Thursday, 15 August 2019

Forager (Nintendo Switch) - Review

It's been a while since I've been as obsessed with a game as I have been with Forager this week. I received the code last Friday, before a busy weekend that included two of my best friends getting married. So Sunday was the first chance I had to give it a look.

So hungover and tired I booted it up, thinking that I'd give it ten minutes and get back to it the next day after the hangover had subsided (or in a few days, as is often the case since I've hit my 30's). My kids were happily playing on their Switches, which allowed me to play this game for FOUR GLORIOUS UNINTERRUPTED HOURS before they asked for food.

I couldn't believe how fast that time had gone. Or that my children hadn't argued in that time. I didn't even feel any remorse at how long I had spent playing. This was the most surprising thing. You've all heard of Mum guilt? Well I have gamer guilt too. Basically, whenever I manage to get a few hours of uninterrupted game time (which is actually fairly rare) I make myself feel awful by thinking about all of the things I could have done with that time. I could have baked with the kids, gone for a walk, tackled Mt Un-Ironed clothes, or even played a different game - maybe one more story driven, or one that's deemed a classic. When I've spent time playing a more simplistic game, this feeling is usually pretty magnified (Farm Together I'm looking at you).

But as I put my Switch on the dock to charge whilst I hastily made my kids a sandwich I realised I couldn't wait to get back to Forager. It had it's hooks in deep.

I'm writing this on Thursday afternoon. Schools are out for summer which means that I am not working and my kids are off school. The weather is crap. We have spent almost every day in the house playing Switch. And unbelievably Forager is the only game I have played in this time. My Switch is still showing it as 'first played 4 days ago' but I will not be surprised if I have already spent 30 hours in Forager.

So, a little more about the game. The store page lists games like Stardew Valley and Terraria as influences and it is easy to see the similarities between these titles. However, going into this thinking it is going to be like Stardew Valley can do Forager a disservice. Whilst the influence is clear, the games are actually quite different, with Stardew Valley taking a slower, more methodical approach. The Forager Steam page also states that this is an 'idle game that you want yo actively keep playing' and I feel like this description more accurately portrays what Forager is than it's influences do.

Upon loading up the game your character is in the middle of a little block of land. There's no real tutorial, you're told to build a furnace and then left to your own devices. This could have been pretty daunting, but luckily Forager is a fairly simple game to get to grips with. Use the tools at your disposal to collect resources. Use those resources to build things like forges, inscription tables and factories - all of which unlock more tools for you to make.

As you progress you will level up, giving you skill points to spend on unlocks. Many of the buildings are hidden in the skill tree, but you level up fast enough that you don't go without a building you need for too long. You can also customise the look of your little sprite. Mine is currently sporting a fetching set of Mercy Wings and a crown, because why not?

Money can be spent on buying new pieces of land, that surround your initial plot. There are a few different landscapes and each are home to different dungeons, puzzles and people. Completing dungeons will give you special items, whilst helping the people and solving the puzzles yields a large treasure chest. The game has a limited amount of these large treasure chests and actually keeps track of how many you have found. As of writing this, I have found 41 of a possible 46 treasure chests and I am working on the next three.

The dungeons are a lot of fun to explore. They're each in a different biome of the map and thus are styled differently. You can finish a dungeon without fully exploring it by finding the main big blue treasure chest, which will place you back outside. I found myself re-entering at least two shrines to make sure I'd scoured the whole place for enemies and treasure.

The enemies aren't very challenging initially, but they do get bigger and badder as the game progresses. Luckily you can upgrade your sword and the damage you do with the Spirit Orbs you unlock throughout the game. Thankfully you can also get more hearts too, as you start with a measly three.

There are wild animals roaming the land too, that you can click on to get resources. Chickens will give you eggs, cows will give you milk (if you have a bottle) and sheep will give you cotton. There are also beautiful moose like creatures that will give you gems, obviously.

I went in to Forager expecting a slightly different game, which actually has worked in it's favour. I initially wanted it to be really like Stardew Valley, but now I have played it I realise that it's better because of it's differences. Lets face it, if I want to play Stardew Valley I can just load it up. Forager offers up something different, albeit not completely different. It's faster paced and for me it has more of a focus on completion. I want to tick all of the boxes in the items list off, whilst in Stardew Valley I want to take things slow with no real objective.

I have thoroughly enjoyed the time I have spent so far with Forager, and I know that I will be playing it for a while longer yet. This game will be the perfect game to flick back into in between playing some of the Switches bigger, more story focused titles.


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