Smalland: Survive the Wilds review

by on February 29, 2024
Release Date

February 15, 2024


In January, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Smalland: Survive the Wilds on PlayStation 5. I came away from my time with it optimistic for the full console release (also coming out of Early Access on PC). After seeing how it worked, I was excited to forge my own way in the world and play how I wanted to play, whether making my way through the story, crafting fancy armour and weapons and take on the multiple dangers across the various biomes, or simply exist amongst nature and build a fancy settlement. After spending a lot of time with it, I can safely say there’s a lot to love about it.

But wait, isn’t this just Grounded? Isn’t this just a similar type of game that lacks its own identity? Look, I get where you’re coming from, but Smalland is far superior. Is Battlefield basically Call of Duty because it’s a military FPS? My point being, it may look alike, but the depth of crafting and world-building is vast in Smalland that it stands out on its own, providing a dense survival experience that allows you to exist in its world and play however you want. I’m one of those players that likes to explore without restrictions, and rarely do you feel held back when wandering around the exciting world you find yourself in.

A lot of survival games can be too punishing for their own good, but there’re a lot of aids in Smalland for every type of player. You can play at a high difficulty with little to no support, but there are options like choosing to turn off hostile enemies unless provoked, and when you die you don’t lose your supplies as opposed to having to trek across the map to recover them upon death. Merge wants you to have fun with Smalland, catering for both those people that love a challenge and those that want a more chilled out time. I sit somewhere between, and there were enough options for me to find the sweet spot.

Materials are scattered across the world and are easily findable thanks to your antennas that can scan areas to highlight anything that can be collected. Not only do they scan for resources, they also show you any nearby critters. Some might leave you alone like the ladybugs, but cross a path of hornets and you’ll be running for your life. Making sure you’re properly equipped in those situations is vital, as they can kill you after a few swings of its poisoned tail. Craft new armour and stronger weapons, and you’ll fare much better than the first time, but knowing how might frustrate some players.

Guidance is littered across the world through effigies of owls that relate tidbits of information, and interacting with NPCs can give further instructions. My only advice is to explore everywhere and pick up everything. There’s no limit to what you can carry, and if you don’t want to lose everything upon death, turn off the option. By picking up resources everywhere, you’ll likely have what you need when it comes to crafting something. After getting crafting a building hammer, you can then start to build a home, or a crafting table that feature various things that make your journey much easier.

There are so many systems within Smalland, but the rate at which you unlock them comes at a steady pace. Simple resources that start you off can be found on the ground like fibre and wood, but when you start to fight creatures and harvest their corpses for higher quality materials, you’ll soon see the high level of crafting that is involved. Stronger settlements and better bait, improved weapons and a wider range of furniture and appendages all become available, and you’ll be left impressed with just how vast the creative side of the game is. When you’re fighting bosses and taking on enemy soldiers with your impressive weaponry and armour, you’ll have that moment to reflect on just how big this game is.

It’s also big in its verticality, and when you find a Great Tree, you can climb up it through various fungi sticking out its trunk. Once you finally reach the top you can claim it as your own and build your own settlements on it. Once claimed, you can then take it into different servers for when playing with others so you always have a base of operations for your created character. Each Great Tree comes with its own butler as well (I called mine Roger FYI), who can ferry your up and down the huge trunk like a forest-dwelling Charon.

The more you explore, craft, build and fight, the higher your level becomes, allowing you to improve the base stats of your character. Pair that with the stronger weapons and tougher armour and you’ll soon start to feel equipped to trek further across the vast biomes. It takes a lot of time until you feel like you’re strong enough, but that nervous exploration is what I fell in love with. Deciding whether to go out into the dark in order to reach my objective or camp until morning was a decision I had to make quite often. It’s more dangerous when the land falls into darkness, and therefore tougher enemies will present themselves.

You’ll also have to content with managing your hunger and thirst, and when a storm warning pops up, you better be ready to find shelter. All of these elements are against you, but with the right tools and equipment at your disposal, it does get easier. Smalland: Survive the Wilds is a survival game in the most purest sense, and if you’re willing to spend time with it and be patient, there’s so much to soak in and do. It can be overwhelming at first, but just wait until you’ve got your first ladybug mount or your first pair of wings. The fun you’ll have ramps up considerably, but so do the challenges you’ll face. It’s a shame there’s no fast travel system at present, but once you get on the back of a bird and soar across the map, it becomes a lot easier.

The story of Smalland: Survive the Wilds is engaging, and while not as visually impressive as other games, there’s plenty of lore scattered around, and by talking to the different factions and NPCs, you’ll start to learn more about your kind. The way it presents its story feels much like the Souls games, whereby you’ll have to search it out rather than it being delivered on a silver platter, which is something I liked about it. I’m not going to pretend I’ve played the entirety of it either because it’s such a huge game, but I’m certainly a fan of the tale that is being told and the different characters you’ll meet along your way.

The combat is one of those things that can become a touch repetitive in the early hours, but it has a simple enough structure that allows you to block creature’s attack as long as you read their patterns. If you get a perfect block, it’ll stagger them for a short window and allow you to inflict some damage without a comeback. You’ll end up unlocking ranged weapons like bows and guns, too, and this helps to expand the combat systems to make them more enjoyable in the long run. When you’re facing off against giant snakes and spiders, that’s when it is at its most enjoyable.

Smalland: Survive the Wilds might not look like a AAA game, and some of the textures can be a little rough, but it’s impressive in both its scale and density, especially knowing it has come from a smaller studio. It’s also worth noting that I didn’t encounter a single bug while playing (apart from the organic kind). If you’re willing to give it your time, Smalland is a title that is filled with charm and character, a superb crafting suite, and intriguing lore that always managed to intrigue me and make me want to delve deeper into the vastness of its world. With plenty of options for those wanting to tweak the difficulty in a multitude of ways, there’s a slider for everything, and it feels like one of the best survival games on the market right now.


Impressive crafting system
Dense and fascinating world
Plenty of difficulty options


Some visuals are a little rough
Combat is repetitive in the early hours
No fast travel

Editor Rating
Our Score


In Short

Smalland: Survive the Wilds is an impressive survival game with a lot of heart, and a crafting system that is filled with options.