As the name suggests, Fae Farm is an adorable and charming fantasy farm sim, but it’s a complete change of pace for Phoenix Labs. Founded by past Riot Games developers, this Canadian studio launched its first game in 2019, a free-to-play multiplayer action game called Dauntless where slayers defeat behemoths in a similar fashion to Monster Hunter. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t have the same pleasant tone as Fae Farm, where you plant crops, pet animals, and brew iced tea for hot summer days. In this regard, much of the game will be very familiar to fans of Story of Seasons and Stardew Valley, almost to a fault. Fae Farm doesn’t add many new ideas to the niche farming genre so much as it adds another seat to the table.
Stardew Valley Junior
In a nutshell, Fae Farm is a kid-friendly, MySims-like version of Stardew Valley with bright 3D graphics and characters that look like the Sportsmate avatars from Nintendo Switch Sports. Within the first thirty minutes after you reach the island of Azoria, your character is given a ramshackle home with a large plot of land to grow crops and a set of rudimentary tools to clear rocks and trees. There’s a nearby town full of NPCs, some of whom are romanceable and many of whom are vendors for seeds, fertilizer, fishing rods, farm animals, home expansions, tool upgrades, and more. You can check the calendar, which has 28 days per season, that highlights NPC birthdays, the weather forecast, and any upcoming holidays and events. Over time, you can turn your character from a fledgling farmer with barely any skills or stats into a heroic adventurer who can slay all of the monsters in the dungeons spread about the island.
Time management is, as expected, a matter of efficiency. With only 18 in-game hours in a day, your priority upon waking will typically be taking care of all the chores on the farm. That means watering crops, feeding and petting all your animals, transforming ingredients into refined products, and then using them for crafting or placing them for sale on tables in the town square. The faster you complete your daily tasks, the more time you have for other pursuits. Most of the time this amounts to gathering more resources, be it foraging wild ingredients, chopping down trees, or extracting ore and gemstones in dungeons. If your character runs out of stamina, all it takes is gobbling down some easily-made snacks to continue the hunt for materials.
A touch of faerie fire
That said, Fae Farm distinguishes itself in several ways from other farming sims, the most prominent of which is the inclusion of magic. It unfortunately takes a few chapters of mundane farming before you see the fae in any meaningful capacity, but once you do, it opens up more areas and further opportunities for farming. You’ll also earn the equivalent of a double jump that makes traversal easier. However, the addition of the fae realm also comes with its own farming chores, so it takes away a good chunk of time that you need to delve into the second and third dungeons that have long levels.
The spells, on the other hand, are earned by defeating bosses; that is, not by bonking them on the head, but by satisfying their needs and presenting specific ingredients and offerings at their shrine. It usually takes several days to gather them all, but you’ll earn a spell and a staff upgrade for doing so. While these spells can be used to deal damage against enemies, you’ll likely cast them for their utility, like the Vortex spell that pulls crops in like a vacuum. Otherwise, you’ll spend mana to use the special abilities of upgraded tools, especially the watering can to drench crops in 3×3 squares instead one square at a time.
A hard row to hoe
Regrettably, Fae Farm eventually becomes more of a crafting game than a farming one. A part of this is the main storyline, which asks you explore dungeons that take up the bulk of your time. The other part is that you are only required to farm a few specific crops to move the plot forward. There’s no overarching goal, like the community center in Stardew Valley, where farming crops is necessary. Most of the ingredients to create cozy furniture, which increases your base stats like health and stamina, mainly come from finding wood outside of the farm, getting ore in dungeons, and weaving fabric from animals. And any money you might get from selling crops is overshadowed by polishing gemstones that are also found in dungeons.
The sociability of the NPCs around town is rather rudimentary as well. None of the characters are particularly memorable and don’t have much to say. Even those you can romance don’t have compelling backstories or storylines, and while you can go on dates and eventually marry someone, they lack personality. Gifting presents is also awkward since you’re asked to give NPCs a specific item that changes depending on the day. Meanwhile, festivals are entirely optional and don’t have notable rewards for completing them, for as thin as they are.
One way you can make up for this is gathering a party of up to three players to help you out. Multiplayer is based around each player’s world and works similar to Stardew Valley’s co-op where players have to create new characters when joining someone else’s town. That means you can’t use your primary character to help out a friend, though at the very least the game has crossplay between PC and Switch.
Be away with the faeries
The customization options aren’t as robust as they could be. Many outfits and colors are locked behind crafting, and the number of options that the creator gives you for mouths, eyebrows, and other parts is limited. You also can’t choose where to place your chicken coop or cowshed on your farm in case you want to put them in a place that’s more efficient.
Apart from a few bugs, there’s a general lack of polish when it comes to the controls and the time on the clock. Attacks and jumps are somewhat floaty, and the action button can get tangled up easily if there are several interactable objects in the same place. Trying to catch a bug next to the mailbox or wanting to water a crop with a chicken nearby gets finicky. As for the clock, the timer still runs even while you’re forced to watch a cutscene or while the next area is loading. This is particularly aggravating in the third dungeon where you have to watch the camera slowly pan over to the exit door and waste about twenty in-game minutes at the end of every level.
Just another day on the farm
Fae Farm is still an enjoyable farming sim where you can easily lose track of time, spending hours crafting items, petting animals, and spelunking in dungeons. The kid-friendly tone of the game makes it easy to recommend for all audiences, though the NPCs and thereby the town of Azoria lack depth. The main quests are more interested in having you explore dungeons than actual farming, and the game has more than several areas that need improvement. Still, despite its flaws, Fae Farm fits cozily among the rest of its farming brethren.
This review is based on a PC code provided by the publisher. The game is available for PC and Nintendo Switch.