Review: The Stillness of the Wind
Posted 11 Mar 2019 at 18:28 by Ashley Jones
The emotion-driven indie genre has become a staple of recent years. From the grief of Gris to the angst of Night in the Woods and from the sadness of That Dragon, Cancer to the hope of Dream Daddy. Independent developers have explored emotions in a way that few AAA games have done in the past.
The Stillness of the Wind is a game about the slow and inevitable decline of both the main character and the farm she maintains. Talma is an elderly lady still looking after the farm she grew up on while her family and neighbours have all moved to the city. As you progress through the story more of the strange history unfolds around you, but it is a tale about isolation and deterioration.
The title is almost like a God Sim, with you controlling Talma’s movements by pointing and clicking. It adds a layer of detachment between the player and the character, further adding to her loneliness. The only company she has are her hens, goats and a travelling mailman who visits once per day.
It would be easy to describe the game as a farming sim of sorts but really the focus isn’t on the farming, it’s on the routine. You must look after the farm not because you want it to grow or to sell items for profits, but simply because that is the life Talma knows. While everyone else has moved away she has stayed put; stuck in her place and sticking to her routine.
The core elements of a farming simulation are present; plant and water seeds, care for animals, fetch water and pick plants. The way it is handled, and the way it feels, is much more about maintaining Talma’s life than it is the farm’s. You can leave the farm and explore, but doing so compromises the upkeep of the farm. There’s a day and night cycle and if you move too far away from the farm you’re left to try and navigate back in the dark based solely on memory.
The mailman brings not only letters and books but also goods you can barter for. There are the essentials you’ll need, such as food for yourself and the animals, but also more frivolous items you can purchase out of curiosity. You need to offer up something in exchange though, so the whole process becomes one of careful inventory management.
Her only connection to the outside world is through the letters and books the mailman brings, offering insights into what at first seems pretty normal (her relatives speak of work dramas, local politics and the banality of day-to-day life) but slowly the game chips away at the surface to reveal something stranger.
You essentially have a choice in The Stillness of the Wind to either look after the farm or explore, relax or meander but doing so will see the farm and it’s animals die around you.
The quiet contemplative gameplay won’t be for everyone and the fact you can complete the story in a few hours will turn some people away. Going back and trying again with a greater insight into how the game and the world works is worth doing at least once, but you’ll still find the game is inevitably about the twilight period of Talma’s life and the farm she cares for.
You control Talma by moving an on-screen cursor with the left analogue stick and then clicking where you want her to move. There’s no touchscreen input though so the process of deciding where to go can be as slow as Talma herself. Interacting with objects requires a simple button click and some of the farm management tasks, such as planting seeds, are essentially small button-click minigames. Some things seem to be intentionally unclear (such as what certain items do and what the animals need in order to survive), although I can't figure out if this is through poor design or an intentional representation of the fruitless nature of the work.
The game’s audio and visuals are stunning. The art style shines in screenshots alone, but in motion it really helps create the slightly surreal atmosphere of The Stillness of the Wind. Unfortunately while the UI looks nice, there are some issues with usability. Text and icons can be small and highlighted icons are orange, which can be difficult to see against a primarily orange background.
The Stillness of the Wind is a great exploration of isolation and decline. You could easily read it as a commentary on the inevitable outcome of the damage we are doing to the world around us, but it never feels preachy. It manages to draw you in and care for Talma; you try your best to keep her going and she does the same for the farm. Life may not come at you fast in this case, but it is definitely on the horizon.
N-Europe Final Verdict
The Stillness of the Wind manages to elicit such a strong melancholy while making you feel drawn towards its central character. It is a game that favours narrative over gameplay, but its narrative is utterly compelling.
Great visuals and sound design
Interesting bartering system
UI not always clear
Days pass too quickly