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Song in the Smoke is a game of survival. It’s a simulation in which the player is alone in the wilderness, with only their wits, strength, and perception on their side in the struggle to live another day. It’s not simply an expression of “man against nature,” but rather an attempt to capture the timeless feeling of tuning into nature—paying attention to its frequencies, making thousands of small decisions that together make up the difference between life and death. It’s a game that tries to connect players to a form of existence that modern life has largely disconnected us from.
A typical day in Song in the Smoke begins before dawn, with light slowly peeking over the horizon through the misty air. As I wake from my slumber, I watch warily as the final embers of my campfire crackle, making sure to ride it all the way up until sunlight.
As is always the case, I have much to do today. Night will always be cold and dangerous, so my first order of business is preparing for this immutable reality. I actively begin the search for firewood; I can only carry so much, and must think strategically. My campsite is a potential base for tonight, so I leave some of the logs and branches I’ve gathered there. But one never knows where they’ll end up by nightfall, so I’m sure to keep plenty of wood in my satchel as well.
I’m also constantly looking for raw materials of all sorts. Specifically, I need to fix my club—it’s a good, sturdy club, but the rock is about to break, so I keep an eye out for a suitable one to replace it with. I’m also running low on leather straps, which are a key to building dependable clothing and tools. In this case, I’m fortunate to have some on my camp’s drying and tanning rack, otherwise I’d have no choice but to go hunting.
The other key to survival is, of course, food. Nature provides enough small snacks for regular sustenance—berries and mushrooms make up much of my diet. But I need a big meal every day or two, and out here in the wild, animal flesh is my only option. I’m not going hunting on this particular day, as hunting and harvesting occupies a good chunk of my daylight hours. Today, I want to travel light and forge ahead to reach new territory, so I bring along some dried meats that I’ve been saving.
I’ve also packed a whole suite of arrows to protect me against predators; my bow is cleanly tuned and ready for action. Danger comes in many forms out here, and even the best laid plans can be laid bare by a lion waiting in ambush. I keep a lookout for small stones that can be converted into arrowheads, should I need more.
As I make my way north, I’m exploring the new space and peeking my head into all its nooks and crannies. I’m searching for all manner of raw materials, but also statues and carvings from my ancestors who came before me. I can only place three campfires per world; as such, I need to consider their locations carefully, in order to cover the entire area over the course of the day. Space mapping is therefore an essential part of life out here in the wild.
I’m constantly, acutely aware of the passage of time. As the light starts to fade into a warm red, and the crickets and cicadas come to life, I realize it’s probably too late to venture forward; I want to be building my campfire by dusk.
I get back to my camp with a bit of time to spare, and I feel comforted. I build my fire up, careful to maintain its heat and fuel levels. I cook the food I foraged and caught that day, as it’s more nutritious that way. I’m thankful for a full night’s rest, a full belly, and a warm fire to keep out the darkness.
The PlayStation VR adventure of Song in the Smoke launches tomorrow, October 7 on PlayStation 4.