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Cozy Caravan Review (PC)

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Campfire setting at night in Cozy Caravan

If you had the opportunity to disembark the nine-to-five lifestyle and board a wagon bound for vast open corridors comprised of whimsical beauties and idyllic intricacies — would you do it? If you’re able to answer this one without having to contemplate one of several factors, then there’s a good chance that you’ll love just about everything that makes up 5 Lives Studios’ Cozy Caravan—a brand-new top-down crafting and farming simulation game that transports you to the fantastical boroughs of a quaint and critter-encrusted kingdom, one that, dare I say, makes even the most prestigious emulations of Animal Crossing quake in their boots.

Ah yes, Cozy Caravan — the luxuriously decorated and beautifully crafted marketing RPG that possesses just the right amount of heart and soul to steal a good amount of hours from your daily routine. That’s a lot of talk for a game that has just this moment arrived on PC, but it’s also a claim that carries a significant amount of weight to it, what with it idling in receipt of countless vibrant personalities, locales, and miniature gameplay components. But of course, I’m getting way ahead of myself on this one, so allow me to reverse the hourglass and put things into perspective for the sake of adding a sliver of context to the overarching narrative. Care to join us as we disembark at 5 Lives Studios’ latest project for a few minutes? Then let’s press on.

Coincidentally Cozy

Farmland setting in Cozy Caravan

Cozy Caravan bears a simple concept: an animal of your own making is sent out to develop a remote market on wheels and have it delivered all around the realm and into the quarters of various villages and settlements. It’s your role in this rather fruitful line of work, to explore the far corners of each region, and accrue enough resources to create recipes and other nifty items for the customers who you connect with. It starts out in a simple way: you have a small wagon, and just enough materials and ingredients to generate a small catalog of goods. The goal, moving on from this rags-to-riches collection, is to move through the towns and wild districts, and collect enough items and rarities to further evolve your portfolio and, with the right amount of resources, upgrade your wagon to allow a little extra room for even more supplies.

It’s certainly a basic premise — having folks scoot around with their trusty caravan and pick out a treasure trove of new items of both sentimental and physical value to flesh out their careers. Having said that, with such a simplistic gameplay style in its stead, it’s hard to fathom how it would even be possible to fail, much less struggle to wrap one’s head around the basic ideology of it all. And, to be fair, it isn’t a tough game; on the contrary, it’s a very easy game — hence the sense of coziness that it tries so desperately hard to convey from the moment you plant roots in its world, to the second you part ways with the wagon and tally up your profits for the day.

Life’s What You Make It

Overhead shot of town in Cozy Caravan

There’s a good amount of customization in Cozy Caravan, too—a feature that, while not totally unique, has a quality selection of cosmetics to acquire and other perks to fashion over the course of your career as a traveling salesperson. Aside from having an array of different animals to choose from, there’s also a rather generous collection of attires to obtain and unlock, too. There’s also a companion that you have the pleasure of bringing with you on your travels—a familiar sidekick named Bubba, who joins you in your quests, and serves as the second in command for your business.

While the vast majority of the game is, more or less, venturing out and collecting various items to bring back to your caravan, the story does also tout a fair amount of friendly faces to befriend—characters that each have their own needs and agendas to attend to. In a typical shift, you’ll have to speak with one of several villagers, and see to their requests, whether it’s in the form of a short mini-game, or a brief discussion with the added invitation of exploring a new location in one of the many, many biomes. As far as all of that goes, there’s clearly a great deal to address, which can, on the rarest of occasions, become a little repetitive, to say the least. Saying that, at no point did I ever find the process of picking, packing, and shipping produce boring; in fact, I found it all rather calming.

In addition to the general gameplay mechanics, Cozy Caravan also delivers a wholesome soundtrack that’s both elegant and soothing, further enhancing the game’s oh-so cozy aesthetic and message.

The Longest Road

Character cooking in Cozy Caravan

Cozy Caravan will take you across several sections of a map, all of which can be accessed by boarding your bee-towed caravan, and essentially following one of several pathways alongside your fellow companion. In each of these areas, you’ll likely find a few folks in dire need of some form of support; for example, one person may ask for you to round up a few lost bees, whereas another person may ask for you to skip a few stones across the shoreline. Regardless of the task that you have to take care of, each successful journey usually has a similar reward: love and hearts—the currency that shapes the world around you and everything that you do, both for the benefit of your career, as well as those who you meet along the way. So, while you can sell your veggies and other supplements, money, weirdly enough, ceases to exist.

There isn’t a time frame to any of the objectives that you’re given in Cozy Caravan. In fact, once you’ve completed the introduction and received your initial batch of tools for your wagon, you’re pretty much left to explore at your own leisure. After this, it’s merely the case of setting out to explore vast new horizons, all whilst looking to unearth new characters to befriend, requests to fulfill, and natural resources to pluck from the soil for your remote market on wheels. Suffice it to say that, this is not, in any way, shape, or form, a short story that relies on its players’ natural-born ability to romp through the pages without taking the additional verses into consideration. It’s a slow-burner at heart, and so, provided that you don’t mind spending several hours slugging through the same chores and making short bursts of progress, you’ll be easily satisfied here.

Verdict

Frog NPC in Cozy Caravan

Cozy Caravan set out to deliver a genuinely cute and heartwarming crafting and marketing simulation experience for its audience, and unsurprisingly, it excelled at doing so—so much, even, that the title seems all rather fitting, given the fact that it is, all things considers, arguably one of the coziest games we’ve had the pleasure of playing in recent months. Sure, from an outsider’s perspective, you could certainly say that it “borrows” numerous elements from the likes of Animal Crossing: New Horizons—its art style and character designs, being two of the most questionable aspects—but that doesn’t make it any less impressive or enjoyable. It’s a fantastic game, truly, and one that’ll surely keep those with a heart for exploring and carving out experimental recipes something to write home about — and then some.

As the title implies, Cozy Caravan is undeniably, well, cozy; it conjures a perfect balance of warmth and simplicity, and it keeps things fresh by introducing various social and cultural influences, all of which amount to a pleasurable journey that lingers on the brain long after the credits roll and the caravan veers off into the sunset. Could it do with a little more variety in its gameplay features? Perhaps. However, I’m not exactly on the verge of complaining about it being any less attractive, as it does, in all fairness, amount to what it initially set out to achieve — and that speaks volumes about its creators, truly.

To cut to the chase — yes, you absolutely should give 5 Lives Studios’ Cozy Caravan a whirl, doubly so if you enjoy foraging and socializing with quirky cattle folk. If, however, you’d much rather opt for something with a little more bite, then you might want to abandon the entrepreneurial mindset and set sail for an alternate universe.

Cozy Caravan Review (PC)

The Coziest Journey

Cozy Caravan does an exceptional job of conjuring a universe that’s not only aesthetically delightful, but also a real treat to explore and pluck clean of all its characters, secrets, and rarities. Sure, it could do with a little more, but given the fact that this is, of course, an early access game, I’m easily able to let bygones be bygones and praise its good bone structure.

Jord is acting Team Leader at gaming.net. If he isn't blabbering on in his daily listicles, then he's probably out writing fantasy novels or scraping Game Pass of all its slept on indies.