Fae Farm, developed by Phoenix Labs, is the latest farming sim to enter the market and, while it has its flaws, the game does an excellent job of standing out in a crowded market. September 2023 is a month filled with similar releases, from Paleo Pines to Harvest Moon. The newest fairy farming game needs to work to hold its own, and honestly, I think it does.
We enter Azoria knowing very little about what awaits us and, unlike most similar games where we enter a cozy world of relaxation and tending to animals, we are greeted by dangerous and unending whirlpools, purple spikes which erupt from the ground and block paths, and poisonous gas. Immediately we know that this is not going to be the usual fare of settling in and making friends – we are on a mission.
The world itself is beautiful and fits perfectly with the cozy vibes the game is going for. We are first introduced to it through a series of stunning pictures which accompany the opening sequence, however the village itself is almost as charming. Azoria’s many buildings are decorated in such a way that they really invite you in, and you are encouraged to explore by recipe scrolls which have been scattered by the wind into all kinds of nooks and crannies. Exploration does become easier as Fae Farm goes on and you unlock more areas and more abilities.
One of the most important things to consider with farming games is how the main activities are approached. Fishing, mining, foraging and farming are staples of the genre and can be found in almost any farming sim on the market and how fun and effective they are can really make or break a game in the farming sim genre. Fae farm puts an interesting spin on these concepts, however it is not so different from games like Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon that it is something ground-breaking.
The fishing mechanics are not for me personally and can get boring quickly, however it is not necessarily bad. After casting your rod into the water, you need to slowly reel it in to get the fish’s attention. Eventually, and sometimes after having to recast your fishing rod several times, the fish bites and it becomes a slow and tedious game of reeling the fish in without the line breaking. The harder the fish is to catch, the longer this takes, and there is no real challenge to it other than stopping the line from breaking, and I found myself avoiding it unless I desperately needed some fish to cook with.
The other key elements were more creative and interesting. I particularly enjoyed the mines, of which there are multiple across several realms, and found that they became more interesting as they went on. The monsters within, strange creatures which were once inanimate objects brought to life by stray magic, were charming and unique despite not being especially challenging to fight. In a similar vein to Stardew Valley, the mines are generated a floor at a time and each level needs to be unlocked. The best part of the mines for me was the ability to permanently unlock floors using seals. These can be crafted using one of the many machines you can make on the farm, and once they are used allow players to teleport to any activated level in the mines. It is such a small quality of life upgrade that made digging for iron or silver so much more bearable.
However, the farming falls short. While it is necessary to farm to be able to cook some foods and there are some job quests related to it, it felt like a half-hearted addition just to be able to fit into the farming simulator genre. This is a farming game, but there is almost no reward for farming. Crops sell for almost no money, they are irritating to water, especially early on, and it feels like a waste of time. Making matters worse, you are limited on how many items you can sell each day, so there is really no reward for having huge fields of crops.
The crafting stations which can be built and unlocked are far more unique and interesting and their produce sells for a lot more money than any crops that can be grown. Ranging from the ability to create your own wallpapers, chop and cook food, make beverages or brew potions, there are a huge number of them to unlock and play around with and it was one of the parts of Fae Farm I found myself looking forward to the most.
If you like quests, you will like Fae Farm. Unlike many farming games, there is a story to uncover and many, many quests to complete. Some of these are to build relationships and friendships with the characters and are relatively straight-forward item quests. Others are job specific and will ask you to cook a certain type of meal or fish in a certain location – almost every NPC who has a specific job will have a series of job quests for you which help you get to grips with everything from planting seeds to potion making. The most exciting quests are the story-driven ones, which often take you to new and exciting places, have you meet fun characters and generally breathe the most life into Fae Farm.
While there is nothing stopping you from spending your days farming and not worrying about the greater story, there really isn’t that much to do if you don’t follow the main questline. While it is a farming game, crops don’t make that much money, there is not much variety in what you can plant, and the starting area is small. Similarly, I didn’t really feel like any of the characters were worth getting to know, and I had little desire to make an effort to speak to the characters. It felt like a lot of the dialogue would just repeat. Romanceable characters just ask for items to be dropped off and will occasionally invite you on a date where they show an ounce of personality. This was probably the biggest issue I had with Fae Farm overall. Life simulators should make you want to foster a sense of community and build relationships, Fae Farm just made me want to move on to the next task.
Despite its flaws, Fae Farm is a delightful game and it is easy to spend hours exploring and completing quests for the island’s residents. The story is fun, there are seemingly endless tasks to do, and the promise of future DLC means that this is a game I am guaranteed to return to. It is cute, and fun, and is perfect for any fan of cozy, quest-driven adventures. It is a farming sim on the surface, however it is much more a game of exploration and helping those in the community than anything else and anyone turning to the game in search of the next Stardew Valley will likely be disappointed.
If you approach Fae Farm as a game in its own right, setting aside any expectations you may have from other games in the genre, you will almost certainly enjoy it.
Megan played Fae Farm on PC with a code provided by the publisher.