Cosy games are currently going through a major revival – and it’s not hard to see why. Against a backdrop of economic stress, pandemic spread, and end-of-the-world discourse, cosy games represent a softer, brighter hope for an idyllic world. They’re an escape to greener pastures, where the only stressors are planting enough crops, venturing into deeper caverns, and fostering a romance with a loving spouse. Fae Farm offers that much-needed escape in spades, via a colourful and bright story sprinkled with just enough magic dust to be genuinely transportive.
Fae Farm might not innovate much in a crowded genre, but it does enough to inspire cosy, wholesome vibes, with a compelling main plot supporting breezy farming mechanics and dungeon exploring. It borrows much from its successors – the dungeon design of Stardew Valley, the crop planting and animal rearing of Harvest Moon – but it’s also clear developer Phoenix Labs is a keen student of the genre. While performance issues are a dampener in the late game, for the most part, Fae Farm maintains a bouncy, lively sense of fun throughout its core tale.
Goodness without grind
As you enter the town of Azoria, bright-eyed and mostly carefree, you’ll quickly discover Fae Farm is a self-aware adventure. In putting its own spin on the life-and-farm sim genre, Phoenix Labs has developed a game that seems designed to address popular criticisms of its genre fellows – the grind of planting crops, unnecessary demands on time, complex machinery bogging down carefree gameplay.
Fae Farm is not entirely free of these trappings, with some of the game’s essential items still taking you on that long farming-crafting-refining journey, but this process feels more streamlined in Fae Farm, with a welcome balance between challenge and enjoyment.
While some items appear hidden behind tough requirements, every item quest is eventually surmountable – and there’s a distinct amount of pride inspired by conquering the latest and most daunting quest.
In that way, Fae Farm kicks off on the right foot, rewarding you for persistence without tasks feeling overly full of drudgery. There is, instead, purpose with each step of your adventure.
An unfolding tale
Fae Farm starts you out in typical life sim fashion. You are a custom character, moving into a new land with the hopes of starting fresh. You’re given a farm plot and basic tools, and then it’s your job to explore, make friends, and carve out a living for yourself – a task made more complex by the mystical story that quickly wraps itself around your character.
While your typical farming sim will place an emphasis on growing crops and cosy living, Fae Farm quickly drops you into a sweeping story where it’s revealed that Azoria is home to magical creatures – and they need your help. Your first steps into the game may be calm, but once the game introduces its underbelly, you’re thrust into a much deeper, more intriguing world.
From simple farm tasks, you graduate to dungeon delving, as the mysterious Wisp Mother paints a picture of destruction threatening the edges of your farm and the lives of your new friends. You might be a meek farmer when the action begins, but over the course of a quest-filled journey, you’ll learn to harness daring new skills.
You’ll establish crop farms and rear magical animals, then grasp new tools, and go spelunking for diamonds and obsidian as dark forces mount on all sides. The balance between these two elements works well, with both exploring and farming systems feeding into each other.
In dungeons, you’ll tackle roaming beasts who drop prized items, and mine for gems that can be used to craft unique artisan goods, or even tool upgrades. The further you go into the dungeons, the more you’ll unlock, until you’re hauling glittering treasures from their lower reaches. Then you’ll use these goods to enhance life on your farm, combining rare crops and items for greater reward, or to fulfil the requirements of unique quests.
There’s a moreish pull to these quests, with each providing a hook to keep you wandering further, uncovering more secrets, and venturing to new lands. The slow reveal of new regions, discovered as the plot unfolds, also keeps exploration fresh – as does the revelation of magic in Azoria.
Whether playing solo, or with up to three friends in multiplayer mode, Fae Farm is consistently enjoyable, with a neat difficulty spike that allows you to get creative with your exploration, and dive further into each dungeon, armed with more refined skills.
Road bump at the finish line
For dozens of hours, Fae Farm maintains this dedication to cosy and curious vibes, with dungeon challenges and farming mechanics combining for a brain-massaging good time. There are some significant frustrations to this experience, however – and as mentioned, they largely crop up towards the end.
By the time you get to the final chapters of Fae Farm on
It wasn’t a particular impediment to proceedings, and it’s worth stating the version of the game provided to GamesHub for review was a pre-release copy, but the performance issues were concerning enough to be notable. There’s every chance the game gets a release patch to remedy to this in future – but as of writing, the late game featured a range of issues that unfortunately dampened the adventure.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Despite this foible, Fae Farm proved to be a blast throughout the majority of its runtime, with fresh ideas paving the way for an imaginative, engaging life and adventure sim that sparkles with magic. Between streamlined gameplay, gorgeous worlds to wander, and a cast of adorable characters you genuinely want to help, Phoenix Labs has carved out a welcome escapist fantasy with just the right balance of wholesome vibes, and head-scratching challenge.
While it’s content to build on the past, rather than completely innovate the cosy sim genre, Fae Farm establishes firm foundations, and presents a neat twist on familiar gameplay.
Four stars: ★★★★