The goal of Vilmonic is to take care of creatures and keep them from dying. Sounds familiar, right? Well, don't let this seemingly simple synopsis fool you; this artificial life simulator is a lot more than a glorified Tamagotchi.
Vilmonic starts off with an introduction to the game's controls and how the systems work. This intro is quick and easy and you'll get your first creature in no time. You'll probably watch it go extinct in no time as well. After all, Vilmonic is unforgiving, as there's no reviving deceased creatures, and with the auto-save system, there's also no going back to previously saved games for a second chance.
There is no backstory either, be it a sad death or sudden heritage from an estranged family - you just happen to have an island along with the task assigned, which is to breed peculiar creatures and keep them from extinction.
The lack of storyline isn't an obstacle at all though, as instead, we found it quite refreshing to play around with virtual life without having to worry about farming crops, dealing with neighbours, brushing livestock, or finding a partner to start a virtual family with. The base game gave us enough to focus on and kept us engaged without wanting to get sidetracked by side quests.
You traverse your newly acquired pixelated world in the shoes of your character, which you can somewhat customise in what is called 'the Dollhouse'. However, there are no real traits to your alter ego: you are a faceless bundle of pixels and besides colour and shape there isn't much to your new you.
You are provided with creatures known as animatroids and a food source known as fungols, with the task at hand being solely to keep your Animatroids alive. You do this by changing the terrain, as you can dig to make the soil more suitable for fungols to grow, or create rivers and pools for your Animatroids to drink. By clicking on the binoculars, you get information about a specific creature - like whether it prefers dry land or water and whether it's aggressive - and you get to see its genes too. While they're a bundle of pixels, you soon find these little creatures have a surprising amount of depth to them, as everything from their colour to their shape tells you what every unique species craves. The bigger the creature, the more work it is to keep it alive too, as you might imagine.
Besides the creatures, you can also tweak their food source, as depending on where you plant them, fungols can evolve into different subspecies unique in colour and shape. You can also use the binoculars on fungols to see in which environment they grow best, but before you cover your entire island in fungols, keep in mind that not all fungols survive in crowded areas or every terrain, and when you run out food, you will also run out of animatroids. To avoid mass extinction you should, therefore, care about your fungols as much as your animatroids.
What's more is that animatroids can be herbivores, omnivores, or carnivores, but these terms are somewhat loose in Vilmonic; their preference for food is entirely based on motion and scent. Herbivores, for example, are mostly attracted to little movement and lots of scent, so they are more attracted to fungols.
We were witness to acts of cannibalism where parents ate their young and vice versa, simply because animatroids will be attracted to whatever is closest. You do have the power to move animatroids around, granted, but this requires fast reactions because as soon as we saw one of our creatures lay an egg, we ran towards it hoping the parent didn't get a craving for scrambled eggs before we got there. It took some strategic terrain building and the provision of several different food sources to stop the cannibalism, but you can also choose to allow your animatroids to feast on each other if you so wish. It certainly adds to the challenge of keeping your species alive.