App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
User Interface Rating:
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The Stillness of the Wind is a meditative, melancholy farming game. Think Stardew Valley, but quieter, slower, and a bit more depressing. Conceptually, the game aims to move you, but its ambitions feel just out of reach. So, while I find The Stillness of the Wind pretty fascinating, there are many moments where it drags, can be confusing, or feels broken. There's something here, but it isn't exactly pretty.
Old MacDonald Had a Farm
Talma is a farmer, and she's basically the only person from her village that hasn't moved from her humble home into the bustling city. The Stillness of the Wind is all about what it's like to live Talma's lonely lifestyle while occasionally hearing updates from friends and relatives via mail.
Your work on the farm is not a commercial venture. Talma is a subsistence farmer. In a way, this makes The Stillness of the Wind feel like a survival game. You have a limited amount of time each day to accomplish tasks like making goat cheese, gathering eggs, going foraging, and growing crops. Time flies in The Stillness of the Wind though, so you have to prioritize tasks appropriately so you can keep on keeping on.
Although The Stillness of the Wind kind of feels like a survival game, that's not really the draw here. In fact, I'm not sure there is an actual fail state for poorly maintaining your farm. The farming mechanics seem like they're in place as something for you to do between moments when narrative chunks are doled out, whether that be via mail you receive semi-regularly or odd dream sequences on some nights.
The Stillness of the Wind seems more focused on having you experience and roleplay the way Talma should spend her time. At first, it feels really strange and directionless, but I found myself settling into a routine that became oddly satisfying. That is, until the game decided to take a turn.
At a certain point when playing The Stillness of the Wind, things change. Suddenly, you can't rely on your old routines. Things go wrong. You lose time. This is all part of the game's design, and–although the story here isn't terribly explicit–it comes off as an elegant illustration of how little control we have over our own lives. Even the smallest, most self-contained livelihoods can fall apart at a moment's notice.
It's perhaps not the most original or thought-provoking idea, but games (particularly ones of the farming and survival variety) usually have specific mechanics that allow you to always be the master of your own destiny. The way that The Stillness of the Wind subverts this is undeniably powerful and affecting. The only problem is the game doesn't communicate this shift very clearly. I spend large chunks of the game not knowing what to do or what the point of any of it was. Was I supposed to do something specific to advance the story? Could I survive indefinitely? If a day ended quickly, is it because I screwed something up? This, along with a bevy of minor visual and technical bugs left me in almost constant confusion and bewilderment until the game's final moments.
The bottom line
The best illustration of my time with The Stillness of the Wind is how the experience ended for me. I reached the narrative's conclusion which was unexpected and somewhat satisfying (though annoyingly vague), and then the app crashed out to my home screen when I hit the credits. There's a great concept buried in The Stillness of the Wind, but you can only get a good glimpse at it if you can push through a bunch of ambiguity and vagary.