“Let us choose for ourselves our path in life, and let us try to strew that path with flowers.” – Emilie du Chatelet
LuanaGames was founded in 2015, when 3 friends – Ben, Anouk & Fran6co – decided to make a card game about remarkable female scientists that often did not receive the recognition they deserved. A successful crowdfunding campaign meant that 3000 decks of Women in Science were distributed all over the world. A free PDF print & play edition was also created and is regularly used in schools, museums and events.
In 2018, Ben decided to create a video game that would promote gender equality, diversity and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). The game would feature many of the women present in the card game, but also a few men and would be inclusive from the start. WoMen in Science is the result and launched into early access in 2020 with the full version releasing on 15th August 2020. The game allows players to join a community of talented scientists, automate tasks and program robots amongst other things as they build and customise their own farm, striving to maintain both the environment and productivity.
Developer: Luana Games
Released: 16th March 2022 (early access)
Available on: Steam
This game is being reviewed as part of the Indie Game Collective (IGC) showcase.
WoMen in Science has an open-world, sandbox style of gameplay with the occasional quest and optional mini-games such as a weekly science quiz thrown in. It is primarily a farming sim and provides a lot of opportunities to expand and build as well as make use of science and technology to automate processes and increase productivity. The game is pretty straightforward for the most part but the lack of instruction or tutorial means that it can get a bit confusing at times. Following a delightful character creation screen, players start with basic tools and a quest to plant and grow carrots!
The player has a finite amount of energy each day and doing certain things such as chopping wood will drain this fairly quickly. Eating or going to sleep will replenish energy though the latter will progress the game to the following day. Staying up past 10 will also deplete energy pretty rapidly and being caught outside after this time can be quite stressful if the player is far from their homestead. The days pass at a reasonable pace and some efficiency is required throughout the day in order to get things done.
Seeds, animals and everything needed to farm them can be bought from Temple’s Farm, Albert’s Shop or a market that is open Tuesdays and Thursdays. More items and crafting recipes can be unlocked by learning new skills bought with three different types of points earnt throughout the gameplay from things such as harvesting crops and completing quests. There are Three skill trees in which to advance: Agronomy, Food Chemistry, and Algorithms and Electronics. The first pertains mostly to farming and growing crops, the second to cooking and the third to technology.
There is a lot to do and explore in WoMen in Science. After building a farm and keeping on top of food production for yourself and any animals, players can advance to utilising science and technology to improve efficiency. In addition, there are plenty of interesting characters to meet and interactions to have and places to explore. It is the sort of game players could easily sink a lot of hours into without getting bored.
The game has a loose story, centred around farming, science and technology. The narrative elements mostly follow the progress of the player’s build and their interactions with the eclectic range of over 20 NPCs inspired by real-life scientists from Grace Hopper to Marie Curie, all with distinct characteristics and personalities.
Inclusivity is at the forefront of this title, as demonstrated by the diverse range of characters. However, some of the attempts to demonstrate this contain unhelpful stereotypes and can come across as a little patronising. Certain representations lacked finesse, in particular, the portrayal of and interactions with autistic and trans characters. Sweeping generalisations about what it means to be autistic and the option to respond transphobically to someone who is coming out really let this title down and make the supposed inclusivity feel like a poorly researched trope rather than a genuine intention.
EDIT 17/09/22 – It has been brought to my attention that choosing the transphobic option will cause the player to lose any friendship status with the trans character and that there are real consequences to making such a choice. This makes the incident seem educational as opposed to inherently problematic.
WoMen in Science has a very cute aesthetic featuring a painterly cartoon art style and colourful, vibrant colour palettes that give the game a really jolly feel overall. The music is soothing and upbeat, made up of guitar and accordion and adding to the relaxing tone of the game. There is no voice acting but ambient nature sound effects and the whirs of technology help to immerse the player in the game world.
Overall, WoMen in Science has a lot to offer. The gameplay is varied and engaging whilst also being very relaxing, this is further emphasised by the charming aesthetic and sound design. There are enough different things to do and build, skills to learn, places to explore and people to meet to keep players entertained for a long time. I believe the game is well-intentioned but some of its boasts of inclusivity fall a bit short, the only downside of the title. With that in mind, I cautiously recommend this to fans of the genre that are looking for something a bit more laid back than your typical farming sim.
For more wholesome games why not try:
No Place Like Home – Wholesome Farming Game in Early Access Now! – Luna’s Fishing Garden: A Delightful New Fishing and Building Game – Cattails – An Adorable Open-World Cat Survival RPG