Smalland: Survive the Wilds is a survival game where you’re in control of a character that’s smaller than a grasshopper. It’s a survival game where your goal is to craft weapons, defend yourself against hostile insects, tame others, and explore the world around you. It’s definitely got some Grounded vibes to it, if you ever played that game. Except I’d argue Smalland is a little more fantasy-like in nature, and mechanics-wise, it’s a bit more simplistic. The game is developed and published by Merge Games – the same company behind Dead Cells and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge.

NOTE: this game is currently in early access. Things are subject to change as the game gets updates.

Instead of hunger and thirst being seperate gauges, they’re combined into one. There’s also a stamina bar that, when drained, will prevent your character from sprinting, jumping, or swinging a sword around. Hunger can be satisfied by cutting off mushrooms and consuming the portions that are scattered, or by cooking animal parts at a campfire. Health generally doesn’t recover by itself, unless the character is well-fed; bandages can be crafted at workstations, along with bows, arrows, wooden swords, and other weapons for defending yourself against hostile creatures. Fun fact: your character can’t swim.

Smalland eating a mushroom

I played the game for about an hour-and-a-half and, well, I think I’ve sort of lost my zeal for survival games. At one point I really enjoyed them, but nowadays the constant need to look for supplies, crafting new weapons, cooking food at a campfire, and repeating that whole process when your character dies has become a chore for me. That being said, thankfully a patch went out a few days ago that adds an option to keep items after death.

Overall, the game isn’t that bad. The world the characters are in is pretty interesting, and unlike some other survival games, there’s actually a story. A story where there are other characters you’ll need to interact with, and new objectives to explore on the map. Just do yourself a favor and make sure you are prepared; you won’t get any warning when there’s an ant that seeks to kill you, and you have little to nothing to do to defend yourself, unless you actually have a sword or bow on hand.

Smalland facing a grasshopper

Though by default the game is set in third-person, there’s also a first-person mode if you click the right thumbstick. You can seamlessly switch between modes this way. Only annoying part is when you interact with something in first-person, the camera automatically goes back to third-person when you’re done.

On Deck? A Battery Guzzler

You can play the game on Deck, to a degree. But just know it’s very demanding on the battery at 25 W. Set the framecap to 30 FPS, and don’t even bother making use of the TDP or GPU clock limits. Set the in-game graphics settings to low, enable the game’s FSR feature, and use a lower resolution than the Deck’s native resolution. I personally have FSR set to “Balanced” with Proton 8.0-1, windowed mode set to “Off”, resolution set to 1152 x 720.

Smalland on Deck settings

You might be able to push your luck and go with Medium settings, but your framerate can wildly vary, depending on what’s going on on-screen.

If You Like Survival, It’s Not a Bad Choice

For an early access title, I’d say Smalland has got a lot of things right. The inspiration from Grounded is obviously here, but it does have a few of its own twists. I also like the fact that items can still be retained upon death, and there isn’t anywhere near as much grinding involved as some other survival games to get the necessary weapons/armor/etc.

Just be aware having to constantly switch back to first-person camera after an interaction can be annoying, to be prepared before wandering off too far, and it’s not very well optimized to run on Deck. I may have another look at this game once it leaves early access, to see if performance will be any better, and the story a little more fleshed out.

Smalland versus a nocturnal grasshopper


The good:

  • story mode
  • simplified survival mechanics; less resources to grind, less survival gauges to keep track of

The not-so-good:

  • runs poorly on Deck
  • first-person mode needs to be re-activated every time the character interacts with something in the world
  • there isn’t really a warning if there are hostile creatures ahead of you

Smalland: Survive the Wilds is available on Steam for $25.

Review key provided courtesy of Hooligan PR