Quiet as a Stone is a contemplative game about finding secrets on floating islands and creating your own perfect little spaces. Each island has resources to collect, natural formations to find, and blank spaces to plant trees or arrange rocks. It’s a quiet and relaxing escape from whatever battlefield or wild open world you’ve been wandering in other games.
Quiet as a Stone, which released last week for PC and Mac, feels like a mixture of a phone clicker and a world-building game like Spore, with a hint of dungeon-crawling computer RPGs. You select locations from a map, each indicating a different floating island. Once there, you freely move the camera to search the area. You can cut down grass to find hidden items, crack gemstones to gather resources that allow you to duplicate and manipulate the size of natural objects like rocks and trees, and can enter into a photo mode to take pictures. The idea is that you wander until you find the perfect island and build it into something unique. This means repeating smaller actions like crass cutting or item planting in a sort of half-aware process until you end up with something gorgeous. Once you do, you can snap a picture for posterity.
I think we some sometimes take for granted how truly amazing 3-D space in games can be. Having games that you can literally dive deeper into was not always the case, and games like Quiet as a Stone remind me of how beautiful and genuinely cool is it to be so engrossed with an artificial space. I’ve gone from level to level until I’ve found the perfect arrangement of ruins, zooming in close to admire them before framing them with my camera with the perfect combination of distance, light, and color. It helped me to see the beauty in small things: the errant blade of grass that slid into view, a serendipitously-shaped rock heap, the flickering heat of a fire slithering through mist. And it was all right at my fingertips.
Quiet as a Stone reminds me of those little rock and sand gardens that dominated businessmen’s desks in the 1990s. That sounds like a negative thing—after all, those knick-knacks signified a sort of half-baked and greedily appropriated capitalist mysticism—but Quiet as a Stone reminds me of their romantic promise: accessible, egalitarian, and able to fit into even the busiest of lifestyles. What the game lacks in any raw tactile experience, it makes up for in providing a sort of Nature Hike in a Can. Should stress bare its fangs, you can load it up for a quick session to wander its various stone islands and meticulously pose the natural world.