Today, I wrote this to my editor, “So here’s my problem. In order for me to write my Fae Farm review, I actually have to stop playing Fae Farm…and I’m not willing to do that.” If that doesn’t explain how I feel about Canadian developer Phoenix Labs’ new sim game, I don’t know what will. I have been thinking about Fae Farm since we first previewed it last November, and I’m happy to say it has exceeded all my expectations.
I first went hands-on with the game at Summer Game Fest, and it definitely made my “Best of Summer Game Fest” list. I couldn’t stop talking about it on social media. When it came time to play the game from the beginning, I was genuinely worried that I’d built it up in my head a little too much. Thirty hours later, I don’t want to put Fae Farm down—and I don’t intend to.
Diving Into Fae Farm
To get started, you’re asked to make a Phoenix Labs account in order to play online or local co-op. This process is completely done on the Nintendo Switch, and I never needed a browser or an email. From there, you’re met with a truly inclusive character creation. Whether you’re looking for a specific headdress, skin colour, or eye colour, chances are, Fae Farm has you covered.
What’s even better is that it doesn’t take gender into account. You choose the pronouns that suit you, but even the “Randomize” feature doesn’t see male or female. It pairs long hair with beards or big builds with dainty eyelashes. It truly is random, not even giving a sense of stereotypical gender roles.
“Thirty hours later, I don’t want to put Fae Farm down—and I don’t intend to.”
After the character creation, you’re headed to Azoria. You find a letter in a bottle and decide to trek to this new town, only to be swallowed up by whirlpools and spit out in this town. Luckily, this is where you were heading, and the town Mayor, Merritt, is the one who left the note. Now that you’re here, you’re stuck until someone deals with those pesky whirlpools—I wonder who that could be?
You get set up with a cute little home, shed, and a ton of prime real estate while Merritt shows you the ropes. Fae Farm has magic, battle, gathering, crafting, fishing, farming…the list goes on. You start with the basics like clearing rubble, catching a few bugs and fish, and, of course, crafting and farming.
Craft Your Heart Out
Crafting in Fae Farm is a little different than other life simulators. First, there is so much you can craft. Everything from crafting tables to cauldrons is available for work. You build machines to break down wood, ore and fabric, machines to cook and brew potions, and even tables to craft decor, though these are only needed for specific items.
You just need to be in your house or a buildable zone on your land for your basic tables. What is interesting, though, is that a lot of the craftable furniture for your home will directly influence your “Coziness,” which affects your health, energy or magic. The more items you build and place in your home, the larger your bars will be, which means the more you can do. In theory, this is really unique, but after 30 hours in, there are still so many undiscovered materials that I still can’t craft very many. Though this looked like a way to cheese the game and make it super easy, it takes time.
“Fae Farm really pushes you to explore the area, mechanics and people…”
I found that Fae Farm introduces you to many mechanics slightly before you are ready for them. At times, I thought I was missing something because I hadn’t found the materials to build what was asked of me and felt like I wasn’t progressing, but with a little time and patience, I got there. Fae Farm really pushes you to explore the area, mechanics and people rather than just building your way to the end right off the bat.
The Lay of the Land
Part of what can make things so frustrating is a lack of a proper map. Though Fae Farm‘s map has some great ideas, you are not able to see paths or specific buildings, only general areas. That means I would often make the wrong turn or run in circles, trying to find a specific building or structure. I’d love to see a map with more detailed paths or even a submap of each individual area.
What Phoenix Labs opted for instead, however, is still a great concept, just not everything I’d like it to be. The map shows you each area, like Stay-A-While Bay, Town Center, and Spooky Woods, as well as dungeon locations and fast travel points. Over each area, you will see a series of tiny heads. This shows you exactly who is in which location across Azoria at any given moment, including yourself.
This eliminates the need for extensive guides like the ones I regularly use for Stardew Valley to learn each NPCs routine and hunt them down to turn in a quest or give them a gift. You can pop open the map, see where there are, and can even open up a menu to see the full list. This is especially helpful if there are more than 10 in an area at a time.
The one downside to this is that a lot of quests come via mail which give you a name but not a face. So you’re searching the map to find them but have no clue what they look like, meaning you need to actively search each area on the map, pulling up the secondary menu to see who is who. If you want a visual inventory and map, you need more visual quests.
You can also see if there are any quests available in each area here or if you have any to turn in, as well as who they pertain to. You can then select the area or individual person and find a marker on your screen pointing in their direction. The only trick is finding your way across the map.
Travel and Controls
The good news is that there is no better feeling than ripping around Azoria. There are almost no limits to where you can run, jump or twirl in Fae Farm. Yes, you heard me. Twirl. Eventually, you are gifted a pair of Fae Wings, which allow for the prettiest double jump I’ve ever seen. These are also customizable via the Mysterious Grove. You can also use these skills to find important items hidden all over the map!
Not only does this make Fae Farm a bit more fast-paced, but it also takes a lot of unnecessary struggle and wasted time out of the game. I don’t have to worry about which path to take. I can jump up the cliff and over the lake. I can stand on my shed. I can hop into a tree and over a house. Even swimming feels awesome in Fae Farm. Movement is fast and, more importantly, fun.
“There are almost no limits to where you can run, jump or twirl in Fae Farm. Yes, you heard me. Twirl.”
The controls aren’t all magical, unfortunately. When designing your farm, there is a lot of intricate placing involved. Every individual crop needs its own 1×1 square placed down. Every piece of furniture needs a home. However, placing them feels extremely unintuitive. Rather than being able to move freely with your right stick, you can only move within range of your character, so you have to walk and place while decorating. This becomes incredibly difficult when you are designing around other objects, leading to frustration often.
This also flows over to caring for your Chickoos, Cottontails and other animals. Heading over to them for their daily pet, brush, milking or sheering needs to be done daily. Unfortunately, the prompt to do so doesn’t always appear, so you need to turn away and turn back. This is especially true if you are tending to more than one animal or more than one action. It’s annoying but not game-breaking.
There are also small issues in your inventory that could be better thought out. When you hover over an item, it doesn’t tell you what you’re looking at until you click on it, and it opens a popup menu. This hasn’t been too much of an issue, but it can absolutely be frustrating just identifying pictures when you’re searching for a specific item.
Since I’m airing my grievances, Fae Farm also had a strange inconsistency with my name. My character and Phoenix Lab account were both Cahlayna, but for some reason, both in load screens and in conversations, I would get called both Dayna and Cahlayna randomly. Again, it doesn’t affect anything, but I don’t even know how my actual name got brought into it. I started a game originally thinking I had messed up my name, only to restart and realize it was an odd bug.
Fae Farm Masters Quality-of-Life
For anyone who has played farming simulators you will know all about simple quality-of-life changes these games can implement to make our lives easier. Fae Farm has listened to the masses and has brought us tools that not only don’t take up inventory space but also are chosen automatically when you interact with an object.
This means your pickaxe comes out when you aim to hit a rock, your axe comes out when you want to take out a tree, and the very best of them all is that if you swim or it rains, you’re automatically filling your watering can. The only things this does not apply to are your net, wand and fishing rod. This would get frustrating in dungeons, so I’m grateful for it. These also grow with you, using new materials to upgrade them, eventually unlocking magic abilities to make them more efficient.
Something else Fae Farm allows you to do is access your storage from any shed or in your house. They are all a shared inventory; no more chests in every corner of my town. You also pull from your storage automatically while crafting, which is a godsend. Having to locate each material and have it in your pockets takes forever.
Originally you could not move items in your inventory to organize them. In a recent update, this has been changed, allowing you to move items freely around your inventory, proving that Phoenix Labs is still making improvements to the game and listening to players. I would love to see more options to sort your storage, as alphabetical is fine, but by “type” is vague and still has you sorting through hundreds of items. (EDIT: You can sort by pressing ZL, and I completely missed it. Crisis averted!)
Which brings me to this: YOUR STORAGE IS UNLIMITED. I repeat: Your storage is unlimited. Though you need to unlock inventory slots, your storage itself is not numbered, and it is a glorious thing. Hoarders rejoice! I have been collecting to my heart’s content, and I love it.
There is a small caveat to my hoarding, though, selling isn’t as easy as you’d think. You sell your items on tables in the center of town. There are four tables available, each holding eight slots. That’s it. You can’t gather 300 blueberries and sell them all at once for a profit. You have to be slow and calculated. Eventually, you can purchase more stalls, but you won’t be selling anything in the hundreds.
Fae Farm brings RPG elements to the simulation genre in that you can develop relationships with your villagers, from friendships to flirting to outright dates. I found this feature charming, albeit flawed. Without any effort, after a conversation or two, I’d suddenly move to the flirting category.
You will find quests from villagers based on friendship or romance. These usually end up being quests where you need to bring an object to them. These are daily, though, and reset each night. I very much wish they would stay until you complete them. Between dungeons, animals, farming, quests and friendships, I rarely found the time to gather or craft things in the allotted amount of time.
In Azoria, you will find different zones and dungeons. In each zone are tons of adorable critters. I truly believe Fae Farm will be taking on Stardew Valley’s Junimos with the likes of Shroom Buddies, various Bloblins, Sun Sprites and Willow Wisps. These are the little guys you catch with your net, and I am absolutely obsessed. Bring on the plushies!
Everything is creative and cute, right down to the enemies you fight. Fae Farm is truly whimsical. In dungeons, you’ll find books with teeth called Snappers, canons with eyes called Cannots, and compasses that come to life called Drecksions. There are even creepy statues that follow you as you move, which can be plenty more than what meets the eye.
The combat is not particularly difficult. It tends to be a series of two short swings followed by a long one with your wand. You also have spells that unlock throughout gameplay that bring different elements to combat and use magic. Spells like Vortex can also be used out of combat for things like collecting crops and foraging, but be careful because you can use up your magic quickly!
One other thing I love that Phoenix Labs has implemented in Fae Farm is a Dungeon Tracker. Here you can see all three dungeons (once you’ve unlocked them) and your progress in each. Each has 25 levels to complete. In the Dungeon Tracker, you can see how far you’ve gotten in each and how many floors you have unlocked.
Though you may have visited 23 floors, you need to craft specific seals for each floor to unlock them. This allows you to fast travel to them from the entrance or avoid completing a mechanic to head to the next floor. What’s better is that from the entrance or the Dungeon Tracker, you can see what materials are available on each floor and the likelihood you will find them. If they are available on that floor, you’ll see it listed with a rank from very low to very high. I feel like Phoenix Labs figured out everything we Google about other games in this genre and eliminated the need to go hunting.
Bring a Friend
And all of that brings me down to multiplayer. This is usually my least favourite aspect of these kinds of games. Even while I raved over Palia, I still found multiplayer mostly useless, with someone just running around and touching my stuff. I think I’ve tried it once in Stardew Valley. But let me tell you, Fae Farm does multiplayer right.
“Fae Farm does multiplayer right.”
At first, I was hesitant because as soon as you join someone’s local or online multiplayer, you’re prompted to create a character. I came across something like this in Diablo IV, and I had to start from scratch when I joined a friend’s game, leaving me too far behind to really enjoy anything. Other games brought you in with limited capabilities, leaving you to run around aimlessly, like in Animal Crossing New Horizons.
Fae Farm has you create a character and become a part of the host’s world. You can have multiple players, and you load in with your new face and all the skills the host has, including wings and wands, if they are that far into the story. From here, you can access their inventory, quests, crafting stations—anything the host can access. The joining player becomes a full-fledged member of the team, even able to accept and complete quests, build and decorate and talk to NPCs.
What’s better is if that player leaves and comes back later, they load in as the character they built the first time around. Fae Farm found a way to bring a player into someone else’s world, encouraging them to work together to play the game. My partner or children are much more likely to progress with me than on their own.
I found building something together a lot more satisfying than jumping into someone else’s game, not feeling like I had an impact or like anything was truly mine. The only thing it could do better here is to allow two players to main the same game, as Animal Crossing New Horizons does. This would allow player two to exist in player one’s game at any time, not just when hosting, if that is something they agree to. Some may not like sharing story progression, but I love the idea.
Fae Farm Takes the Cake
I was reviewing Fae Farm at the same time I took on Starfield, which is well-known as one of the biggest games of the year. I scored Starfield a solid 9. It is great, but there were so many times I would have rather been playing Fae Farm.
Fae Farm is available for Nintendo Switch or PC. It does come in at a full-priced $59.99 US, which is not something I usually expect from a farming (and more) simulator, especially with new titles like Palia being free-to-play. But Fae Farm has more than enough quality content to justify the price.
From its adorable art style (the characters look like Fisher Price Little People) to its whimsical features, Fae Farm is making it really hard to put down, and I have an arsenal of AAA titles just waiting to be devoured. Though there are some slight bugs and features that could be polished, I can’t put Fae Farm down and can see myself spending my spare time in Azoria for the foreseeable future.