At first, it might seem like there’s not much going on in Earthtongue. You’ve got some mushrooms and bugs growing. But then as time ticks on and new fungi and bugs come to inhabit your little planet, you begin to realize just how much diversity there is in this little vivarium simulator. Balancing out all the herbivores and predators and fast growing fungi and carnivorous fungi can be tricky but getting to watch the neon spores and growths spread across your planet is surprisingly fun and addicting.
The goal in Earthtongue is to create a thriving, diverse little fungi/bug ecosystem. You awake on a dark planet with a small handful of bugs, a couple different fungi, and an abundance of nutrients and moisture to support more life. As time ticks on, you gain intervention points which you can exert on the planet by immigrating in new bugs and fungi or manipulating the weather. As your planet gains diversity, you unlock research journal entries. It’s in these entries where the heart of Earthtongue comes out – not only do they provide guidance in how to get the fungi and bugs to coexist, they also weave a narrative around the planet and just what it is you’re doing there. I was definitely surprised to find the journal entries to be so compelling, as I expected them to just be cut and dry ‘scientific journal’ type instructions.
As you successfully diversify your planet and have more species living longer, you also unlock entries on the various types of fungi and bugs. These entries are immensely helpful because they give information on what kind of temperament they have, what they eat or thrive on, and their weaknesses. You’ll need to take a look at these entries carefully so that you can decide which bugs you might need to stem the tide of an invasive mold (pink mold, I’m looking at you) or cull a herd of overly-hungry insects (it’s always the locusts). What at first seems like a simple task of diversifying the planet turns out to be a delicate balancing act between each fungi and bug species.
This balancing act of symbioses reminds me a lot of the god-game, Reus, which I love. If you’re just interested in watching a planet of mushrooms and bugs do it’s thing, Earthtongue is certainly gives you the space to do that. However if you’re more interested in a more in-depth strategy simulation and unlocking all of the research journals, Earthtongue is also there for you. In order to unlock the final research journal entry, you must achieve a perfect diversity score of 28 – every kind of bug and fungi must be on your planet. I feel like this is something that would take ages of precision and careful manipulation to achieve. My planets tend to be overrun by one type of fungi or bug quite quickly and I end up summoning meteor showers to wipe the place clean.
While pixel art isn’t everyone’s thing, I’m a fan and I definitely enjoy Earthtongue’s art style. There’s bright neon molds and mushrooms as well as more subdued toned ones. The bugs are all fairly vivid as well and it’s pretty easy to tell what the bug sprites are meant to represent. Occasionally I have issues discerning letters in the UI font, but generally I have no issues telling what’s going on in the game. At first things can be a bit confusing – there’s no tooltips and you have to experiment a bit to figure out how your interventions work. But it’s not like you have to spend too many points just to test them out. Once you start unlocking research journals, you get a good idea of what you should be doing in the game.
One last unique thing about Earthtongue is the payment method. Yes, you can get it through traditional means like Steam and itch.io however the creator, Erichermit, also has a Pay by Art option. For those with artistic inclinations but low in funds, you can do some fan art for Earthtongue to receive a copy of the game. All the fan art created for this is displayed over at the Earthtongue Fan Art Tumblr. Besides the pixel art in-game and the fan art, the music in Earthtongue is wonderfully fitting as well. Slightly eerie, ambient electronic music that drifts in and out as your planet chugs along adds the perfect ambiance to the game.
I think Earthtongue will definitely appeal to anyone who loves simulation or god-game type strategy games. Whether you’re the kind of person who just likes to watch things evolve while giving slight nudges here and there or would rather spend the time to fine-tune everything to get it just the way you want, you’ll find some joy in Earthtongue. I think that’s the best part about this game, honestly.
I am friends with the creator of Earthtongue on Twitter. He sent me a review copy early on, however I have since also contributed some fan art to the game and I bought the Steam version of the game with my own money. I generally think he’s a cool dude and sometimes we talk about how amazing sylvari are in GW2, so I guess I need to disclose that info.