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Smalland: Survive the Wilds Review (PS5) – If FernGully And Honey, I Shrunk The Kids Had A Baby

Smalland: Survive The Wilds Review (PS5) – To be perfectly transparent, Smalland: Survive the Wild is very much not a game I’m drawn to. Survival games have never been something I’m particularly good at, and most crafting games have a level of survival aspect that is needed. Smalland is no different.

That being said, this has been one of the most, if not the most, I’ve ever been able to get into a game like this. From its simple gameplay loop of material gathering and item crafting to its approach to getting you into the action as fast as possible. I’ve truly enjoyed my time with Smalland, even with all of its janky aspects.

Smalland: Survive the Wilds Review (PS5) – If FernGully And Honey, I Shrunk The Kids Had A Baby

A Solid Survival Experience That Does Not Break The Mold

To be transparent, my experience with survival games is quite limited. Except for Don’t Starve, if a game makes me worry about nutrition, it likely will leave me in the dust as it’s never been a mechanic I’ve been able to grasp.

That being said, it never seemed to be a hindrance in Smalland. Finding food became my primary focus most of the time when I saw my nutrition bar drop below half.

Like in most games with these gameplay mechanics, when your nutrition drops, so does your stamina. This, in most cases, leads to death. Smalland combat relies heavily on stamina, similar to a Soulsborn.

Dodging, blocking, and timely attacks are how to survive the many different bugs in the game. While the combat itself isn’t as skill-based as a Soulsborn, it does run off of the same premise and comes down to timing, even though it’s slowed down much more.

As you try to survive the endless hoards of ants, hornets, spiders, and more, your main goal will be to gather materials to craft. If you have played or seen any gameplay of Grounded, then you already know the loop. Explore the world. Survive as long as possible. Build your base.

Building Bases And Relationships

The building is very much like Fortnite or Fallout 4 mixed with resource hunting, similar to Minecraft. The order of progress is such: acquire wood to create a wood hammer. Use a hammer to make a crafting bench. Gather more materials for crafting benches to make a home base with a bed. Whatever you designate as your current bed will be a respawn point. Go and explore to build your base further.

This is the main goal of the game. Survive, explore, take on bigger bugs and animals, and grow your base. From taming small lizards and grasshoppers and making them mounts to taking down hornets and spiders for better gear, the game’s only goal is to grow.

This can all be done solo, which was my experience. Nevertheless, everything I just listed can, and is encouraged, to experience with friends. Unlike other games where you can pop in and out of a friend’s game or vice versa, Smalland is set up like Baulders Gate 3, where if you want to play with friends, you have to commit and build the world together.

You or a friend will need to create a server in which all players live inside. The advantages to this are that the world and characters you create feel tied to that server, giving a sense of obligation to that game.

The negative is that if you join a friend’s game and want to progress. You can only access your base or gear if your friend, or whoever owns the server, is also online. That being said, nothing is stopping you from creating a single-player character to explore this vast world.

An Impressively Looking World With Lackluster Characters

The world of Smallland was more interesting to me than the premise in Grounded. You’re not part of the human world shrunk down trying to survive, but rather a different species entirely, like a Fairy without wings.

Nevertheless, as a character, you are unaware of the world of giants and what happened to them. In many ways, it is similar to Horizon, where you come across something made by giants and are struck with a sense of wonder.

The world itself is quite beautiful. Clovers the size of small trees to actual trees that can be entire cities, all with a realistic art style. It is easy to become lost in the world, metaphorically and physically, with the sense of size.

This is, unfortunately, interrupted when you come across other characters in the world. NPCs and your own character look a few generations behind the world you see around you.

Rocks, grass, and even the water all have a high level of detail for what you would expect a game this size to have. However, as you start a new game and are shown the options you have to create a new character and what they look like, you’re unsure as to what experience you’re getting into.

Luckily, the characters don’t serve much purpose but add bits of lore mixed with how-to about the game. Furthermore, while there is a vast but shallow character creator, you can spend most of your time in the first person to immerse yourself in the world.

There Aren’t Any Real Elephants in Smalland, But There Is a Metaphorical One

I would be remiss not at least to acknowledge the elephant in the room. This game was clearly made as a Grounded clone. From the survival and crafting gameplay to the idea of being a small creature in a Human world.

Smalland feels very much made to fill the void that Grounded has left as an Xbox exclusive for the PlayStation 5. While there are a lot of similarities, more than not, there are two big differences that, while superficial, can sway your interest and enjoyment of the game.

Smalland has a layer of Faye influence compared to the science-y world of Grounded. Rather than binoculars, your character has antennae that allow you to sense crafting items or incoming threats. The overall design of the worlds and characters in Smalland gives a sense of magic over technology.

The other main difference, and honestly the one I found to be the greatest, is that instead of being a human with all of your memories shrunk down, needing to survive, you are a new form of life, existing in a world you knew was once ruled by giants who left their possessions and are now gone.

There is a sense of wonder and mystery that is amplified when you come across items that, as players, we know of but have now been overplayed with a sense of decay or overgrown aspects that make you feel you have unearthed something profound.

The idea alone that you are discovering things you as a character don’t understand or have knowledge of is the same feeling you get as Alloy in Horizon mixed with the scale and aesthetic you get as Quill in Moss.

This sense of scale and awe is honestly the thing that kept me coming back and muscling through gameplay I’m not very good at.

For gamers who already love the survival/crafting gameplay, I’m sure there is more than enough to keep you invested and entertained.

Smalland: Survive the Wilds is out now on PS5

Review code kindly provided by PR.



The Final Word

Even with it being a game that normally doesn't draw me in Smalland manages to activate something other games like it couldn't, getting me to have fun solo in a survival crafting game. Smalland's sense of detail and scale to the world had me always wanting to see what was around the corner. That being said, if you are looking for something that will test your combat skills or is a game that is deeper than just survive and craft, then Smalland might not be something that holds your attention for long. However, if you're looking for a low intensive game that will allow you to turn off the world and explore, then Smalland is a perfect game to get lost in.