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Off TopicMay 13, 2019 6:00 pm CT

Off-Topic: Forager looks cute but makes you feel terrible

HopFrog’s cute farming adventure game Forager is full of the plucky joys you’d get from Animal Crossing and the heartless joys of Factorio.

It’s a 2D game about collecting resources like ore, berries, and bones on a bunch of interconnected islands. You spend the early in-game days chomping on turnips and trying to get enough wood to make coal to fuel your furnaces. It’s got the drive of Minecraft with the cutesy attitude of Animal Crossing. There’s even a bunch of beet people that will cheer you on whenever you talk to them.

With time, you start to grow your islands into machines. The game is built on a cycle of expansion. You are limited by coin to purchase new islands. Once you have enough to buy new land, you get access to more materials which then feeds into more money-makers like auto-mining rods. Occasionally there’s Zelda-like dungeons to explore and monsters to defeat, but largely the game is about growing a larger home and knocking out upgrade trees.

This poses a distinct problem when you compare it to a game like Animal Crossing. Nintendo’s famous structure is mostly about making the most of your day and taking the time to spend with your animal friends. Forager, on the other hand, is about constantly increasing your stats and widening your presence on the island. There are few characters to meet, but there’s many, many ways to maximize your coin gains and ore smelting.

Forager makes me long for the ease and calm of Animal Crossing. It makes me not want to touch the factory-building games like Factorio. I want a game about the satisfaction of whacking away at a project, not a game about turning a project into the most efficient version of it as humanely possible. Forager is a rewarding game until the cute facade peels away to reveal the exponential weight of industry. It’s a game that wants you to squeeze the land like a sponge instead of soaking up every moment.

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