It took me about two minutes in Fae Farm to blow through my entire mana bar. I wasn’t dozens of floors deep into a dungeon mining for resources, though Fae Farm has those. I was just standing in the center of a patch of crops, imbuing my watering can with an invigorating dose of the ol’ presto alakazam to water everything around me in a generous square instead of one solitary cabbage at a time. Every farm life game eventually gives you ways to more efficiently take care of your crops, but Fae Farm is the first I’ve seen to literally magic away some of the tedium of the early farm grind.
Magic is Fae Farm’s big thing, a whole new resource layered on top of your usual stamina meter. From a 30 minute demo I played on a Steam Deck at Summer Game Fest on Friday, this is definitely a maximalist farm life sim, packed with features upon features upon options upon appendixes upon quality of life touches:
- There are multiple homesteads to unlock and expand, if you choose, rather than having just one farm
- Farming and animal rearing as usual, but also side hustles like beekeeping
- Dungeons to explore and magic spells to learn to expand your combat options
- Loads of characters with their own routines to befriend and six characters to romance
- Every romanceable character is “playersexual”—they’re into you, regardless of gender
- Complete flexibility of body type/gender/identity customization options
- Skills that level up the more you use them
- Contextual auto-switching between tools, so you’ll find your watering can in your hands when you walk into a patch of crops
- Crafting, crafting, and more crafting, with recipes to find out in the world and learn from the townsfolk
- Quests, like collecting resources for your new friends
- Double-jumping, because you’ve got fairy wings
- Flexible co-op play
“Let’s include every possible feature we can think of” is often a red flag that a game is just trend-chasing, and I think Fae Farm developer Phoenix Lab—which previously made Monster Hunter-alike Dauntless—does want this game to lure in players enchanted by 20 different skills you can level up 20 times each. I didn’t have nearly enough time with the game to get a sense for how thoughtfully this 5,000 piece puzzle is put together, but the magic system alone augmenting all your basic actions is a nice addition to a genre that’s been doing many of the same things since Harvest Moon on the Super Nintendo.
Also, sometimes maximalism just hits right. That’s how I justify the double row of books on my shelf crowded by cards, photos, and a tastefully placed Swamp Thing action figure, anyway. (He’s vintage).
Fae Farm felt nice to move around in, with a 3D perspective and pace I’d say reminds me of the one Rune Factory game I dabbled with. It also ran smoothly on the Steam Deck, even though the developers told me they’d done nothing yet to tweak the game for Valve’s handheld.
I didn’t get to touch multiplayer, but it’s another thing Fae Farm is doing slightly differently that sounds very smart to me. When you create a save file, you can then invite friends to join and create characters in your game; they’ll create a character unique to them that no one else can play. Up to four people can play simultaneously, but you can invite more friends than that to your game, and they can drop in when they’d like, assuming your session isn’t full.
It’s an approach that will help the dabblers among us who are interested in playing together now and then, but aren’t ready to commit to being one of a quartet logging on at 7 pm every Tuesday for a scheduled farming session. Co-op players will get a short “story so far” catch-up when they hop in to see what’s happened in your game world’s main storyline, too. As the owner of an abandoned Stardew Valley co-op farm that lost one of its four members early on, I’m all about that flexibility.
And not having to water every crop by hand until I learn how to build sprinklers, too, as long as I can hoard enough mana potions to keep the magic flowing.
Fae Farm is out on PC in just a few months, on September 8.