After starting development back in 2017, the survival game Smalland: Survive The Wilds is finally here. Think Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (which admittedly we all wanted to happen to us back in the 80s/90s), but video game style.
With ants, bees, beetles, and more bugs to contend with, Smalland: Survive The Wilds is a challenging survival game where you can craft, build, battle, and play along with friends.
Surviving Smalland’s Elements
One of the most annoying parts of survival games these days is the complete lack of challenge. While many survival games might start moderately difficult, before too long, they often become too easy.
Smalland is refreshingly challenging, within minutes of starting the game, almost every insect you encounter is savagely waiting to rip you apart and make your journey much more difficult.
But, it’s not just creatures that pose a threat in Smalland, the landscape and even the weather can cause issues, making it incredibly hard to survive. The smallest stream or puddle can mean certain death in Smalland, making it essential for players to plan their routes, or even build their way across the water.
If you thought dodging rivers, streams, and puddles was a challenge, even the weather in Smalland is a challenge. With storms periodically forming, players are given a small notice to seek shelter or face the elements.
When the storm approaches, the ground starts to shake, the wind howls and visibility is low. This is where the game really makes you feel small. Throughout the game, I found myself building small shelters all over the map, always planning ahead for the next storm.
While taking shelter from storms will keep you safe, the lower-tier buildings are prone to taking damage from storms, making the start of the game even more brutal.
Once you have progressed through Smalland and have managed to obtain some bark, you can start building wooden buildings, which are able to withstand a storm, keeping you and your building intact.
While Smalland is a particularly difficult survival game, it does offer plenty of tutorials to help you survive. But unlike most survival games, players can choose if they want to engage in the tutorial or not, by simply clicking on the owl effigies as they pass them.
Not only is this good for those that just want to jump straight into the game, without being bombarded by tutorial messages, but it also means that players starting a new game won’t need to endure annoying tutorials each time they start again.
But, with building, taming, crafting and other game mechanics to learn, it’s certainly worth taking the time to read each of the effigies on your first playthrough. Smalland can be a brutal game, so take all the help you can get at the start.
If you’re looking to play with friends, Smalland can be enjoyed with up to 9 other players, 10 including yourself. But at the moment, games are hosted locally, meaning the host must be online for everyone to join. Dedicated servers are listed on the roadmap as a future update, but for now, it’s local only.
Speaking of Smalland with others, one area the game is lacking is any form of group system. As it stands, the developers have listed groups as a future update, but currently, there is no way to form a group.
Having a lack of groups can make the game difficult, as other than using the map, which you can’t run while is open, it can be a little tricky to find other players.
Your friend’s nameplates only seem to show when they are extremely close, and the compass bar at the top doesn’t point to other players. We found in our playthrough, we often died as we couldn’t locate each other quickly enough to offer help.
While many players will compare Smalland to Grounded, one of the key differences that make Smalland a much more interesting game is the ability to tame many of the creatures you see out in the wild.
Just like Ark: Survival Evolved, Smalland is a brutal survival experience that becomes much more manageable with the help of tamed creatures. Not only can your tames help you survive other creatures in the game, but they are also a great way to get around, and can even be used to help you transport goods around the map.
Taming creatures in Smalland involves fighting the creature into submission, and then offering them a treat in order to win their trust.
Smalland is undeniably a beautiful game, set within a stunning lush environment, I often found myself stopping to take in the scenery, which often led to me being swarmed upon by insects taking advantage of my brief pause.
The game manages to capture the feeling of being minuscule in a giant world very well. With a subtle mix of nature and man-made items scattered around the map, there’s certainly a lot to take in.
While Smalland might be a graphically stunning game, it still feels well optimized, with both me and my group never hitting any drops in frames, and stumbling across very few issues, it honestly feels like a lot of time and love has been poured into Smalland.
Nights in Smalland are incredibly dark, making it extremely hard to navigate the dangerous lands. But thankfully you can use your antenna senses to help light the way, as well as highlighting resources in the area.
The stark differences between night and day are another nice touch that helps make the world of Smalland feel more alive. With glowing mushrooms, moths, and other nocturnal creatures roaming around, it’s one of the very few games where I actually wanted to explore the map at night.
The lighting during day and night looks incredible too. With subtle beams of light penetrating the trees during the day, and the feint glow of torches from NPC camps and night, it adds a nice touch of atmosphere that makes Smalland that little more immersive than other games in the genre.
Building in Smalland
If you’re a fan of building in survival games, Smalland is guaranteed to impress you. Much like the system in Valheim, players must first discover items to be able to unlock new building pieces.
Starting with simple fiber building, as soon as you create your first hammer you are able to get started on your building project, but, before long you will need to start upgrading to wooden buildings, and this is where things start to get interesting.
There are tons of different building pieces, from your standard square foundations and walls to curved windows and walls, as well as stylish railings to help decorate your base.
The building system itself is fairly standard and easy to use, however, collecting some of the resources to build higher-tier buildings is where things can start to become difficult. To build in wood, you need to collect bark and to collect bark, you need flint tools.
Many of the higher-tier resources, such as bark and flint are in some of the harder areas. Guarded by lizards, beetles, dragonflies, and even the game’s boss, the rhinoceros beetle, making it extremely hard to farm the resources for your base.
But, while farming these resources might be tricky, it offers a sense of survival and achievement, unlike anything I have witnessed in a survival game for some time, making Smalland an extremely rewarding game.
Players can also claim a great tree, giving them a large area off the ground where they can build. Multiple players are able to work together on building from the same great tree, and players can even move all of their buildings from one great tree to another, with the click of a button.