It’s definitely been a rough couple of years. From a global pandemic that not only forced people to be locked in their homes for longer than they could imagine, while simultaneously exposing the flaws in almost every established system; to political unrest and several kinds of social turbulence, it’s safe to say people need an escape.
This was probably best exemplified by Nintendo’s Directs for both June and September which featured not one, not two, but SEVEN life-sim games, with an eighth on the way. One of the games which caught this writer’s eye from the majority of Story of Seasons remakes was Fae Farm, which is being developed by Phoenix Labs—the makers of the free-to-play, Monster Hunter-like: Dauntless. CGM had the opportunity to sit in on a digital preview of the game and see what sets it apart from the big names of the genre.
Game Director Isaac Epp described Fae Farm as a “cozy farm sim, with some adventuring as well,” saying “the world has a lot of really great, high action PVP games and that’s great, I love those games too; but the world needs a little bit more cozy.” While clearly inspired by a love for games like Story of Seasons and Stardew Valley, Epp notes a massive inspiration from The Legend of Zelda within the creation of Fae Farm and stressed the importance of wanting to capture some of that game’s feel within their own.
We were shown three fairly vertical slices of Fae Farm, in order to give us a basic understanding of how the game would work. The first was the Homestead—the place where players will have their home and their farm. The focus of this was obviously farming, and some things you could do around the town. Phoenix Labs clearly learned from the games in the genre that inspired them to create a more seamless experience that isn’t so menu heavy. One of the things that struck me personally was how every farm action was contextual—no more rooting through menus to select the right tool to water crops or chop trees.
“It’s still early, but Fae Farm is shaping up to be an interesting and engaging farm sim…”
In Fae Farm, the developers wanted to make the gameplay as functional as it is fun, so if you walk up to a planted crop, the game will know to water it. However, that isn’t to say that the game is removing all agency from the player as certain actions will still require player interaction.
Catching bugs requires a bit of steady movement and timing, and catching fish involves a little mini-game—not unlike many farming sims—where players must balance reeling with the fish’s stamina to avoid breaking the line. Much like many other games in the genre, players will also be able to interact with the many NPCs in the game, and both in single-player and multiplayer, friendship and romance options will be available.
Next, we were given a small glimpse of the dungeon-crawling that was featured in Fae Farm’s Direct trailer. Early on, players will be granted a Wand and Fairy Wings—allowing for the use of magic spells and a double jump and more manoeuvrability. While exploring caves and dungeons, players will need to use their wands to fight the various creatures lurking within. Fitting the tone of the game, Epp describes the many enemies players will encounter throughout Fae Farm as “charming,” saying they’re kept in a mischievous design framework, rather than a menacing one.
We wanted to know if more combat options would be available to players, reminiscent of games like Fantasy Life, however, Game Director Isaac Epp told us since magic is the basis of the game’s world, the wand serves as the main weapon for players, but they will become more powerful as players level up and unlock new abilities. Not only that, the wand doesn’t only have a combat application and players will be able to use magic to assist in farming activities.
It’s an interesting balance of action and life-sim, as no one player necessarily needs to fit one specific role. Shown in the September Direct was Fae Farm’s simultaneous four-player gameplay, and one thing Phoenix Labs wanted to focus on was the sense of freedom players can have while exploring the world of Fae Farm.
This was shown to some degree in the announcement trailer—players aren’t bound to a single screen and can focus on any activity they want. “We really expect, based on our play-testing, and expectations,” says Epp, “people oftentimes split up to do things. Maybe one player’s really into going into the dungeons and mining and fighting the Jumbles, but someone else might want to focus on upgrading and gathering resources in the Homestead and crafting things, and that’s totally cool!”
Phoenix Labs also wanted to make sure any player could drop in and out at any time. So if you start a farm with some friends, but one is unable to play another can drop in and the game will automatically catch them up to where they need to be. We wanted to know if Fae Farm would feature a job system and allow players to adopt certain roles.
Epp didn’t give any specific answers; however, by his description, the game will be designed in such a way that certain RPG elements will assist the way you want to play—if you don’t want to go into dungeons, you can focus on the farming, or if you don’t want to join in on the farming, you can craft items and design your home instead—it really is, play it your way.
Speaking of home design, this is a feature within Fae Farm that serves a double purpose. Unlike similar games in the genre, decorating your home isn’t simply for aesthetic purposes as well as self-expression. Every piece of furniture you can place in your home has a “Cozyness” stat, which, if players place certain types of furniture within their home, they’ll be rewarded after resting each day with better health, stamina and magic.
The importance of little details has been well-documented in my writing, so when asking if furniture will feature secondary functions or little animations, much like Animal Crossing, Epp clarified that furniture will be mostly decorative—much to this writer’s disappointment.
It’s still early, but Fae Farm is shaping up to be an interesting and engaging farm sim that is not only inspired by a love of the genre, but takes the best features of the best games in that genre and builds on them, while still establishing a unique identity of its own. Hopefully, as more time passes, Fae Farm will be able to stand alongside Stardew Valley and Fantasy Life in the pantheon of fantastic sim games—something that gives players the escape they need, while providing a meaningful gaming experience.