Cozy Caravan Early Access Rolls into Player Hearts

Cozy Caravan Preview

We’re in the era of the cozy game. Developed and published by 5 Lives Studios, Cozy Caravan is the latest entry in the robust low-energy slice-of-life simulation genre re-popularized by Stardew Valley’s 2016 release, and is now available through Steam Early Access.

Similarities to popular games aren’t enough to make a mark, of course. Smart developers know that players wanting the same vibe doesn’t mean they’re looking for identical gameplay. A new game in this increasingly familiar genre needs a hook if it’s going to attract its own player base.

For Cozy Caravan, it’s all there in the name. Players begin by picking an animal avatar, after which they’re thrown into a charming agricultural world where they must travel between rural communities, collecting a variety of crops to sell at a weekly Saturday market, collecting a plethora of side quests along the way.

Life on the Go

Cozy games of the farming simulator variety are all about settling down in one place and making it your own; Cozy Caravan is the opposite, with players leaving their home to take up the mantle of traveling farmer’s marketeer.

Mechanics revolve around exploration, crafting, and upgrading your caravan. It’s here, with its  that Cozy Caravan most resembles other entries in the genre, with good deeds and affection building up into points players can spend on better and faster ways to get around the countryside. Cooking is another major element. Players combine and chop different ingredients to get higher sales at the weekly market.

Cozy Caravan

The game’s tongue-in-cheek writing is as charming as its environs. It’s easy to fall in love with the expansive cast, who deliver purposefully silly dialogue with endearing sincerity. With side quests ranging from fetch quests to quick-timed hopscotch games, the player really feels like they’re part of a community.

Cozy Caravan’s aesthetic is on point, too. Stylized and colorful graphics propel players through the game, creating a friendly atmosphere that’s just a little different than other games out there.

Rolling into the Future

I only had one major crash in the game’s early hours, but the autosave hadn’t kicked in for some time, which resulted in a a frustrating level of repetition. I’d also like to see more variety in NPC dialogue, which seems to be purposefully subbing in for an in-game quest log, with dialogue even joking about it. It’s an interesting way to remind players of the tasks ahead, but when that’s not what you go to talk to characters for, the repetition is disappointing. These issues have every shot of smoothing out before the game’s full release, of course.

While Cozy Caravan’s novel conceit is iterative, most of the game will be familiar to fans of the genre. Many cozy game fans will be happy to find another relaxing experience still mechanics-focused enough to keep players engaged.

With the #farmlife vibes of Stardew Valley and the all-animal population of Animal Crossing (not to mention their distinctive way of speaking), Cozy Caravan’s unique travel-based take on the video game-genre version of curling up with a good book is poised to deliver itself a niche in the cozy market — right next to the vegetable one.

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