Fae Farm Is Enchantingly Breezy And A Little Too Simple

Games Reviews Fae Farm
Fae Farm Is Enchantingly Breezy And A Little Too Simple

I like farming simulators as much as the next city girl with an underdeveloped green thumb and a gnawing urge to watch something grow. I’ve played Stardew Valley, I’ve played Animal Crossing: New Horizons, hell, I was even a pro Minecraft player once upon a time—do we count that as a farming sim? I’m going to because I was too scared to do anything other than farm when I was 13. Regardless, I always felt that your average farming/society-building/world-domination game left a little something to be desired. Each of the games I named had their own stories, their own quirks, and they served the purpose of making me feel that I too could start a farm on my apartment building’s lawn, but where was the real flavor? The spice? The involved narrative, the story that drove the game and kept me coming back for more? I have a creative writing degree, damnit!

Fae Farm is one of the latest releases in the exponentially expanding farming sim genre and, at first glance, it perfectly melds the cozy world-building genre with the storytelling I so deeply desire. Released in early September by Phoenix Labs, Fae Farm follows the story of the player after they shipwreck on the island of Azoria. Here you find a quaint farming community that’s suffering a magical storm that brings strange creatures and threats to the island. On the island your job is to build your farm, support the town, ward off dangerous magic, and, most importantly, romance other characters—which isn’t actually most important to the gameplay, but it is in my heart. On paper, Fae Farm seemed like the perfect game to bridge the farming sim gaps I’ve been feeling for so long, so I took to my Switch to see if I was right.

I suppose we should start with what’s most important to me: the integration of farming sim and story games. Fae Farm puts you to work right away doing two things, the first being discovering the story of how you ended up in Azoria and what’s happening to the community. The second is building your farm. The game proceeds to weave these aspects into one another, which is perfect for my attention span—being given farming task after fishing task after mining task in similar games has always been tedious to me, so being fed bits of storyline and magic while doing that work helps balance these two elements and make each enjoyable in their own right.

The opening of the game is fairly guided. You’re given a number of sequential quests that slowly help you meet the wide range of characters in Azoria while teaching you essential tasks. Eddy the Mariner teaches you to fish, Argyle will show you how to catch bugs, and Alaric the Wizard will help you learn how to defeat magical enemies. There are many more residents to meet, and throughout the first few hours of Fae Farm they’ll offer quests that keep the game moving and create an engaging learning environment for new players. After the first handful of quests, the game will leave you hanging before picking up again, affording the player adequate time for solo learning, adventuring, and getting into the nitty gritty of the game. Fae Farm also slowly introduces side quests, but doesn’t push them onto the player, which is perfect for someone like me who gets overwhelmed easily by side quests and tends to focus on the main storyline.

All of that being said, I didn’t feel that the first few hours of Fae Farm were engaging enough to keep me coming back for anything more than cozy vibes after a long day of work. I could farm, register animals, or go deeper into the mines, and although the nuggets of quest and storylines are interesting, the downtime in between occasionally left me wondering why exactly I was playing the game. And that isn’t necessarily bad—sometimes a videogame only needs good vibes to make it fun to play, but that isn’t always great for player retention, especially when it seems the main objective of the game is to encourage players to dig into the history and secrets of Azoria.

The path to completing that main objective is fairly easy, which is to say that Fae Farm is fairly easy. Mechanically, it’s a simple game to get the hang of. The toolset you’re gifted at the beginning doesn’t seem to break, nor does your energy seem to run out. While you may need tool upgrades for bigger trees or rocks, and though the game may force you to go to sleep at a certain point, it is possible to play endlessly. The beginner level monsters aren’t hard to kill nor are they all that harmful. Even then, it’s easy to get help from other characters, and no one really dies in this game. Resources are abundant and there’s plenty of ways to make money, which I find very helpful because a lack of either doesn’t hinder me from playing the game. I can see where the ease of play might make Fae Farm less engaging for some, but I actually prefer it because I don’t feel that I’m constantly struggling against the game to get things done and actually enjoy myself.

But those cozy vibes I mentioned that everyone is looking for these days? Fae Farm has got them in abundance. This game is aesthetically beautiful: the graphics are clear, colorful, and meticulously done. The color palette is warm and friendly where it needs to be, and even when it isn’t the game still lends itself to careful world-building when it employs more ominous settings and quests. Azoria is an open world map with a range of places to explore—the docks, the mines, mountain ranges, and the town center to name a few—and every element has been set dressed to the nines with foliage, trinkets, and adorably quaint buildings and characters.

The people you meet in Azoria are equally phenomenal. Fae Farm employs a 3D art style with the cutest characters you could possibly imagine, and they each have their own personalities and attitudes toward the player that will either repel you or endear them to you. For example, I would kill Mayor Merritt, but I would kill for Miles the Postman. Even those strong emotions are part of what makes Fae Farm’s character design great — it isn’t always easy to create a cast that fits within an adorable, fantastical mold while also making them distinct enough to hate one and love the other. I approached this game assuming I would like the entire cast because of the genre Fae Farm falls into, but actually came away pleasantly surprised by my boiling rage toward Mayor Merritt.

Going hand in hand with visuals and characters is music—an element I pay very close attention to in videogames. I don’t study to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild soundtrack for no reason—it’s iconic and masterful, and one of the things that truly sets The Legend of Zelda franchise apart. While Fae Farm might not have achieved quite this level of musical excellence, it’s apparent that the composers were paying attention. Most of your time in the game will be spent hearing a soft, whimsical soundtrack that, while not terribly different from other cozy games, works perfectly in Fae Farm. It’s hard to feel any sort of foreboding about magical creatures or whirlpools when I’m being lulled by gentle flute sounds, and I like that. I like not feeling rushed or that there is anywhere I should be in the game. The inverse of that, however, is the eerie music that plays in places like the Saltwater Mines or a mountain range I might’ve discovered earlier than I was meant to. The music in these spots feels like the game’s usual music, just with a creepier undertone. It isn’t scary and it doesn’t make me feel nervous, which I appreciate, but it does keep me on guard for when I inevitably see a weird little magic creature that I have to slay immediately.

Unfortunately, I can’t heap all of this praise on Fae Farm without also hitting on two sore points: menu options and lag. I know a videogame’s menu may seem like a weird thing to snag on, but in some ways it really does hinder my enjoyment of the whole game. The menu options are comprehensive, specific, and well organized, but almost to a fault in that there are so many menus, submenus, options within those, and actions within those options. It makes it difficult to find even a simple crafting recipe or where I’m supposed to go on a map. I applaud the development team for making such an in-depth assortment of options for organization and gameplay, but at times it only results in complication and frustration.

Another frustration I have is how Fae Farm occasionally lags. I’m playing it on Switch so I can’t speak to how the game runs on other platforms, but, every so often, Fae Farm will freeze for just a second. I could be jumping across a stream and my character will freeze mid-jump, suspended over the water as I childishly hammer the B button in hopes it will bring her back to life. This issue hasn’t been detrimental so far, but I can only imagine the issues it might present if I were to lag in less opportune times. It’s easy to push past, but does still present a minor annoyance that I’d rather not deal with.

At its core, Fae Farm is a beautifully rendered farming simulator that, in my opinion, could compete with the best of its genre. It’s mechanically familiar to anyone that’s played Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing while having a unique enough art style and storyline that it can stand out against other titles. It balances its necessary elements—story and community building—against each other in a way that creates smooth gameplay, and it presents a cozy vibe perfect for the fall and winter months ahead. There are some elements of Fae Farm that may leave some craving a bit more of a challenge, as well as technical issues that do set it back, but it makes up for itself by being creative and fun. I don’t find myself terribly compelled to play Fae Farm constantly, but it is an undeniably enjoyable, adventurous, and approachable game that has brought together the farming simulator and story genres in one cozy package.

Fae Farm is developed and published by Phoenix Labs. Our review is based on the Nintendo Switch version. It is also available on PC.

Maddie Agne is an intern at Paste.

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