goals for a given area, or destroy the buildings you use most regularly. At times, these random events felt a little unfair and their odd tutorial/campaign setup seemed to skim over some important details in dealing with them or prepping your pupils for them.
Even with the gameís difficulty getting to me at times, overall I didnít mind it and liked the challenge. Even if I kept losing, I could always see where I messed up; each time, understanding how I could improve in the next playthrough. There are 4 different tribes you can play as, all coming from different biomes. I love that this game gives me the right amount of challenge that pushes me to understand it fully and has so much to offer once I am ready to take it to the next level.
What a Lovely View
The art fully succeeds in setting a relaxing tone and atmosphere for the game. Every time I booted this up, it felt like I was opening a children's picture book. The world is colorful and the characters and environmental designs are gorgeous. All of the hex tiles have a mystical look to them. Individually, they are intriguing, but they really shine as a small part of the larger map. As soon as I finished exploring a given map, Iíd take a second to zoom out and look at the beautiful world the game has generated for me. Mountains to the west, a couple pack animals grazing in the south, a large forest to the north, and so on. Each settlement is randomly generated, but they always looked so good.
One with the Wind
I canít believe how much I am gushing over this game. It looks like a simple and relaxing city builder at its surface, but there is so much more to it. Even with its deep skill trees and challenges, I found the game incredibly relaxing. Listening to the whispers of the wind and the dulcet strumming of an acoustic guitar as I guided my pupils to The Eye was a memorable experience. From the beginning to the end of any given run, the pupils would gain personalities in ways that made them feel more alive. I cared about the pupils in this game, I felt connected to the atmosphere and settlements it offers. This, paired with a great blending of theme and mechanic, make this a truly unique game.
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Unique Rogue-like Creative Mechanics and Theming Character Personalities Gorgeous Environments Replayability
Poor Tutorial Overwhelming Random Events