“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.” – David Attenborough
Developer: Dreamstorm Studios
Note: This review is based on an alpha version of the game that is incomplete and does not represent the intended finished product.
Natural Instincts is an upcoming nature documentary sim in which players must manage up to six different environments and the wildlife that inhabit them. Players must guide and look after the animals, minimise the effects of natural disasters and manage populations, effectively playing God and controlling nature!
The game is being made by Dreamstorm Studios, a 13 person team, and is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. In its current form, Natural Instincts has a single unfinished European Forest biome, but the team aim to use funds raised to add up to five more including the arctic and the savanna, depending on a set on stretch goals laid out in their campaign.
The alpha build for Natural Instincts is minimal and quite limited but includes a tutorial, basic UI and such tasks as breeding rabbits, directing a wolf to chase and eat said rabbits and helping a boar cross the road! The main experience lasts around 30 minutes but its sandbox nature means it can be played longer. The primary objective is to keep the various creatures alive, they must be fed and hydrated and species populations managed by breeding the animals and feeding carnivorous predators!
As to be expected of a game at this early stage of its development, there are a number of small technical issues such as the lack of graphics settings options, inability to tilt the camera and poor optimisation. The experience as it currently stands is largely unpolished but provides an adequate taster and good indication of what to expect going forward. The studio’s plans for its future progress are also laid out quite clearly on the game’s Kickstarter page.
The overall style seems to be one of realism; the animals are accurately represented and the environment can be quite pretty despite the repeated and unrefined assets that are also to be expected. There is only a minimal amount of music in the game’s alpha build but consists of relaxing melodies that are nicely implemented and compliment the small variety of wildlife sounds that can be heard while playing.
The narration in Natural Instincts gives educational factoids about the different species and their behaviour and has the potential to be very informative. The tone of the voiceover, however, feels aimed at a younger audience than the experience as a whole and can feel slow or even patronising at times. Hopefully, this will be rectified as development progresses but currently, it raises questions about who the game is for.
Overall, Natural Instincts seems to be a refreshing step away from the often industrial or metropolitan themes of management and simulation games. Whilst certainly not representative of the finished title, the alpha build provided a fun preview of something that has the potential to be a beautiful and educational title that may well be worth keeping an eye on for fans of this genre.