Published on September 22nd, 2023 | by Richard Banks
Fae Farm Switch Review
Summary: If you're looking for a magical farming sim that does most things right, this is it.
Cream Of The Crop
Over the last few years, cosy games have almost become a genre of their own. In part, we have the staggering success of Covid-era Animal Crossing to thank for that, with the art of gaming escapism growing its audience through one of humanity’s (most recent) darkest times. Not to say that there hasn’t always been a place for games built on relaxation; A Short Hike saw players holiday as a carefree penguin, whilst Unpacking turned the mundane task of moving into a heartwarming and relaxing affair, with the notion of comfort gaming undoubtedly growing exponentially in recent years. But it’s farming sims where cosy gaming has really found its feet, and with titles like Stardew Valley becoming gaming must-owns, Fae Farm is the latest to try and replicate its success.
And for the most part, you’ll be pleased to hear that it follows suit. Fae Farm takes what makes its contemporaries so successful and makes a bunch of quality-of-life amendments that help separate it from the pack.
Before any of that, though, the first thing that takes you back with Fae Farm is how absolutely gorgeous it is; in fact, it might just be one of the Switch’s prettiest titles. Your fairy residents and the rest of the inhabitants of Azoria are colourful embodiments of Fae Farm’s fantastic art style. Seasonal flowers sprout from each corner of your farm, while the creatures that lurk across Fae Farm’s three dungeons are cleverly designed around the theme of each of their environments. The town, from its fairy dens to its windswept seafronts, is equally as wonderfully realised – basically, it’s all as enchanting as its magical setting.
Speaking of farming, what would a game called Fae Farm be if it didn’t include tending to crops and livestock? The basics feel similar to other games akin to Fae Farm – buy seeds and cultivate them to profitability. Still, Fae Farm does things a little differently. It’s the first time you’ll spot areas where things are cleverly simplified. Remember how annoying it was to water the same spot twice in Animal Crossing: New Horizons accidentally? Your fairy will do their best to ensure you water the dried-up crop next to you. Plants don’t grow by day either; they grow by how much they’ve been watered. A crop with an eight-water cycle will be ready to collect as soon as it has enough hydration, eradicating the need to wait until the next day.
It might not sound like much, but ironing out these niggles that often make farming-type games tedious is where Fae Farm excels the most. For example, there’s no need to switch between your tools; the game automatically swaps to what you need. Doors are automatically open, so there’s no need to press a button to enter. The map is easy to traverse thanks to your fairy’s ability to jump and swim, allowing you to create shortcuts across the surprisingly substantial world of Azoria. The developers have nailed some of the frustrations often felt throughout the genre – and AAA developers should take note.
While farming makes up the bulk of Fae Farm’s gameplay, like other sims of this ilk, it can easily take a back-burner while you take part in other activities. As always, fishing and bug-catching feature heavily, and while I missed having somewhere to display the fruits of my labour in, for example, a museum, it was nice delving into a game with plenty of new species to hunt down. Fae Farm also utilizes many of these creatures better than other farming sims. Many of the bugs, for example, can be placed in dens to yield goodies that can be used to craft things like stat-buffing potions.
On the subject of crafting, what would the point of all this hard work be if you couldn’t use your goods to make…better goods? There’s so much to make in Fae Farms, with plenty of crafting devices to help shape your farm just how you want it. Some of it does occasionally feel like over-complicating things – for example, does the game need a food preparation table, a cooking stove and an artisan stove? Probably not, but to give Fae Farm credit, it doesn’t skimp on giving you options, even if it’s a little cumbersome at times.
Still, I really enjoyed how much choice there was when personalising my goods. A textile desk let me pick and choose wallpapers for my home, while the new colour palettes I found could be quickly applied to my outfits and household items to let me flex my designs. Fae Farm also hones in on its ‘comfy’ vibes, with certain items placed into your house helping to increase your health, stamina and mana.
And it wouldn’t be a fairy-themed farming sim if it didn’t include a little bit of magic, which is where your mana comes in useful. Playing through the storyline unlocks spells which can be used around your farm and when spelunking in the dungeons. While the storyline is, unfortunately, one of Fae Farm’s weakest parts – it’s cut-and-paste stuff, collect these items and deliver them ad infinitum – I enjoyed the slow trickle of unlocks, as I progressed, as each new sprinkle of fairy dust gave me a new way to interact with the farm I was slowly falling in love with.
But it’s a shame that developing relationships in Fae Farm isn’t as enjoyable as falling in love with the game itself. They’re mostly meaningless, giving you a few new dialogue options and little else as a reward for successfully wooing a spouse. It’s a problem stemming from Fae Farm’s weakest area, with character interaction and dialogue, at its worst, atrocious. The characters may look great, but there’s not a single resident of Azoria that isn’t vapid, repeating the same lines constantly, usually congratulating you on a task you completed hours before – I lost count of the number of times I was thanked for destroying thorns that I’d done ages ago.
After a while, I stopped caring about interacting with other characters, and I often skipped dialogue in order to get to quest rewards as quickly as possible. Thankfully, you can always invite friends over to your farm for some multiplayer farming, and while progress is locked to the host system (you have to create a new character to join someone else’s farm) I did enjoy mining with a couple of friends when they visited my town.
Fae Farm is an excellent example of how to have a great idea and run with it. Fine, it isn’t perfect, and the poor dialogue will definitely put off players who play this type of game for the character interaction elements, but for the rest of us here to create our perfect homestead, it doesn’t get much better than this. After plugging away for 30 or so hours, I still found there was more of Fae Farm I hadn’t seen – and new quests I hadn’t completed – and honestly, I was absolutely fine with that. If you want a Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley-like set in a fairy kingdom, this is it.