VR Gaming

Published on May 22nd, 2024 | by Nay Clark

Smalland: Survive the Wilds VR Review (Quest)

Smalland: Survive the Wilds VR Review (Quest) Nay Clark

Summary: A VR survival game that tries its best to craft something special, but ultimately gets caught in its own web.


Bug Land

Smalland: Survive the Wilds VR is an action adventure role playing survival game developed and published by Merge Games Ltd. and released on May 2nd of 2024. Smalland: Survive the Wilds VR supports Meta Quest 3, Meta Quest Pro, and Meta Quest 2 and sees you marching off onto miniature escapades into the mysterious world. This game is based off of the open-world survival game Smalland: Survive the Wilds released on March 29th of 2023 and acts as a standalone adventure in that world. Smalland: Survive the Wilds gained some traction and was praised for having a lot of heart and a great sense of adventure. The VR space seems like the perfect direction to steer a game like this toward to show off the allure and grandeur of the epic story, fantasy-styled art design, and tactical gameplay, especially from this particular creative perspective. Unfortunately, even though we are playing on a small scale, Smalland: Survive the Wilds VR has some big problems.

In Smalland, you play as a Smallfolk, a microscopic humanoid that scurries among the skittering ladybugs and leaping grasshoppers. With the disappearance of the Giants, the Smallfolk are free to roam the Overlands and revel in the pleasures the world can provide. While materials and sustenance are abundant, surviving in the wilderness proves to be challenging. You will need to fend off against the edacious appetite of spiders, sprightly lizards, and crossed dragonflies while journeying through treacherous woodland, across golden shores, and into dank caverns. As a Vanguard, it is your duty to venture beyond the unknown to make way for your denizens glory and expansion.

The story quickly fades into the background and you’ll probably forget your purpose for undertaking the role of Vanguard as you will be focused on chopping down flowers and whacking rocks. Although the story is practically nonexistent, the worlds are packed full of different things to see. There are different things to do in each level from different materials to find, enemies to fight, and side quests to tackle. After completing a certain amount of objectives and completing main quests, you will unlock the next level in which you can travel to via hot air balloon.

As a survival game, the main goal is to survive. Sustain your energy by munching on food that you find or create from an assortment of bug and plant parts, stay warm near campfires if you get too cold, and shield yourself from enemy attacks so you don’t lose any health. You move at a brisk pace, but you can also use the teleport ability that a lot of VR games have to scoot around the levels at warp speeds. Looking down will reveal slots that you can use to have quick access to useful equipment like a sword or a pickaxe. Picking up objects and pushing them toward the inventory icon between the slots will put that item in your inventory. 

Gameplay consists of running through these levels, collecting items to fill up your inventory, going back to home base and creating better items at a workbench to use to find even more items to create even better equipment. Your home base is a small hub where you can build your own house, keep extra items in chests, and make food to eat for yourself or for some of the creatures to tame and keep at your stable. The combat is very simple yet effective and doesn’t require any extra forethought. Grabbing a sword and aimlessly waving it around a bug usually does the trick, but sometimes grabbing a bow and some arrows is more effective against flying bugs that dart around your field of view. Smalland: Survive the Wilds VR is a very easy game to start playing and finding success with how simple the game is and the sense of discovery feels genuine and sincere, but, design wise, the game needs to be refined immensely.

After launching the game for the first time and playing for a little bit, you will immediately notice that something feels off with the game manifesting a sharp sense of abnormality. This stems from the game’s audio design. Your character doesn’t make any sounds. There are no footsteps, grunts, or anything. There are barely any ambient sounds to reel you into the environments and what sounds there are are mediocre crunching leaves and cricket chirping noises. There is some gentle tempoed music while you are exploring and the beat picks up while you are in combat, but the absence of everything else exhibits poor quality and brings much needed attention to the big factors that encapsulates the value of playing something in VR in the first place.

The affinity to be engulfed in this capacity comes instinctively due to the nature of simply being small in a big world. Movies like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, FernGully, Epic, A Bug’s Life, and even The Indian in the Cupboard, Toy Soldiers, and Toy Story, relay this larger than life and imposing infatuation of seeing the world that you are used to through the lens of a new perspective providing a better understanding and appreciation in the life we live. Smalland should be the perfect repository to express these ideas, but not providing specific audio cues that don’t provide tangible qualities to anything in the world, really diminishes your experience in this VR landscape.

Graphically, the game looks crude and not impressive. Textures don’t load in fully, some objects emit a static-like seizure inducing flare, and the wicker threads of the hot air balloon basket are incredibly dated. Enemies in the distance move at half their normal frame rate and some loose free flowing environmental things like grass and leaves glitch out from time to time and flail wildly. The world you inhabit is also rashly empty. There are large areas with nothing really in them and the insufficient audio and soundtrack only exemplifies the emptiness even more. Your character’s hands are strangely blindingly white and almost shine unrealistically. While the game runs well and has a consistent enjoyable art style, it is dispiriting to turn a corner and run into another bug that you can’t get rid of by merely swinging your sword.

There are a plethora of smaller strange decisions made here in Smallands: Survive the Wilds VR that I found to be contrived and ignorant that really add up and ruin my overall experience with the game. Grabbing the commodities and putting them in your inventory is cumbersome. It takes multiple attempts to actually grab them off the ground. The icon that appears when they are highlighted is jittery and sometimes placing them on your inventory icon doesn’t work and they drop to the ground where you have to fight for your life to pick them up again. The process of using your items is also borked. Chopping down mushrooms, mining rocks, and attacking enemies are not stimulating at all due to the sensitive controls. Your tools go through objects with no response and pulling them back out will activate the tactile action that was supposed to happen on the initial hit. These negative reactions of the fundamental gameplay components put a hamper on the games creativity and the second to second gameplay loop.

The game is unintentionally confusing. At the beginning of the game, you are tasked to head to an arena to fight off some ants. After finding the spot you are supposed to be in, you then need to talk to someone else who gives you a sword and a shield. You then have to stand there and wait for the bugs to come, but you can very easily just skip over any of these steps since it is not super clear. Later, you are tasked to talk to the balloon guy to take you to your home base. After reaching the home base, you see someone standing in front of you and behind that person is a new interesting area to explore. Instead of walking forward, you are supposed to turn around and talk to the balloon guy again for no reason before you continue into the area.

In the first level, after completing a task for someone, they give you the recipe to create a pickaxe. You are then tasked to enter the mine to find someone who hasn’t come back in awhile. Running past a rock in the mine automatically brings up the tutorial on how to use the pickaxe, but you don’t have a pickaxe at this time. Eventually, you’ll run into a giant boulder blocking a path in the mine and the task to find the missing person will update even though the NPC is nowhere in sight. Turns out, the person you are tasked to find is BEHIND the boulder, but there is no way you would know that and I actually ran past them when I played. Bizarre timed triggers and prompts like these continue throughout the game.

There is no voice acting, nothing interactable besides the materials you have to get and enemies you have to fight, and even though you can respond to quest givers, there’s only ever one option to really say to continue. There is no map or waypoint system implemented and there are no consequences if you fail. Falling to an enemy just sends you back to the beginning of the level with nothing lost. I also encountered two game breaking bugs where I had to start the entire game over both times. Mining barely worked at first and at one point, I glitched into a rock and it force respawned me back at the beginning of the level and my pickaxe never worked at all after that. At one point, I had to find an area to go to to complete a level and the game just never continued after finding it. After restarting and working my way back up to that point of the game again, it decided to work that time.

Final Thoughts?

Smallands: Survive the Wilds VR is an engrossing concept and has some cool ideas. It is an unchallenging and mitigated survival game that might make for a good first experience for someone that may be interested in survival games. The accidental broken function of tools can make combat a breeze and because failing doesn’t matter, the easygoing nature of the game can be intriguing to the faint of heart. Other than that, the lifeless state of the levels, annoying and buggy gameplay, nonexistent ambience, and baffling instructions and quests make this VR game superficial and boring. Smallands: Survive the Wilds VR doesn’t merge well in this cyberspace. Even the core mechanics don’t seem to be as layered as other types of survival games. It is not immersive and practically lifeless by demonstrating a bare bones VR experience that hardly even functions. Smallands: Survive the Wilds VR has a lot of kinks to work out to reach the momentous heights of the Giants it strives to surpass.

About the Author

Gaming holds a special place in my heart and I never stop talking about video games. I really love all types of games and have an interest in games that have complicated stories and lore because I enjoy untangling the mystery of it all. When I'm not gaming, I unsuccessfully try to control three amazing and incredibly bright kids.

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