Title: Fae Farm
Developer: Phoenix Labs
Publisher: Phoenix Labs
Release Date: September 8
Reviewed on: Nintendo Switch
Price: $40-$60 USD
I love fantasy, and I love farming sims. When Fae Farm first crossed my radar, I loved the idea of exploring them closer together. Sure, many beloved farming sims have fantasy elements (the Harvest Goddess in Harvest Moon, for example), but this seemed like it would hold additional elements.
But what fantasy elements would they include? What magic did they have for us to discover? How did this incorporate into the story and the basic foundational things that make up a farming sim?
The trailer looked adorable, and I couldn’t wait to play. Rushing into GameStop on release day, I grabbed my game to wander into adventures. Below, I’m going to show you some of what I discovered.
Let’s dive in!
“Escape to the world of Fae Farm and create your own cozy home in the enchanted world of Azoria. As you nurture and grow your homestead, you’ll get to meet charming characters, foster deep relationships and discover ways to infuse magic into everything you do. Customize your character, master the arts of crafting, cooking, potion-making and discover so much more.
Unfold the mysteries of the island on your own or with up to three other players. You can invite your family and friends or visit their homestead to progress together, playing beside you or online. As the seasons change, you’ll be able to unlock new areas and restore the world around you. Embark on a ship and set sail to Azoria, there’s a magical world waiting for you!”Phoenix Labs
Fae Farm has a unique approach to farming. However, I’m not entirely sure that that’s a good thing. In some ways, Fae Farm has simplified the traditional approach to how farming is set up. But at the same time, it overcomplicates it.
Let me explain.
To plant crops or flowers, you must build the appropriate bed. There are crop beds (unique ones for each season that you unlock along the way), flower beds, and beds for Fae Crops.
All of these require materials to build. When you arrive at your farm, you are given enough supplies to make a few.
One intriguing thing about farming is the alchemy system (note to self for later to tag How-To article). To get seasonal crops, you have to use special fertilizer to create them.
Compounded with base crops not unlocking until you hit a certain level of farming, it takes you past the first year of gameplay to unlock all the seasonal varieties.
Beyond this, farming goes similarly to how it goes in many other farming sims.You plant crops. You water them every day. You cut them down once you get outside their season (a great way to get fodder for your animals). Business as usual.
There are three buildings to raise animals, and you unlock them at various points in the game. You don’t have to save up money and resources to build these buildings, making a change from traditional farming sims.
When you first arrive on your farm, you’ll notice the Coop sitting to the right of your farm. But, if you go to the door, you’ll see it’s locked. After a few quests, you are prompted to talk to the sisters who sell the coop animals. Once that happens, you unlock those animals.
Compared to the traditional prices I’ve seen in farming sims, animals are cheaper in this game than usual. I also noticed that the animals seem to have more personality than I’m used to.
I had a chaos chicken. Her name is Ichi. She liked to get into everything. It was rather endearing.
The Barn and the Fae Pen get unlocked after various points in the story. You can tend to six different animals Between the three buildings. And, of course, each animal gives you something you can gather.
Throughout the story, you meet more and more villagers. When you first start, you have the village proper you have access to, and that alone has an entire town with diverse characters. Later in the story, you unlock an Elven Village, and visitors visit the island.
I had mixed feelings about the fact that you can’t make friends with the store owners. They’re too busy running their shops to form a friendship with you. Now, their family and the NPCs around them are fair game.
The gift-giving system is unlike anything I’ve seen in a farming sim, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Instead of a set of gifts they prefer, and you can give what you have, it gives you the option to give a specific item, which changes daily.
What’s more, it could be items you haven’t gained access to yet. I found the system frustrating. Additionally, the friendship quests are only good for the day of, and you can’t carry it over day-to-day.
Let me preface this section by noting that I’ve only done a single play-through of the main storyline and thus only gone through the motions of romancing once.
Most faming sims have a set system with romancing characters that makes sense. You reach a point, and you start dating. You do a series of steps in an order that you follow before proposing. Then you get married, your spouse moves in, and you get access to new dialogue and occasionally a change in your house.
Fae Farm’s system is less easy to follow. Like other villagers, the few datable characters move up the relationship levels. But then, out of nowhere, you move to flirting. And then dating.
From there, you go on a series of five dates. I couldn’t find rhyme or reasons as to what triggered the invitation to the dates, unlike other games where you need to be at a particular place at a specific time; in Fae Farm, you just walk up to the person and talk to them. The option to go on the invited date will appear.
There are five dates you go on. And then, at some point in the future, you can propose. No magic talisman, nothing overly magic, just a conversation.
The final step to marriage is to pay 10 thousand florins to get a marriage license from the mayor. And then you get married the next day.
But nothing changes. And perhaps this is my biggest issue to date with this system. There’s no new dialogue, and nothing indicates you’re married beyond seeing them on your farm throughout the day.
In addition, any other dateable NPCs you may have gone on a date with get labeled with past flirt or lost love or some indication that you didn’t choose them. When compared to the rest of the NPCs that have a bit about who they are, I think that that is a disservice to the remaining dateable NPCs.
Once you set up all the cooking stations, fishing can help provide ingredients for some of the more accessible, more restorative foods.
But from a mechanics standpoint, Eddy can upgrade your rod a handful of times. He gives you your initial rod. Unlike other tools, upgrading your fishing rod (and your net) doesn’t require anything more than Florins.
Fishing in this game is one of the easiest mechanics I’ve seen. You cast your line into the water near a fish (which you can see floating beneath the surface). You jiggle the line a bit until it latches on. From there, it is a game of reeling it in while it tries to pull away.
You have to keep an eye on your line. Once it turns red, you need to give some slack so you don’t snap the line. It is a bit of give or take, but you eventually ease the fish in.
Unlike in other farming sims, the higher quality rods don’t give you access to different fish from the lower ones. As best as I could tell from my experience, there are two types of fish for each major area: the ocean, the river, the Fae Realm, and the Mountain area. These two types change per season.
I love seeing the fish there, so you know where best to position yourself. Overall, this is an easier system to adjust to, and it is a way to make money or give you energy when you go into the mines.
To complete the main story and unlock all of the areas of the island, you must work your way through three dungeons called mines. Each mine has 25 levels that increase in difficulty as you go.
These three dungeons are unique and carry the ore and other materials you’ll need for various quests.
Also inside the mines are Jumbles – animated items (created by wild magic) that have been sealed into these spaces. They have various ways they attack you – luckily, it’s easy to memorize their patterns.
Before you gain access to the first mine, you have to go through the process of getting a magic staff. This is what you use to fight the jumbles – and to cast magic throughout Astoria.
These mines are not only vital for collecting the resources you need, but they are necessary for moving the story forward.
One unique thing is their system to help you move between floors. Each floor has a teleportation platform at the entrance. You can open that platform with the appropriate seal (made with materials you find in the mines).
Otherwise, you have to unlock it manually. The Saltwater Mine is the easiest because you just mine until you find the switch. In my experience, I’ve found it early.
In the Floating Ruins in the Fae Realm, you have to catch these pink balls of light energy and take them to the exit. Each floor requires two, and they can be found by mining, or occasionally just there.
The last mine, the Scorched Caverns, has these fireballs you must take to their appropriate place that activates the door. You have to use the various flames throughout the floor to ensure it doesn’t go out before you can make it there.
Overall, the mines are a fun challenge. Depending on what I worked on outside my explorations, they took me days to weeks in-game.
Once I got used to the seal system, I often went in prepared, so I did less of the challenges in the last two mines. I would make the seals ahead of time and immediately unlock the door. Then, it was a matter of finding the door and gaining all of the resources I wanted. Having the exit ready to go was very useful when escaping a large horde of jumbles.
Another thing you get from the mines are pieces of gems. These can be used for additional seals that unlock several waypoints throughout the map. They come in handy for teleporting closer to the mines, various parts of town, and your pieces of land.
When you arrive in Astoria, you are given a basic set of tools. This includes a pickaxe, a watering can, a scythe, an axe, and a shovel.
The fishing rod and net to capture creatures are acquired through quests you receive early on. Those are also on a different upgrade system (I briefly touched on this in the fishing section).
You cannot begin to upgrade your tools until chapter three of the main story. Once you start exploring the Saltwater Mine, Cleo the Explorer (who helps you unlock the mine in the first place), sends you to Cinder the Blacksmith to upgrade your pickaxe.
Without fail, when you go to upgrade your tools to the next level, you will want to start with the pickaxe. This makes it easier to mine the various ores and will even allow additional resources from each one. Bringing up the level on the pickaxe will make catching the rest of the tools easier.
Once you hit Iron Tools, you unlock new features. Your tools now have a magical ability to help you. For example, the watering can will be able to water more crops at once, making this basic chore go faster.
There are six levels of tools that you can have Cinder upgrade. Each level increases in both cost and the amount of ingots you need.
More on ingots in a second.
You need to focus on upgrading your tools throughout your time in Astoria. Upgraded tools can help you gain access to resources you need for upgraded items for use in all aspects of the game.
Crafting in Fae Farm is perhaps the most varied I’ve seen in a farming sim in a bit. It is easily one of my favorite aspects of the game.
You craft the stations you need to make refined goods and food (four different stations serve different functions for this), and there are stations to harvest material from critters you catch (three different ones – one for Astoria, one for the mountains, and one for the Fae realm).
In addition, you craft on those stations. You make your seeds and fertilizers, cook your food, make seals for dungeons and ingots to upgrade your tools, and make various decorations for your home and property.
Once you start to unlock these stations, take full advantage of them. They will help you make quick money and give you wider access to the island.
Interestingly, the town carpenter doesn’t touch farm buildings outside of home upgrades. You craft your stations as you see fit.
I’m considering a second playthrough (or playing more with this first one) and how I want to arrange these stations.
The final thing I want to note about crafting is how it affects your health, mana (ability to use magic), and energy. You can create items in your home that boost one of these. With the right combination, that boost helps you push harder and longer as the game progresses.
When you arrive on the island of Astoria, you find that wild magic has taken over the island. Your journey there was hard because of the whirlpools that surround the island. Broken down into chapters, the story takes you on an adventure as you explore the island and work to tame the wild magic.
As far as farming sim stories go, it’s quaint and easy. It took me into Year 2 to finish the entire thing.
There were some glitches as I came to the end of the story, but I will talk about those below.
I hated the way the faces look in this game. It feels like work went into the rest of the graphics, but they did the bare minimum regarding character design. While the options seem expansive, where it matters is light.
That’s compounded by the fact that you cannot do much to adjust how your character looks while creating them. You’re stuck with the shape of all of the features, and to me, it seems like it was done with little thought compared to the rest of them. Multiple times while playing, I noted how I hated my character’s face and how it looked.
It was something that annoyed me throughout the game.
Gameplay was rough for a so-called finished game.
Throughout my play through, I ran into several glitches. From crops that wouldn’t harvest to the entire conclusion of the story not showing up on my screen.
But before I dig into that, let’s investigate something that irked me.
There are no true cut scenes in Fae Farm. Stardew Valley does in-engine cut scenes but still, it’s a moving sequence that doesn’t break you out of the narrative. And it’s in the same art style as the rest of the game proper.
Instead, there are moments where you get a series of images that move the story along. Text runs along the bottom of the scene, narrating these moments.
Moreover, these images weren’t customized to your character but showed what is supposed to be your character, mostly hidden by a cloak.
Perhaps they wanted to focus their budget elsewhere; perhaps they didn’t have the manpower to create full animated scenes. But if you want to charge me the price of a full game, I expect the game to have full scenes.
More on my issues with the cost in the episode below.
To further compound this issue, the art style on the stills differs greatly from what you have in the rest of the game. For me, this resulted in a slightly jarring experience. In a sense, it lost some of the magic of what should have been pivotal story moments.
Take a look below compared to the stills I’ve posted throughout the review to see what I mean.
What’s more, the story’s finale glitched out in my copy. I had to go find the visuals on YouTube.
This game, at times, felt half-baked and not finished. Concepts that should have shone instead fell flat.
I hate to give Fae Farm such a low rating, but it was earned. From the half-baked ideas to the numerous glitches I found along the way, this game was not ready for a wide release.
The story is cute, and the concepts are fascinating. However, Phoenix Labs failed to produce a game that met the standards of an over-saturated market.
And the cost.
This also influenced my review and my final score. Possibly, it was one of the largest factors. What you get for the cost of Fae Farm is not worth it, in my opinion.
You get a game that didn’t even produce cut scenes for story moments. A game that at times, feels half-done and not completely there.
And on the Nintendo Switch (where I played it), it costs $60 USD. Having played through the entire main story and experienced most (if not all) of the game’s features, I can state that it is not worth that.
Even going over to Steam, where the deluxe edition is $60 but the base game itself is $40 is still asking too much.
Right now, Stairway Games’ Coral Island is $24.99 on Steam. And it is still in early access. Yet there is arguably more content than we get in Fae Farm.
Story of Seasons: A Wonderful Life includes a story that takes you through years to complete. In Fae Farm, I completed the main story in just over one.
Another good example, at the same price as Coral Island is Roots of Pacha. Not only does it offer a lot of content, but its systems are more developed than the ones we see in Fae Farm.
If you’re looking for a good game to introduce someone to the Farming Sim genre, I do have plenty of suggestions.
But if you are interested in playing Fae Farm, I’d wait for it to go on sale. In its current state, it is not worth the cost.