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Image credit: Lambic Studios

Finding peace in a hopeless, goat-filled apocalypse

'The Stillness of the Wind' is a gorgeous follow-up to 'Where the Goats Are.'
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The end of the world has never felt so peaceful. The Stillness of the Wind is a meditative and enrapturing experience about the death of the Earth, as told through the simple, daily habits of a lone grandmother on a ramshackle farm. I played through the first 10 minutes of the game in a tiny booth at the center of the Gamescom business hall on a busy public day, and its deliberate gameplay, prescient message and adorable goats instantly made the outside world fade away.

The Stillness of the Wind is the follow-up to Where the Goats Are, a short game from Lambic Studios, which has one employee: independent developer and former painter Coyan Cardenas, who creates games under the alias Memory of God.

Where the Goats Are put Cardenas on the map after its launch in 2017. It was instantly striking from a visual standpoint, with a simple, warm palette and smooth 3D animations. Where the Goats Are features a single scene -- a tiny farmhouse with a square picket fence housing goats, chickens, and Tikvah, the elderly woman who tends to it all. Tikvah is the last person attempting to live on this farmland, and she receives increasingly foreboding and desperate letters from her family in the city, describing the encroaching end of the world. Tikvah stays on her farm, completing her duties, even as everything in it dies.

The Stillness of the Wind takes this idea and expands it into a full game. It's still simple and still emotionally intense, but this time it's centered on Talma, an old woman living alone on a two-room farm (three if you count the goat house). In the beginning, her goats and chickens roam the yard, and she can check on stores of cheese and milk, or plant vegetables in the garden. As in the original game, a traveling merchant stops by with letters from family in the city; the first one is from a granddaughter who's finishing up school and preparing to board a rocket ship that will take her to a new colony, on another planet. She says she admires Talma and marvels at her dedication to farming before saying goodbye. Probably forever.

It's at this moment that the desolation of Talma's surroundings snaps into focus. Telephone poles stretch into the far distance. The ground is dust and the air looks orange-hot. Talma herself is bundled from head-to-toe in thick layers, even covering her face. The wind kicks up dead leaves and flower petals.

The Stillness of the Wind is hypnotizing. Its gameplay is undemanding and open-ended -- Talma can simply draw symbols and patterns in the dirt for a while, or gather some eggs, or trade with the merchant. But behind these simple tasks, The Stillness of the Wind is primed to tell a powerful story with ties to issues such as climate change, space exploration, sustainability and the future of humanity. Still, its most stirring moments will surely spawn from the sense of loss that arrives with each new letter. And then there's the growing hopelessness as food runs out and Talma is forced to choose who to feed, herself or the goats.

The Stillness of the Wind is due to hit PC later in 2018, assuming the planet survives that long.

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