Fae Farm review - Right crop, wrong season

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Promotional Fae Farm artwork showing characters flying, catching bugs, and showing off items.

Farming is a tireless and - let's face it - thankless job. There’s no two ways around it. It isn’t all planting whatever you want, where you want, and fighting skeletons in a cave before your romantic evening meet-up with the village baker. And Fae Farm won’t do much to convince you otherwise. It makes farming fun, and only fun, with few struggles other than mourning the loss of a bean sprout as the seasons change. But that could be exactly what you want.

Developed by Phoenix Labs, Fae Farm is a far-flung departure from the team’s initial efforts to take on Capcom’s action-packed Monster Hunter franchise with Dauntless. Instead of banding together to battle huge beasts with similarly gargantuan weapons, its latest project has you tending to crops, petting chickens, and flying with the fairies. How it starts out is a little bizarre, with a lost town’s mayor who sirens outsiders to chart treacherous seas simply to work the empty field north of the town.

It really sounds like she’s caused the deaths of many with her message-in-a-bottle antics before you made it through the maelstrom. If the fae folk who used to visit before the whirlpools didn’t want to chance it, why would you? Apparently the potential to meet a big fairy is reason enough to skirt death and perform back-breaking labour for a whole season. But let's not dwell on the silent sinister aspects of an otherwise soft and simple adventure.

Exploring a dungeon in Fae Farm.
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Same crop, different soil

Yes, Fae Farm is another rather average “cosy” role-playing game. Landing on its mysterious isle without a place to inherit from your family or a bout of amnesia, it’s slightly different in that regard, but familiar in most others.

Whether you’ve been around the block with the classics or fallen in love with the genre through the institutional and monumental achievement that is Stardew Valley, it’s best to view Fae Farm not as an innovative new standard of the somehow relaxing chore simulators, but as a welcoming entryway for friends and family. Young children will eat it up and, with enough luck, a parent or grandparent with some patience and spare time will, too. However, the lack of split-screen multiplayer on Nintendo Switch will be a major hurdle.

Where most games of its type rarely hold your hand and punish you at every opportunity, Fae Farm focuses on making the experience as chill and stress-free as possible. Given it’s still set around cramming as much into a virtual day as you can, you’ll soon hit your limit as all your possible tasks start to pile up.

With free-flowing movement aided by hops and hovers, you rarely feel purposefully weighed down by artificial value. There’s a great natural flow to everything you could ever want to do, and even the entirely avoidable combat is simplified to repeated swings of a blunt bit of wood or the occasional resource-draining spell.

Crying over a semi-empty allotment in Fae Farm.
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Planting the seeds of a long life

Other than evergreen crops wilting between seasons for reasons unknown, there’s little in the way of negative consequences for being too adventurous, stopping out late, or getting kicked around by animated “jumbles” like pocket watches, cannon elephants, and iconic aggressive chests. It’s a welcome reprieve from the anxiety-inducing mechanics from the games Fae Farm has taken clear inspiration from; yoinking the hooks from one while leaving the grievances behind.

It takes away the surprising tactical depth from some of the more serious contenders in the space - arguably those that first got their claws into us who claim to adore these “wholesome” titles - but there is some truth to the idea of less being more.

Timing your whole day to the exact minute before bedtime to avoid debilitating exhaustion the next has some true-life takeaways, but the stress that would stem from taking steps to optimise your day did have a way of weighing down on you and, if you put your eggs firmly into one basket, remove you from many other worthwhile aspects of the larger experience. In Fae Farm, you can accidentally run right into the forced bedtime without any repercussions.

Feel like going for a swim while the whirlpools are going? No problem. You’ll just be flung back to the beach if you’re caught out. Not only does it help encourage you to stay curious, but also to give everything a go, and not worry about getting too engrossed in one thing to lose. And because you’re not heavily coerced into micro-managing every single minute of each fast-passing day, playing with friends and family of any experience level isn’t destined to result in feuds and thrown controllers.

Speaking to Mel, the beekeeper, in Fae Farm.
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Who’s the bug net guy again?

Where things are played a little too safely, I fear, is in the romance and characterisation department. Though the game has most of what makes the fantasy farms worth toiling away on, the human connection side of things is where the experience is scaled back the most. The writing as a whole is very obviously geared toward that younger audience, and that’s honestly great, but for experienced fans looking for any vaguely deep or philosophical life lessons from the cast of the game, be ready to have your pursuits passively discouraged.

If you need the social hook to justify toiling away on the farm, you might feel a little too incentivised to keep it up for long. They all welcome you with open arms: but that’s sure to be a problem for anyone looking to scope out a potential partner early on or find that one mysterious and moody figure you can’t help but be enthralled by. Nobody on the whole island has any immediately identifiable personality trait beyond the fixed island job they're heavily coded to fulfil, which makes them all painfully forgettable. They just don’t have all that much to say.

Selling items at the market in Fae Farm.
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At a time when games can slip under the radar without a good social media hook, it’s hard to see Fae Farm keeping its head above the water. Without a reason to share what’s going on, it can feel lonely and without any real purpose, making it obvious how it’s little more than an intended time-waster.

It’s a cute game in many regards, but in my 20+ hours running around Azoria, only the game’s wacky opening and brazen Harry Potter homage felt like it’d get any sort of response from another person. For the rest, I was playing in near silence, my nearby partner more interested in making yet another cup of coffee to care about the wave of turnips I’d just harvested in one spin of my staff.

This will become a moot point by the time the holidays roll around, but having this clearly kid-friendly co-op game releasing the exact moment we all go back to school or work feels like a monumental missed opportunity. Plenty of potential players had nothing but time and very few multiplayer family-focused experiences to jump into. By the time the holidays roll around, there’ll be a brand-new Mario game years in the making at the very least.

Cosy games for late nights in front of the fire aren’t a rare find anymore: there’s enough of them to pad out tradeshow-style showcases. This is just another one. Not the one.

Tending to animals in Fae Farm.
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When it’s fighting for your time between games available at a fraction of the price with more care and attention put into the human aspect of the whole package, it can feel hard to justify the time commitment that Fae Farm ultimately attempts to extract. At least on your own.

It’s easily able to be experienced in bite-sized chunks on a lunch break, lazy afternoon, or before bed, but it takes far too long to display any hint of a payoff, with a world that’s captivating until the idea of the hard work sets in. If you’re simply a sucker for endless days on the field, you’ll love the simplified approach that does away with some of the more egregious elements of the whole shtick. For the full farming life, you’re better catered to with the established IPs and indies.


There’s a great case for playing Fae Farm with friends and family of all ages. Just don’t expect the solo experience to be another wholesome RPG you’ll come back to time and again: you’ll be left reassessing what makes games like these so endearing for you in the first place.

Fae Farm
A great family introduction to the sublime space of wholesome RPGs, Fae Farm successfully simplifies the cosy crop ‘n craft genre but accidentally dilutes the whole experience, resulting in an average adventure that struggles to stay engaging for solo players beyond the first few sessions.
Nintendo Switch

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch. A code was provided by the publisher.

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