‘Niche’: Lead Your Cute Tribe Back Home

With a new game by Stray Fawn Studio coming up, let's take a look at 'Niche', a genetics-based survival strategy where you lead a tribe of cute animals back home.

Stray Fawn Studio has a new game coming up, The Wandering Village, which you can wishlist on Steam, even though the date of release is not named yet.

Today, we want to revisit another game by Stray Fawn Studio, Niche, which the developers label as a genetics survival game. Let’s take a look at the plot, gameplay, and the best parts of that game.

Niche's intro
The world of Niche is beautiful but it is not always very friendly

Plot

The plot of Niche is presented during a small cutscene with vivid, beautiful imagery. You observe a tribe of catlike creatures go about their lives when a bird swoops down and catches one of the kittens. When in the air, the kitten manages to free itself from the bird’s claws and falls to the ground. That’s how your story begins: your first creature, Adam, is left all alone to fend for himself.

The beginning of Adam's tribe
Adam is left all alone. Fortunately, he will have the chance to start a new tribe

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Tutorial

Niche offers you a tutorial, teaching you all the basics. Gather food, find new creatures to add to your tribe, have kittens, and travel in the hopes of reaching the home island of Adam.

Adam will not survive until the end of the journey. Every creature has just a few dozen days of life, and they can take only three actions every day, but Adam’s descendants might one day visit the Home Island.

Niche's tutorial
Niche offers a tutorial on a few islands to ease you into the gameplay

Gameplay

Niche is a turn-based strategy with resources and cute little units to manage. More than that, you can view the genes of every creature (unless you choose to go blind in the settings) and, with the general goal of surviving as a tribe, you will help the animals evolve new helpful mutations.

You will need to strategise as you have your creatures travel through the world of Niche. Having too many animals can mean that you cannot feed them all; too few creatures can result in genetic deficiencies. Certain traits help in some climates but weaken your animals in other ones.

There is also an aesthetic element to the game, where aesthetics can be functional! Personally, I love the bird wings; they make nesting in the trees possible, and it is helpful in avoiding predators while also looking very neat.

The key features of Niche
You can see the lineage, genes, and abilities of all your animals in this menu

Mutations are not available immediately. Most often, you need to perform a certain number of actions to unlock a mutation. For example, if you gather enough fruit, you will be able to mutate a paw that is better at gathering fruit (and can crack nuts and shells on top of that). If you crack (or attempt to crack) enough nuts, you will have a cute face for your creatures with a jaw that helps them crack things.

You can also breed genes into your population without unlocking them, and some genes require you to breed with other creatures for unlocking. You can read the instructions for unlocking (some) genes in a convenient menu.

Niche genes menu
A menu with all the genes you have unlocked

Goals

The goal of Niche is to reach the Home Island. A requirement for achieving that goal is to keep your tribe alive; as long as you have a single creature, you have hope. An additional thing to do in the game is to evolve different types of creatures and select the ones you like.

While evolving your creatures, you will be travelling from island to island. The islands are like difficulty levels; some of them are simple and have a lot of food, and other ones have different types of dangers and scarcity to test your creatures’ ability to survive.

An island in Niche
An island with several biomes called “Grass Mingle”

Game Features

The Home Island is many islands away. Your tribes can only travel so far every day, and many of the islands are vast.

Sometimes, you will need to do something special to leave an island. Sometimes, your creatures will be completely unprepared for the challenges of an island; whether there are monsters that they are too weak to kill, or cold that they cannot protect themselves from. Survival is tough, and with how long every campaign is, you might get tired of it.

An island in Niche
Another island in Niche. This one is cold

That said, the replayability of the game is top-notch. If the story mode is too long, you can use the sandbox mode and just experiment. Evolve creatures that are suited for different environments. Try out different islands. Play with genetics to your heart’s content.

With how many genes there are in the game, you can create a lot of combinations, be they functional, cute, or just hilarious. And, of course, you can enjoy the survival elements of Niche, including its turn-based strategy and resource and creature management.

Conclusion

Niche is a genetics turn-based strategy. In it, you get to evolve creatures as their ability to survive is tested by different environments, with players needing to manage the population and resources.

The story mode can get a little too long, but you can always take breaks in the sandbox mode and just have fun with evolving cute creatures. With many difficulty levels, genes, and traits, Niche is very replayable, and it is a great take on the strategy genre.

Our Rating

7 / 10

Story

7

8 / 10

Graphics

8

8 / 10

Controls

8

8