With vibrant colours and cute little animals, As Far As the Eye seems like it should be a stress-free experience. In some ways it is; there’s no violence, no weapons, just nomadic little tribes trying to travel somewhere safe. There’s magic and ancient ruins, and a big ox like creature to carry your stuff on. In settlements you need to pick fruit and collect wood. But as idyllic as it sounds, As Far As the Eye is a far more engaging, brain-racking experience than it first appears, that requires some tough decision making between what you need to do, and what you can do.
As Far As The Eye is a turn-based strategy management game from Unexpected, set in a world populated by shapeshifting creatures called ‘pupils’. Every cycle, a wave crashes over the land and so tribes of pupils take refuge at a place called The Eye, a safe haven where they can wait out the floods. You play as the wind, guiding them through a series of areas called ‘halts’, helping them collect and manage their resources to ensure safe passage. It’s a game where its addictiveness outweighs its frustrating moments, where failure to deliver your tribe at The Eye makes you want to try again, throwing away the parts of your plan that didn’t work in favor of new tactics.
The game take place over a series of halts leading up to The Eye. To pass through each halt, there will be a goal to meet. It might be a certain amount of resources, a pupil leveling up, knowledge points, or any combination thereof. Then, you spend the turns you have in that halt collecting and refining what you need so that you can leave. Your pupils will level up depending on what jobs you give them, meaning they’ll end up specialized for a particular task like building or gathering. Each job also requires them to shapeshift into a different animal to represent what they’re doing, and every single form is adorable. It also makes it hard not to get attached to your tribe, as you begin to see them as individuals as much as you do a unit.
To start off with, it may seem a good idea to simply harvest as much as you can at each halt, but there are a couple of things that make this a bad idea. Firstly, you can only take a limited amount of resources with you on your caravan. At the end of each halt, you have to load your resources to travel and if you run out of room, you’ll have to leave things behind. Secondly, depleting resources can lead to negative outcomes further down the line. There is an element of randomness to the game that causes different events called vagaries. These might use up resources, ruin buildings, or make your tribe sick. Depleting an entire hex of resources in a halt leads to an increase in these events occurring. Seeing as these can completely ruin your game plan, it’s a good idea to avoid making the game harder for yourself. These two mechanics in tandem mean that you have to think carefully and efficiently about what you really need.
However, rather than being an annoying aspect of the game, it’s really what the game is about; understanding, knowledge, and efficiency. Even though there is a lot to keep your eye on and it is easy to get distracted by something going wrong, what the game is asking of you is to keep learning. Each go you have, you’ll figure something out that will push you further along next time. It means that getting it wrong doesn’t feel like a bad thing, instead making you eager to try again. Once you get a good grasp of the mechanics and how they interact with each other, you’ll find yourself having an easier time.
That being said, occasionally the game does feel like it’s working harder against you than necessary. Sometimes, the goals set for resources are so high you don’t have much choice but to decimate the halt knowing what the outcome will be later on. Then the random events pile up, resources are gone, turns are wasted trying to heal your tribe, and then all too often, you find yourself realising you forgot about food. Rations are the one resource that get used up every single turn, so not only do you have to make sure they have enough for their journey, you have to make sure they have enough for their time at the halt. If food supplies get too low, the tribe will take damage from being hungry. If you’re not set up to immediately restart food production, you’re pretty much screwed. It was a trap I fell into more often than I care to admit, despite knowing the game wanted me to learn from my mistakes.
Overall however, this is a wonderful little strategy game. Initially it can trick you into thinking it will be a relaxing, cutesy experience where you don’t really have to think too hard, but it’s the opposite. This is one to take your time with, to learn all the ins and outs, and to accept your losses not as failing at the game, but rather as learning opportunities. As Far As The Eye quickly becomes an addictive experience, helped hugely by its lovely aesthetics and world building. So as the next cycle begins, become the wind and get ready to lead your tribe to safety, those little guys are counting on you!
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