Taking Joy in the Little Things
Video games serve many different purposes, whether it be to immerse, distract, challenge, relax, or act as a creative outlet to the player. While some players may thrive on the suspense and thrill of multiplayer games like Apex Legends or Overwatch, some prefer just to sit back and relax while they play. For these players, games like Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing, or Minecraft are their bread and butter. These games offer the chance to sit back and unwind from the stresses of life and take joy in the simple gameplay, light atmosphere, calming music, and often, farming. Farm Together by Milkstone Studios is another such game that seems to have struck a chord with fans of the genre.
In Farm Together, you start off designing your avatar with a few limited options and enter your brand new farmland. After following a quick tutorial on the controls and game mechanics, you begin the work of the average farmer. Plowing land, sowing seeds, watering crops, and harvesting them when they are fully grown is a cycle you will do in just about any farming game. You have to do this all bare handed, which is incredibly tedious at the start, but is quickly resolved with the unlocking of the tractor, which greatly increases productivity. When you aren’t farming crops, you can raise animals, create orchards, create ponds with fish, and sell all of your produced goods at miscellaneous stands.. All of these activities are done with the simple press of a button, without even needing to worry about tools or stamina meters, making the whole process somewhat repetitive and uninteresting.
Unlike other games that I have played, Farm Together makes time pass in real time with regards to production and growth length. This comes in a contrast to what I am used to with games like Stardew Valley, where crops grow after 5 or 10 in game days – 24 hours here means I have to literally wait 24 hours to harvest my crops (assuming I don’t water them to shave off a few hours). I really have to commend Milkstone Studios here, because I am used to mobile games taking advantage of me by forcing me to wait unholy amounts of hours instead of paying $0.99 to do it instantaneously. However, this resulted in a couple of frustrating instances when I was doing my usual tasks and suddenly ran out of money, leaving me with literally nothing to do until my soonest crop was ready in a couple of hours.
This leads me to my personal biggest complaint of the game, I got bored quickly. Because the game has no NPC’s, end-goals, or plot, the entire purpose of the game comes down to farming and decorating. For me, (and my wife who watched me play and grew bored very quickly), I need some sort of goal or purpose for what I am doing in a game. In Stardew Valley, the goal is to save the town and form meaningful relationships with the memorable townsfolk. In Minecraft, the goal is to beat the Ender Dragon or survive as long as possible with your friends or create your own scenarios to play in. In Farm Together, it is to farm, complete randomly assigned quests to make more money and buy more land, to farm more. Sure you can design the layout like you want and add fancy decorations, but to me I had trouble seeing the game as anything else than a “clicker” type game with no end.
But maybe that type of game is exactly what people are looking for! An endless game of doing simple tasks with simple rewards to create the “Farm of their dream.” Or more importantly, as hinted by the title, the fun comes in when you play with other people. As we were provided with only one key to write a review with, I was unable to play the game as many people prefer it: with other human beings. I could see there are hours of fun to be had when playing a game like this with your kids, friends who aren’t really into gaming, or friends who really like these types of games! Having the ability to create a farm and play with someone without having to worry about the stress of HP, stamina, timed day-and-night cycles, skill trees, or enemies to fight is something that isn’t found in many games. There is a beauty in the simplicity of games like this, one that is loved by many who don’t need to have an end-goal or task.
Where I did find beauty, however, is in the game’s unstoppable sense of charm! The visuals are bright, colorful, and a delight to look at. Crops are easy to differentiate, animals are cute and cuddly looking, and the vast amount of unique and colorful decorations make for a nearly limitless number of options for making your farm look just like you want to. (One note is that on the Nintendo Switch version at least, the view distance is not very far, so all objects, animals, and structures disappear once you get a certain distance away from them – which is kind of a bummer). Similarly, the sound design furthers the charm to all other aspects as well. Walking around your farm, you hear chirping, mooing, quacking, clucking and whatever noise you’d expect to hear on a walk near a barn! The soundtrack, while not particularly memorable, does a great job of playing simple guitar strumming music to set a nice, easy tone to whatever mundane task you have planned for the day.
All in all, there is a lot to love in Farm Together for fans of the genre. While I found the game to be severely lacking in purpose, I cannot deny the draw of the simplicity and pleasant change of pace it offers from other games in the market. To me, this draw disappeared rather quickly, but I imagine it would have stayed longer if I had someone else who was interested in playing with me. I wish, for the single player, there was more to offer in terms of an actual plot line, some town building, NPC interaction, or even and end goal. To me, this is no Stardew Valley, but honestly, it doesn’t really need to be either.
Yes, if you:
- Enjoy relaxing games with no stress involved at all
- Have friends or family who want to play a similar type of game with you
- Love clicker games and the cycle of spending more to make more
No, if you:
- Need a game to have a designated goal or purpose
- Enjoy games with memorable characters and plotlines
- Get bored easily and need a challenge to stay interested
Farm Together was originally released on October 11, 2018 and is now available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch (Reviewed).
Note: Milkstone Studios provided a review code to Cannonicity in exchange for a fair and honest review.