You’ve defeated the mighty wizard and saved the world from his sinister grasp. The adventure is over, and it’s time to return home. Only, what’s there to do after you’ve completed your epic quest? Introducing Littlewood, a peaceful RPG that lets you write the remainder of the hero’s journey.
Littlewood exploded onto the indie gaming scene early last year with an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign. Since then, the game has continued to grow, mesmerizing new fans with its cute 2D pixel art, charming atmosphere, and whimsical sense of style. The game was officially released on June 18, 2019, as an Early Access title on Steam, and the team here at HGG just had to check it out.
Update: It’s been just over a year since I reviewed Littlewood in Early Access, and the game has grown leaps and bounds during that time. So much so that Version 1.0 released on August 4, 2020! A huge congratulations to Sean Young for reaching such an incredible milestone. To keep this review relevant, I journeyed back to Littlewood to see what new secrets the world had in store…
- What is Littlewood? It’s a sweet RPG that takes place after you’ve already saved the world. Rebuild your town, make new friends, and level your (non-combat) skills.
- Reviewed on: PC
- Price: $14.99
- Developer: Sean Young
- Release Date: August 4, 2020
- Website: @SeanYoungSG
Welcome Home, Adventurer
You’ve just returned from your harrowing adventure, where you fought the evil wizard and saved the world. With balance restored to the Land of Solemn, you find your way to the town of Littlewood, a small enclave that’s home to a couple of your closest friends. And here, the game begins.
As soon as you arrive in town, you’re greeted by your best friend Willow and the boyish archetype Dalton. They provide an introduction to the world’s lore and help you learn more about your character’s background. They also vote to make you Mayor of Littlewood.
It’s a lot of responsibility, but that’s the job. Your first task as mayor? Now that Solemn is safe, people are returning in search of a new home. And it’s your job to welcome them to your up-and-coming town.
It Takes a Village
Within just a few days, new townsfolk begin migrating to your quaint village. These characters include a perky scientist, an overly sensitive witch-in-training, and a gruff bird-man who always seems to have ruffled feathers. And just like real life, some you’ll enjoy more than others.
But they all offer a unique skillset or trade that benefits and grows the town. And it’s probably worth putting up with Busby’s arrogant attitude to gain access to his knowledgeable skillset. Heck, you may even grow to love him and his occasionally endearing superiority complex.
Interacting with townsfolk is easy. You can strike up a conversation, hang out for the day, and perform favors for them. In addition, there’s a rating system that ranks your closeness with each villager. Complementing them increases this rating, and once you hit level 50, you can even go on dates!
I was worried that the complementing system would feel shallow, but you only get to use it once per day. This actually makes it a genuine way to show affection towards your favorite townsfolk. Another way to show you care? As the mayor, you’re tasked with building and furnishing the townsfolk’s houses. Decorate the interior to suit their unique personalities and watch them perk right up!
Built to Order
If you’re a fan of sandbox titles, Littlewood is sure to delight. That’s because players are given complete control over the layout of their towns.
Build your town hall smack dab in the center of the map, or tuck your village deep into the corner of the lot. Then, design towering mountains, craterous lakes, and grassy farmsteads all around your encampment. You’re the mayor, and the town’s design is up to you!
The building mechanics are a lot of fun, and I poured hours into constructing my dream town.
That said, there was one area where Littlewood let me down in Early Access. After spending over an hour developing my town, I ran out of ground tiles! This forced me to abandon my grand plan and shove all the villagers into a corner of the map. A huge bummer.
However, I’m happy to report that this issue has been cleared up for the official release! And implemented brilliantly, I do say. Ground and grassy tiles now function like other harvestable resources, meaning you can collect more to your heart’s content.
Where do you find these new resources? Out in the wild, of course! Once you reach a particular milestone in the campaign, you unlock one of the game’s coolest structures. Namely, a hot air balloon platform that lets you travel to other areas across the continent of Solemn! On my first trip away from town, I visited The Endless Forests, an enchanted grove that conjures up memories of a lost wood, an owl, and a silly song on the ocarina.
And that’s just one of six exotic locations you can visit! You’ll also want to check out the Dust Cavern for unique variations of stone, and Deluca Port to test your fortune in various mini-games.
Tools of the Trade
There are several different hobbies to engage in within Littlewood. These include mining, farming, crafting, and several others. All that’s required to participate in a skill is the appropriate harvesting tool, beit a fishing rod, bug-catching net, or woodcutting axe. Fortunately, you gain access to all of these pretty early into the game. And they’re super easy to use.
That’s because one button controls every harvesting tool. You simply approach a resource, click spacebar, and your character takes the appropriate action. It makes gameplay more intuitive and much smoother than similar titles that rely on clunkier interfaces (*ahem* Stardew Valley).
An example of skilling in action? Littlewood boasts dozens of different crops to grow and delicious veggies to harvest. To get started, all you have to do is till the soil in building mode, then drop a seed into the ground. When it’s time to harvest, just walk right up to the crop and voila! Easy as can be. That said, you may have to wait a while for your crops to mature. Be sure to check on them daily to enjoy the fruits of your labor.
Speaking of which, you’ll want to hold onto the fruits and veggies that you collect. That’s because Littlewood’s entire ecosystem is interconnected, and all skills rely on one another. Let me give you an example.
Let’s say you want to increase your cooking level. No problem! Just head over to the town tavern and start cooking. But what happens when you run out of ingredients? Well, you have to level up your farming and harvesting abilities to get more. Once you’ve gathered fresh ingredients, head back to the tavern to cook new recipes and gain additional experience. It’s a continuous cycle that keeps the game fresh and exciting (it also keeps the tavern stocked full of delicious treats).
And that’s just a taste of the symbiotic relationship between skills. The system is incredibly intricate, yet very well-balanced, and it genuinely resembles a real-world economy. Huge kudos to developer Sean Young for pulling off such an amazing feat.
Still, with so much going on, things can become a bit overwhelming at times. When that happens, you may need to take a day off to recharge and recuperate. Consider using this time to add new items to the museum. Or, check out some of the other cool activities that Littlewood has to offer.
For instance? The game’s calendar is split into four seasons, and each season has its own set of special events and activities. These little events offer a welcome escape from the daily grind while sprinkling in more fun and magical moments. My favorite event? The Chicken Chase, which requires you to round up a bunch of loose hens. You only need guess at the mayhem that ensues.
Under a Spell
Throughout my time in Littlewood (nearly 30 hours so far), I was continuously blown away by the thought and detail poured into each part of the journey. Everything felt incredibly balanced and deliberate. That even goes for all the new content added to the game during its one-year stint in Early Access.
The best part? Even though I’m 30 hours in, there’s still content that I’ve yet to unlock!
Littlewood is a welcome escape from the daily grind, one that you can revisit again and again. Take it slow and grind out some levels, catch up with your friends in town, or go on some hot air balloon adventures. There’s an activity for every mood, and the rewards are always worth it.
Littlewood costs $14.99 on Steam, and that’s definitely a fair price. It’s also coming to Nintendo Switch at some point down the line, where I can see it becoming a cultural hit akin to games like Stardew Valley or even Undertale. Littlewood’s charming graphics and delightful gameplay loop would fit beautifully within Nintendo’s ecosystem.
There’s no doubt about it: if you’re looking for a playful romp, Littlewood is the way to go. It’s full of magic, intrigue, and oodles of charm, like a blend of Runescape, Stardew Valley, and Animal Crossing. And then there’s something else, something I can’t quite identify — a unique ingredient that you’ll only understand after delving into the world of Littlewood and experiencing it for yourself.
High Ground View
While Littlewood is marketed in the RPG category, it leans heavily towards the simulation side of things. That’s because it lacks many of the elements that characterize typical role-playing games. Namely, combat, abilities, and progressive world lore.
Littlewood calls itself a peaceful RPG, and it certainly lives up to that name. The way it incorporates a complex and expertly balanced skill system is mind-boggling, and there’s a respectable amount of fantasy-inspired storyline, considering the style of gameplay.
That said, it’s hard not to feel a bit teased by the big entrance at the south end of the town map. It’s wide open and just begging you to leave the safety of your little hovel and journey into a world of combat and action. But you won’t get that. And while I was initially bummed about the lack of combat, I’ve come to prefer it. I play Littlewood for relaxation and rejuvenation, not for a dose of adrenaline. There are plenty of games designed for high stakes and volatility — but there’s nothing quite like Littlewood.
Not to say there are never moments of action! One of the updates that arrived during Early Access was the Tarott Monster card system. It’s essentially a little DTCG within Littlewood! Collect cards, build a deck, and duel against your friends. Heck, if you think about it, building a deck that can defeat Maximilian’s is a battle worthy of any archetypal RPG.
But that brings us to the next point. Where Littlewood really shines is in its simulation elements. From interacting with townsfolk, to farming crops, to designing the layout of the map, there is no shortage of activities. Moreover, the different systems in place offer tons of excitement and creative options.
For instance, players can chat, hang out, complement, and even date their fellow townsfolk! As mayor of the town, you’re also responsible for setting them up in an appropriate location, as well as building and decorating their homes. You must curry favor with each person, and the humorous dialogue and silly experiences that ensue are a reward in and of themselves.
One caveat worth mentioning? Given how many activities there are to do, things can become a bit overwhelming… if you let them. Since the systems at play are so complex, you’ll have goals within goals within goals.
Not to mention, a big part of the game revolves around leveling up, regardless of how you prefer to play. So do you build your town with aesthetics in mind, and spend hours perfecting it? Or do you build it with efficiency in mind, with all your resources and harvestable materials in one area?
Finding the balance can be tricky, and analysis paralysis can be real in Littlewood. That said, better to have too much to do than not enough, right?
I think so. And while I found myself feeling little flashes of existential dread by all the potential options at my disposal, it was easy to vanquish. You’ve just gotta focus on one task and set your entire mind to it, like a zen meditation. And heck, if you want to rebuild your town later on, who cares? That’s half the fun, anyway.
As a whole, Littlewood is one of the most charming games on the market. It features the cutest pixel art graphics, characters, and overall atmosphere. The cheerful soundtrack never got boring, even after nearly 30 hours of gameplay. And the thought and detail threaded into every element of the game are seriously unreal for an indie with only one developer.
Entering the world of Solemn and assuming your role as Mayor of Littlewood is an exciting journey. The graphics, sound effects, and mechanics all come together to weave a story that immerses you in the game world. It quickly becomes a second home, a place that you never want to leave.
The good news? You don’t have to!
That’s because Littlewood is a game you can come back to time and time again. Whether it’s for a quick check-in or a few new quests, you can expect your tiny village and old pals patiently awaiting your return. Adventure beckons in Littlewood.
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Zoom Out: Verdict
RPG Elements - 8/10
Simulation Elements - 9/10
Art Elements - 10/10
A fun, relaxing and easy-to-play RPG and simulation game with plenty of cute characters. It’s a playful romp that’s certain to evoke memories of your favorite titles, in a way that’s totally fresh and engaging.
- Endless replayability
- Fun & relaxing simulation/role-playing game
- Charming art elements w/ cute pixel graphics & playful tunes
- Moments of needless grinding
- Lack of traditional RPG elements
- The various goals don’t always flow with one another