A lighthearted and simple farm sim marred by performance blemishes.
It’s no secret that the farming sim genre has blown out and expanded in recent years. Following the success of Stardew Valley, Fae Farm is the latest high-profile release in the genre, boasting a whimsical land, charming characters, and a wealth of things to do through the four seasons. My time living in the world of Astoria was a pleasant adventure, despite some cracks in the foundation.
Your villager chooses to start their new life with a plot of land in Astoria, a close-knit island community full of fun characters that are abundantly friendly and eager to guide you toward different game features through simple side quests. Some examples include purchasing and using fertilizer, or purchasing and registering Chickoo & Cottontail animals (this world’s version of chickens and a bunny/sheep hybrid). The breadcrumbs of teaching the player about the features of farm life, home building & decor, resource gathering, and crafting are meted out consistently enough to guide the player without feeling cumbersome or frivolous. Fae Farm wants to teach you to fish through all its systems rather than giving you one, so to speak.
Chores will feel familiar to those initiated to the genre, if not with a few twists. Different soil beds need to be constructed depending on the type of plant you’re looking to grow, so flowers would need to have a different type of bedding than turnips. Plants grow in different seasons and require a number of days to germinate. Your farm also starts littered with trees, rocks, logs, and brush to clear away, requiring tools that need upgrading over time to cut through more formidable obstacles. Once those tools are upgraded enough, you gain the ability to perform a magic spell that’ll affect an area of nine tiles, which is a nice touch and quickly equips you with efficient tools that keep the pace moving. Over time you can get a produce stand to sell crops or other materials on-site, but there are additional spaces in town where your wares can also be sold.
The crafting and decorative features in Fae Farm are tremendous. You start with a pretty basic list of items that expands over time as you gain the ability to make specialized crafting tables to cook food, cut lumber, and polish stones into jewels, decorating tables to make windows and other wall mounts, and looms to manufacture your own clothing. The number of new items and crafting options that come about is almost daunting, with an exhaustive almanac that notifies you of every entry. Generally I appreciate when the player is presented with more options, but I would like an option to mark all notifications as complete in the menu so I don’t have an unread exclamation mark looming over me.
A very cool wrinkle of home decor and design in what you choose has a direct impact over the battle/dungeon crawling aspect of the game. Furniture and the like have attributes tied to them that affect your combat effectiveness, such as adding health, mana, attack, or defense attributes. As someone who doesn’t devote much time to home design in sim games, this is a really neat feature that incentivized me to dive into building and placing furniture as a way to optimize my build out rather than worry about getting a high score in cute points. Dungeon crawling and combat isn’t as robust as other activities in Astoria. Your wand has a basic swing, and magic abilities are gained as you delve deeper into dungeons. But it’s ways in which other pieces of gameplay feed into the combat that keep it from becoming rote.
Though the map space is somewhat limited, the world of Astoria is meant to be explored. Guided roads will lead you to different points of interest easily enough, but you are not constrained to them and can even hop over ledges or jump into the ocean and swim across it to different shores. If you do, you’ll be rewarded with scrolls littered all over the place that hold recipes to make different home fixtures. Walking from end to end of the map won’t take a long time, but fast travel waypoints can be unlocked to move you instantaneously and make hopping around painless. If you get lost or are looking for a specific townsperson, a marker tool will let you select one and pops open an arrow on screen pointing to their direction, which is a really welcome feature that streamlined my walking direction.
Stylistically, the game leans all-in on a cute and playful tone. All the characters are more on the short and stubby end with simple but expressive faces and reactions to conversations. Additionally, your character has a healthy set of emotes and responses to things like arid heat or cool days. The world is colorful and has great thematic organization that has each patch of Astoria feeling tonally consistent. The soundtrack is a calming mixture of wind instruments, stringed instruments, piano, chimes, and quiet nature sounds, which is pleasant but doesn’t quite stand out as extraordinary.
Where Fae Farm struggles is in performance. Loading screens are a real problem. It takes a full fifty seconds to load from the title screen to the game. Once there, the load screens are infrequent enough to mostly overlook, but how long it takes to see action is jarring. Ongoing performance stutters and hitches are consistent, and they stretch beyond the hustle and bustle of more populated town areas. It is fortunate that the combat isn’t too complex, because otherwise there’d have been a handful of times those stutters could have really damaged me.
Fae Farm is a game where the developers have successfully streamlined the more tedious pieces of farming, chores, dungeon crawling, quest completion, and exploration so the player can quickly dive into the features and figure out their sim life rhythm. The sheer number of things to do keeps the experience fresh and for the most part limits the tedium that this genre can be guilty of. Beyond the glaring technical issues, Fae Farm has a lot to offer for both new and experienced players of the farm sim if you can forgive it.