Isolation is beautiful in sandbox crafting game EarthFall

If you’ve ever wandered across a vast wilderness, you’ll know that for all the mountains in the distance, it’s what’s right in front of you that you need to worry about. Bogs, holes, uneven ground. The scope of your vision narrows to a few steps at a time, and the more exhausted you are from your journey the smaller your world becomes.

Plonked in this procedurally generated wilderness with the vague task of making it through the winter, the player needs to go about crafting buildings and weapons while trying not to be eaten by wolves. As you lose energy, however, the scope of what you can see shrinks, making it increasingly difficult to work out where you came from and where you’re going.

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It’s an isolating experience, which feels somewhat similar to traversing the dark waters of 2015’s exploration/narrative game Sunless Sea. In that game your long journeys through the subsurface ocean were punctuated by landings on strange islands, and it’ll be interesting to see if Just a Pixel leans in a similar direction – with the player stumbling across obscure structures and temples, offering some respite from the seemingly limitless landscape rolling up and down.

Multiplayer is an element of the game, which is an interesting aspect considering the size of the map and how difficult it is to orientate yourself – let alone others. At the Unite Europe 2016 developer conference in Amsterdam, developer Danny Goodayle tells me that you may come across another player’s camp and decide whether or not to rob from them, but I like the idea of searching and never once encountering other people. Knowing there are others out there makes the world less empty, but never finding them makes it a lot more lonely.  

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EarthFall is currently out on early access on itch.io, and Goodayle is developing it with the input of the Twitch community. His next move, however, takes him away from computers altogether. “I’m going to do a 100-mile hike,” he tells me. “I’m actually going to do a hike across the South Downs – go camping and actually work out what it’s like to live like that. I guess I’m doing method development.”

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