World’s Dawn is a kickstarter-funded life-sim RPG very much inspired by the Harvest Moon series of games, in which your character farms, fishes, socializes with the residents of the town, performs tasks, discovers secrets and generally lives a mundane day-to-day life. If you’re the kind of gamer that enjoys low-key and generally drama-free games like Animal Crossing, you’ll probably enjoy World’s Dawn. With a simple, RPG-Maker aesthetic and lots of engaging, jovial characters to meet — and a few to romance — World’s Dawn doesn’t do a lot to push this kind of game into new territory, but it’s a pleasant enough diversion.
You start by creating a character and moving to Sugar Blossom Village. In the process of creating your avatar, you must pick preference for romance options. While cultivating a romance can be an important component of World’s Dawn, you are limited to only three potential mates out of a cast of nearly three dozen characters. Each of the Bachelors and Bachelorettes of course have strong and specific preferences, and growing, making, or finding gifts to win their favor can take a lot of your time in the game.
Like Harvest Moon and the “life sim” JRPGs that inspired it, World’s Dawn is set in a rural town with plenty of shops, a tavern, a temple shrine, and lots of natural features to explore like fishing holes, the beach, the woods and stream. Of course each area of the environment figures into the daily life of the town and the daily and seasonal quests that make up basic gameplay. You start by leaving your simple home and trying to meet as many residents as you can, which leads to a long, long series of running errands and doing favors for the people you befriend. You get a watering can, and seeds, and begin to cultivate your little farm. Farming is important: it provides income and it also allows you to raise food items that you can gift to romance partners and various residents.
The passing of seasons is an important aspect of World’s Dawn, as each season has three specific festivals and two markets and in each season, one of the festivals is tied to the romance option. At each festival there are special activities and goals and prizes for completion, and the seasonal markets offer specific ingredients for recipes, and the chance to enter cooking competitions or sell crops. Working the fields, exploring, or other activities use energy, which you recover at by eating or at night when sleeping. Keeping track of your ever-diminishing energy is important, but there aren’t too many character stats to micromanage.
With all the character interactions, shopping, crafting, farming, and a handful of secrets to discover that give special abilities or stat boosts, there is certainly no lack of things to do in the game. In general, the dialogue is well-written and characters are not overly verbose, as they often are in this genre. Visually, it can be hard to keep track of who the characters are and what they do. What’s lacking — and this may not be a negative, depending on why you play this type of game — is any real sense of urgency or real conflict. There are no “bad” characters, just a handful that are slightly snarkier than others. You’re not going to suddenly discover that the local tavern sits on top of a hellmouth or that the village is in the thrall of a long-standing curse. World’s Dawn has a clean, colorful RPG-maker aesthetic that isn’t cluttered with fussy detail and does a nice job of illustrating the passing of seasons. Character portraits are pretty generic, with hair color being the only real distinguishing factor between very similar looking faces. The music is upbeat and pleasant, if not terribly memorable.
There is real appeal to the idea of living in a little rural community where everyone is pleasant and quirky, where the rhythm of life and the gentle change of seasons are tied to working the land and the world’s secrets are not dark and menacing. That is the fantasy that games like World’s Dawn allow us to indulge in. World’s Dawn is a gentle diversion of a game without much in the way of surface tension or deeper drama. It has an interesting cast of characters, but proscribes our interactions with them and too often crucially frames relationships as a series of tasks or gifts. On a second thought, that might be true to life, too.