Developer: Team Woodsalt
Hard as it is to imagine looking back over 2020, things can always get worse. This is proven by Woodsalt, . For these individuals Earth encountered a tragedy that made it uninhabitable. Working together, crazy idea I know, the inhabitants of Earth create and orchestrate a plan to leave via carrier transports until the threat can be resolved. For one group the plan did not work out and they are now stranded on an alien planet. Dubbed Nu-Terra, this biodome allows for humankind to continue with some sense of normalcy. Unfortunately, things aren’t always as they seem.
Woodsalt, to borrow from the official website, is “a 90s classic JRPG”. Developed by a team that shares the games name, this game is being released on PC and Nintendo Switch. Part psychological thriller, part sci fi mystery with a dash of social commentary thrown that had me wondering what was really going on.
Emerging after being in stasis for over 1000 years my character Emcy is in for quite the rude awakening. Fortunately one of the first faces Emcy sees is his “big” sister Gi. Shocked to see his younger sister aged while he remains youthful in appearance, this is but the first of unsettling discoveries for Emcy.
Woodsalt gave me Emcy’s look at the possibilities and problems that await mankind as it carves out a new society. Early on I learned through conversations the portions of Earth that preserved and what perished in the exodus. For anyone worried, the net survives. It is even more accessible, practically all information of our past being public accessible. Homelessness seems to be a thing of the past with society ensuring everyone has a home. There also seems to be less socio-economic disparities. One government, no crime. Seems like a perfect society, right? If you believe that you’re living in a bubble similar to the inhabitants of Nu-Terra.
Simplicity is not only the nature of the society of Nu-Terra, it is the nature of the game. Controlling Emcy and navigating the game is quite easy. A message from the developer when selecting control instructions from the menu proves this.
“If you’re looking at this screen then you already know all this, but whatever”.
Woodsalt is about discovery through dialogue. Emcy’s story is equal parts discovering about Nu-Terra and it’s inhabitants and discovering what is wrong with him. You move around the various areas via foot or you can take the monorail. You can listen to conversations of strangers. Other characters engage Emcy and your choices in how you deal with each encounter, how you respond changes the story. Simple.
Woodsalt doesn’t distract from it’s story with battles or challenges. The only objective outside the “main” story is a attempting to locate a few cats that wander around Nu-Terra. They’re just sitting there so you don’t chase them and they are not hidden really. See simple game?
Nothings that simple. Notice how I said “main” story. Woodsalt presents it’s characters with the concept that everyone is both part of the main story and their own. Emcy’s choices affect what eventually happens to society as a whole. Words have consequences so choose them wisely. Saying the wrong thing may cause a scientist to make a costly decision or alter a relationship irrevocably. It’s hard to tell which choice to make as they all seem so harmless yet as I played longer I began to suspect that was merely a matter of perspective.
Not to completely eliminate threats, the game indicates something isn’t quite right. At times during my interactions with other NPC’s the screen would suddenly distort or glitch and suddenly an unseen individual would be speaking to Emcy. Other times I would return to rest, exhausted after interacting with Gi or some other character. No sooner had Emcy’s head hit the pillow did feverish nightmares fill my screen. Creepy tunes would replace the serene sounds of Nu-Terra. These moments heightened my feeling that I needed to choose what I did wisely as I continued to sense something was not quite right in the world.
Very few games are perfect. Thankfully the problem I encountered was solved by the games simplicity. I noticed a few times my game would freeze or hang. Thankfully this only occurred during the load screen which is proceeded by a save. If I had to restart I was right back where I left off, nothing lost and no event to do over before I could proceed.
I enjoyed the balance between serious, scary and silly. I can’t recall many times in video games where I got a philosophical ideology and the next minute fraternity humor. Then unexpectedly the something would happen and frightening images would flood my screen, only to return to normal in an instance.
Woodsalt is an engaging game. It is a complex creation presented in an uncomplicated format. Diverging plots and stories make playthrough more than an exercise in passing or failing a mission. Very few games give you the opportunity to do so many things differently and still “finish” the game.
Despite using it often during this review this game is not simple. Each character you speak to has their own story. I am looking forward to seeing how I can alter my choices to open up additional stories. An example of this is the fact that although screenshots and in game conversations confirm I would get the opportunity, I didn’t make it outside the dome to ride in a buggy.
Woodsalt proves life isn’t simple.