As much as I enjoy the engaging narrative and combat of a game like Final Fantasy XVI or Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, I’m a self-proclaimed sucker when it comes to the cosy gaming genre. When I get back from work, I want to unwind with something easy. I want something that will entertain me but requires minimal effort on my part, and Fae Farm from Phoenix Labs is certainly a game that fits the bill.
Fae Farm takes place on the vibrant island of Azoria, a place absolutely brimming with magic and secrets. The story begins when your character arrives on the island – a rare event due to mysterious whirlpools that have been sinking any approaching boats. In fact, you’re the first visitor they’ve had for a while, so the natural thing for them to do is to give you a small house and a spacious plot of land in hopes you’ll contribute to the island. This sets the stage for your adventure.
As you tend to crops, nurture animals, build relationships with the island’s quirky inhabitants, and explore dungeons, you gradually uncover Azoria’s mysteries. Since the story unfolds through the completion of story quests rather than a rigid in-game calendar, you’re free to set your own pace and spend your time however you wish. You can drive the plot forward or ignore it completely for a while to instead focus on building the cosy cottage of your dreams. It’s just worth noting that certain recipes, areas and abilities only become available as you progress through the game. I wouldn’t quite categorise Fae Farm as a sandbox game because it does have an overarching plot, but it also grants you a lot of freedom to choose how you want to play.
The storytelling in Fae Farm strikes a wonderful balance between whimsical and heartwarming. The initial moments on Azoria, where you interact with your fellow islanders and start to grow your farm, have a cosy, slice-of-life charm, but Fae Farm doesn’t stop at this. It takes an unexpected turn when you delve into the dungeons lurking beneath Azoria’s surface. These dungeons, full of mobs and secrets, offer an exciting contrast to the peaceful farm life. The downside is that there aren’t any automatic checkpoints in the dungeons, so you’ll either have to work your way through each level or start crafting seals. Crafting seals isn’t too much of an issue itself, but there are so many different seals for each level and dungeon – many of which require previous seals as a base – that you’ll end up crafting a lot of them. Once they are in place though, it makes gathering resources a lot easier because you can see which floors have an abundance of specific materials.
The controls and user interface are fairly intuitive, and the menus are clean and easy to navigate. You’ll mostly find yourself switching between four sets of tool options – your staff for combat and magic, your net, fishing rod, and general farming tools. The latter will automatically switch to the farming tool you need for a specific task so you don’t have to change tools when you go from mining to chopping wood – a feature I’m sure many will appreciate.
As you explore Azoria and complete various activities, you’ll notice the development of your character’s skills. These skills play a significant role in enhancing your efficiency and unlocking new opportunities. For example, as your farming skill improves, you’ll harvest crops more efficiently and gain access to new crop varieties. Similarly, developing your magic skills in dungeons makes battling creatures more manageable. This form of character progression takes the place of a more traditional levelling-up system.
Depending on your playstyle, certain skills will improve more quickly than others, allowing you to unlock new items in the stores and enhance your proficiency in that particular area. This sense of agency over your character’s growth adds a layer of personalisation to your journey.
Fae Farm isn’t about intense challenges; it’s about getting lost in a cosy, magical world. I was constantly finding myself losing track of time because I just needed to do one more quest. The absence of overly punishing difficulty spikes makes it accessible to players of all skill levels, but the lack of challenge never seemed like a negative. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
With gameplay designed to be enjoyable and engaging, Fae Farm allows you to immerse yourself in the world of Azoria without the frustration of insurmountable obstacles, and unlike similar games, it doesn’t impose penalties for staying out too late. Your character will simply wake up as if nothing happened. You will not lose any items or money, so there’s no reason to hurry back when you could spend more time exploring.
Graphics & Sound Design
Boasting a charming and simplistic, yet captivating art style that perfectly complements its cosy aesthetic, the world of Azoria feels like a place straight out of a fairytale. The attention to detail in the character designs, from the quirky islanders to the adorable animals, adds depth and personality to the game’s world, creating the impression of a living, breathing world teeming with colour and life.
The use of ambient sound and calming music further immerse you in its magical world. Whether you’re strolling through the dark, creepy forest, tending to your farm, exploring the depths of a dungeon, or even enjoying a date with one of the game’s numerous romantic options, the audio design enhances the atmosphere – a testament to the game’s ability to create a world that not only looks enchanting but also sounds enchanting.