I was looking at MMOs that you could chill out and relax in this weekend, and I discovered this unique little world called Meadow. Crafted by the same folks who produced Shelter and Shelter 2, this is a completely non-violent and non-verbal multiplayer experience unlike any I’ve ever tried.
Add to that the fact that during the Steam sale right now, it’s only $2.69. Normally, it’s $2.99. I read a lot of great reviews about it, was curious, and figured what’s there to lose at that price point?
What is Meadow?
In Meadow, you select a server and log in as an animal avatar. Most folks start out as a baby badger, but if you own some of the other Shelter games (like I do), you have a bit more variety in the beginning.
I chose the lynx cub because I love cats. I also wanted to project myself as a baby and someone new and learning, so I didn’t choose the adult lynx, even thought that was an option.
The fascinating thing about Meadow is that animals can only communicate via sound and emotes. There is no typing. No words. But amazingly, communication still happens.
There is no battle or levels. Your goal is to explore, group up with other animals, gather essence and find puzzle pieces. These puzzle pieces unlock things like emotes, new skin patterns and new animals.
This sort of game may not be for everyone. But in the time that I spent there, animals were super welcoming, quickly inviting others to group and explore together. A lot of it is just forming bonds, which surprisingly can be done even without words.
In fact, the world may be more peaceful because there are no words.
My First Day in Meadow
I came to Meadow as a fairly blind new player. I didn’t even understand what the controls were doing at first… but with a few tweaks and some time, I quickly picked it up.
I suggest new players take a moment to check out the control schemes before logging in, to understand a bit about how the game plays. Knowing, for instance, that the “R” key toggles between run and walk will save your fingers a lot of wear and tear. You can run while holding “Shift” but this gets to be painful on the hand after romping with animal groups for too long!
So I plopped down on US East server. It was Saturday morning, a quiet time. But even so, I still managed to stumble into other creatures.
My first discovery was an adult lynx. I don’t know if they were a he or she IRL, but I instantly took to following her (they felt motherly). It made sense. I was new, lost and a lynx cub.
To my joy, the other lynx didn’t mind at all. In fact, she took me, and a few badger cubs, exploring. She taught us about the monolith stones and how to vocalize to break them for rewards. She took us to gather plants and puzzle pieces.
Eventually, I had to head off the game. People don’t mind those who need to come and go. Grouping is nothing more than following the other animals around, and not at all a structured thing.
I sorta wish I knew back then that you could “peek” at people’s Steam names (I set this to Left Alt). I didn’t learn about that until too late. Now I’ll never know who this nice lynx was that made my first time playing a pleasant experience.
By that time, I’d also unlocked a number of new skins, one new animal (Frog) and many new emotes.
My second experience later that day was completely different from my first. The group I fell in with didn’t view me as a newcomer, and were rolling along quite fast. By then, I’d learned how to toggle my run key, and was much better at moving over the terrain than I was my first time.
I was able to keep up, and we explored even more new areas I’d never seen before.
I haven’t been able to get a sense of how large the map is — there is no formal map within the game at all. I do know there’s areas that are specific seasons, however. There’s also a large tree in the middle of the map that you can warp back to anytime using the Esc menu. This is somewhat like a starting point or a central meeting location.
The one complaint I do have with the game is that it has random lock-ups and drops connection for no reason that I can see. Sometimes it played just fine for a stretch of time. Other times it would disconnect me several times in a short span, which made it hard to catch back up to animal groups, and a little embarrassing. I wish there was an “I was disconnected, sorry!” emote.
But for a less than $3, F2P game? Yeah, I can recommend it for anyone who wants to try something a little different. Especially if you are interested in things like the use (or lack of using) language, online community and grouping behavior, and how that works in a world like this.
Or if you just want to be a cute fuzzy creature in a safe Meadow, exploring a beautifully realized stylistic world. That’s there, too.