The pastoral lifestyle is a deeply romantic one. You wake up, sleepy-eyed, at the crack of dawn diligently, an entire afternoon of simple but menial tasks ahead of you. You reap the fruits of your labour from golden fields, sell your crops at the always-bustling market, and fish at a nearby pond. You bring home a portion of your harvest and fix dinner from these wild ingredients. It’s a well-lived and fulfilling experience, a gentle communion with nature that lets you earn your bread by the sweat of your brow – and an unattainable promise of a simpler, rustic life.
Littlewood sells its players the same idyllic paradise: an escape to another life filled with a neverending checklist of humdrum, but absolutely comforting routines. A typical day revolves around chopping trees for wood, mining ores for stones, farming and harvesting fruits, crafting furniture and homes, chatting with villagers and humouring their requests–and that’s just the tip of this alpine iceberg. It’s a farm-life simulation through and through, although farming is far from the only thing you’ll do.
As a retired hero who lost all memories of their adventuring days, the first place you found yourself in is someone else’s utterly barren house. You step out of the humble abode, only to have its owner greet you warmly like an old flame. It’s a brand new beginning in an unfamiliar world, except that everyone already loves you for the heroic deeds you don’t remember doing.
That, in essence, is Littlewood’s appeal: everything in this universe is so low stakes that you can do anything you want, usually with little to no consequence–be it remoulding this quaint little village into a landscape of your liking, or taking your time with any tasks. Here’s a place where time never seems to run out, even though your energy does sap away the more things you complete. Even as new villagers make their way to the town, drawn by Littlewood’s agricultural success, they’re content to rest their weary heads on the fields, while waiting for you to build a cosy home for them. No rush at all–everyone just wants you to chill.
It’s this languid pace that makes Littlewood such a soothing escape from the frenetic pace of life. This is despite having so much to do in this tiny town. The sheer enormity of tasks to complete means you have to plan out what work to chip away at each morning, be it dedicating the day to replenishing your dwindling supply of bricks, or while the hours away by fishing and picking weeds to sell at the market.
But these don’t really translate to the crippling pressures of perfectly optimising your operations–the sort of stress that plagues other farm sims like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon. In fact, such busywork is central to its experience, a sampling of the game’s numerous compact joys. By turning this into a repetitive, meditative cycle, the results of your grind made immediately apparent, Littlewood produces a satisfying feedback loop that makes up for the tasks’ inherent tedium. When you cobble wooden planks together, you’ll earn experience points in crafting. When you experiment with ingredients and whip up exotic dishes, your cooking skills will improve, a short jingle chiming along to your ceaseless work. And when the day ends, you can spend the night chatting to fellow villagers and then retreat to bed. Anything else you couldn’t work on can be left to the next day.
This unhurried, measured grind feels deliberate; it’s what LIttlewood wants you to partake in. Perhaps the game’s most unsurprising reveal is that you don’t earn anything particularly valuable in exchange for all this labour. Unlike the more purposeful grinds in sprawling RPGs and dungeon crawlers, where the hero may see their toiling rewarded with rare loot, or in hard-earned boosts of stats and abilities, the very act of performing these tasks in Littlewood is its own reward. Your wood gathering skills increase, but then what next, other than the persistent promise of unlocking more tasks to do?
These routines are serene and comforting because it’s gratifying to work and grow at something, but that also leads to a certain banality in Littlewood. At times, going through the motions almost feels like a chore. WIth little more to look forward to–there’s no grand quests for the mayor of Littlewood to embark on, while the game’s overarching story about the hero’s mysterious past is a tad shallow–you simply exist in this quiet town, doing the best you can.
It’s not nearly as dreary or monotonous as it sounds. There are games for every occasion, and this is one that works like a salve, especially when you head to Littlewood after a long, exhausting day. Take for instance the wafer-thin personalities of the villagers, who are prone to repeating the same non-sequiturs frequently, or dispense tips and advice about the game in the guise of good conversations. But they aren’t unpleasant company, and some can be rather endearing.
There’s the ex-adventurer and the town’s shopkeeper Dalton, a likeable but unkempt doofus who is profusely gleeful about being your self-proclaimed sidekick. There’s the kindly old man named Dudley, who promptly hands you a fishing rod after you build a home for him, while telling you what an utterly inspirational leader you are. There’s also Bubsy, a humanoid bird who cleans his feathers every day with fastidious care, and would take any opportunity to dunk on Dalton. Talk to them daily to earn some brownie points–even compliment and flirt with them, if you like, and bring them on dates. You can even marry them! But if you don’t, that’s fine too; you can come back for some small talk another day, at another time.
The rustic joy of Littlewood is what makes your stay there so delightful. It’s a life of simple pleasures, of heading to the tavern after dark and downing all the beer you like without worrying about the responsibilities of the next day. It’s a life of immediate gratification, where work is in abundance and its rewards bountiful. Most of all, it’s a pastoral fantasy, where you can live alongside nature without the brutish, gruelling labour of farm work. After months – even years – of living through an absolutely dreadful reality, our lives, really, deserve to be as simple as this, at least once in a while.