Are There Too Many Farming Games?
The cozy farming game scene is well and truly thriving at the moment – perhaps too much so. The scene is flooded with titles, some of which feel fresh and fun (Wylde Flowers, My Time at Sandrock, RE: Legend) and others that are in desperate need of an overhaul (Harvest Moon). While it can be daunting to sift through these titles in search of the next title that’ll hook players, I still give each and every single one a try.
The concept of wild magic is truly interesting and could be the focus of its own game
Offering Something Unique
I need something unique to hook me, whether it’s an art style, a surprising focus on combat or social features, or taking established mechanics to a new level. Fae Farm is one such title that piqued my interest from its early reveal and gameplay trailers. Its combination of pleasant art direction, focus on co-op gameplay, and a world abundant with fairies and magic looked too interesting not to check it out. Thanks to Nintendo AU, I’ve been able to.
A Classic Storm Opening
The game opens with the player sailing on a ship to an unknown destination. They are quickly engulfed by a huge storm, complete with whirlpools that swallow up their ship. Awakening on the continent of Azoria, they are greeted by the local mayor, who tells the player they’ve been plagued by the very same whirlpools. No one can get to or leave Azoria.
After taking this information in, the player then does the usual meet-and-greet with every villager, inherits a decrepit farm and we’re ready to start our new life farming, adventuring, and solving the magical mysteries of Azoria.
Similar, Yet Different
Fae Farm’s first few hours feel very much like other farming games that have come before it. You’ll chop up dead logs, remove weeds, etc, in the hope of restoring the once quaint farmstead into a suitable home. You’ll also unlock the Saltmines, one of the game’s early adventure locations with rocks and ores to mine, as well as haunted objects to defeat.
Speaking of haunted objects, it’s actually a very clever spin on the usual baddies you can fight in some of these games. Where Stardew Valley has its green slimes, bats and other traditional RPG monsters, Fae Farm’s Saltmines have twisted possessed objects from the various shipwrecks caused by the whirlpools. Ship wheels spin around like chaotic ninja stars, anchors hop up and down, crushing anything that wanders underneath, compasses open and snap chat with a ferocious bite, and cannons roll around shooting endless cannonballs at the player.
And it’s this same magic that lies in everything in Azoria, however, some of it is able to be wielded by wand/staff users and some of it is “wild magic” that appears in nature. The concept of wild magic is truly interesting and could be the focus of its own game. Its implementation in Fae Farm is definitely one of the more interesting unique ideas I’ve seen in farming games for some time.
Villagers and Romance
Like most farming games, Fae Farm has a cast of characters, each of which serves a different function. Some are quest givers and/or shopkeeps, and others are single and able to be “romanced” by the player. While I enjoy the charming character animations, the designs of each unique villager leave a lot to be desired. No one really has their own story to tell or even an aesthetic. To make things worse, flirting is automatic. I simply spoke to someone as they were walking by to see if they had any new quests or information, and our relationship evolved to “flirting” status. Thankfully, going on an actual date requires the player to actually consent to it, and far more interesting (looking) characters show up after the first major questline is resolved (Chapter 4).
Drawing a Comparison
Not to compare everything to Stardew Valley (though it really is the pinnacle of the genre for many) but it was released in 2016, has a handful of development staff and costs a fraction of what Fae Farm does. How it manages to absolutely nail its unique characters as well as their romance/story archs while Fae Farm completely fumbles it eludes me.
The Importance of Sound
I feel the need to mention the game’s soundtrack at this time, which is fine. There’s nothing of note, for better or for worse. I feel like other outlets might omit this from their reviews for the aforementioned reason, but I’ve been playing games with notable soundtracks recently, and again, a cracking soundtrack can make such a difference – especially with a cozy farming game (again, Stardew Valley).
I will say at this point that I’m yet to check out the game’s multiplayer, as I received a code at launch and was not aware of any other local outlets reviewing the game. Progress for me has been decent but things would definitely move quicker if I were playing with friends, with Fae Farm allowing for up to 4 player co-op across Epic, Steam, and Nintendo Switch. If only it had cross-progression as well, as I’d be up for buying the game again on Steam to enjoy a higher framerate and resolution.
Performance and Bugs
Which brings me to talk about performance on the Nintendo Switch. I’ve seen a lot of debate online about the performance on Ninty’s handheld – the majority of it cursing the game’s framerate and its resolution moreso. I’m playing on the OLED Switch, and find it to be perfectly serviceable. It works a treat in handheld mode, and I don’t find it too blurry at all. I even returned Triangle Strategy as I couldn’t turn off bloom and depth of field, which combined with the low resolution to bug the heck out of me. There’s no doubt that Fae Farm would thrive on a decent PC, but it runs decently on Nintendo Switch, and then you have the ability to play it out and about if you wish.
Another topic I’ve seen people mention online are the game’s various bugs. Again, sorry to actively engage in discourse but I haven’t encountered any game breaking issues. I have encountered the odd glitch here and there, one of which where if a villager walks out of frame and I then catch up to them, their animation is frozen still, and they slide along the ground instead of walking. I’ve also had room in my inventory yet I can’t pick up an item, but I simply have to walk away and then come back for it to work. Again, neither being a deal breaker.
There’s a lot to enjoy with Fae Farm. It’s charming visual style, engaging gameplay loop, and focus on magic and fairies. What works all compliments each other to create a truly fantastic experience, though some of the weaker elements do dampen the fun. Despite this, the game has become my new daily game, as I slowly chip away at the mysteries of Azoria. If you’re a fan of cozy farmers, this is definitely one to check out.