Publisher: Humble Bundle
Rating: E for Everyone 10+
In today’s gaming world, Minecraft is a household name. More knowledgeable players may be aware of Terraria or even the Rune Factory series. Terraria in particular was a perfect fit for me, until an update made the game’s UI nearly unplayable on the PS4 port. Now, years later, I had come to miss some crafting excellence. Upon first glance, Forager immediately reminded me of characteristics of these separate game franchises, among others. How well does it hold up on it’s own, let alone against these gaming giants? With that question in mind, let’s jump into our review of Forager on the Nintendo Switch!
Blood+Violence: Enemies will attack the player on sight, and defeating said enemies will result in a small, pixelated squirt of blood.
Fantasy Violence: There are several magical staves that cast spells against opponents.
Mild Humor: A certain quest requires the collection of fecal matter for a NPC obsessed with the stuff. Attacking certain characters result in jocularly horrified commentary.
Demons/Undead: Forager contains Demonic and Undead opponents. One certain item raises Skeletons for the player, A Necronomicon can also be obtained.
Starting Forager‘s application, I was treated to a cute little Humble Bundle intro with creator commentary. The top menu screen came up, offering a chance to look at several options, including extra content and future plans for the game. Seeing as not much could be done with the other options yet, I had little choice but to start playing the game.
Once finally in the game, I found myself stranded on an island with naught but naught but a pickaxe, backpack, and some resources to hack at. Almost reflexively, I started digging. While I did so, small button commands and flashing notification signs began to pop up, directing my attention to different aspects the game presented. Taking a page from games in the past, there were little-to-no tutorials at all. From crafting my first furnace to making money, most everything was self taught, which was a nice change of pace from the hand-holding many modern games are guilty of.
Mine, Mine, MINE!
After crafting my first few items, I was quickly able to make money (literally) and buy my first piece of land. I was excited. Already I was so hooked into crafting my items that a new piece of land, with more resources, was thrilling. Imagine my disappointment, then, when the piece of land turned out to be just that: a tiny piece of land a third of the size of my tutorial island. This was the first time I was disappointed in the game, but I kept right on going. My Empire must have its industry!
Over the course of the game, lands progressively became more difficult to acquire, and stayed consistent in it’s random generation of size. Regardless of these challenges, however, it quickly became my goal to acquire all pieces of land in the game, and within each new piece was a new challenge to overcome and new loot to acquire. Since there is no story in Forager, leveling up and land possession became the scales in which I measured my progress.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go…
With the purchase of each new piece of land, there’s a chance to come across two main types of buildings; a Temple, or a Puzzle.
Reminiscent of the Legend of Zelda series, Temples are dungeon-esque levels which contain a mix of puzzles and enemies, a new weapon, and a boss battle. Being a lifetime Zelda fan, I really enjoyed these segments, but found them far, far too short.
Puzzles are scattered throughout the 49 segments of land in the game, but the most difficult (and my favorite) take place within towers. The fire-themed Puzzle tower has been the greatest puzzle challenge I’ve had in quite some time, and was intensely time-consuming for me to solve. My favorite tower, however, didn’t have a puzzle, but rather a series of riddles whose solutions required me to find certain items. For example, a riddle about water required me to find water and put it on the corresponding riddle. I love good riddles that I have to solve myself; they are an underrated puzzle mechanic that needs to be in more games.
However short they are, these obstacles are an excellent change of pace from the from the regular grind of crafting and leveling in regular gameplay, and are definitely a shining factor within Forager‘s experience.
…And the People You’ll Meet!
One of Forager‘s largest sources of charm comes from its NPCs. With each offering their own “advice” and commentary, it was always a nice little nugget to find a new one when I bought a piece of land. Granted, they usually wanted something from me that I almost never had yet, but at least most of them were friendly about it.
One notable character is the Giant Beet. The Giant Beet is so sweet and it always compliments you and tells you something positive, which I probably took much more seriously than I should have (honestly though, how many games nowadays have such innocent positivity). Imagine my shock, then, when I accidentally attacked one of it’s neighboring beets, prompting the comment “I Still Love You!!” Aww.
Too bad one of the game’s achievements require you to kill it.
My Favorite Things
My favorite thing to do in Forager was to find the many easter eggs and pop culture references hidden throughout the game. From completing NPC quests to unlocking achievements, there are several skins and quotes from pop and gaming culture that were an absolute delight to find and understand.
For most of the game, I ended up using the Hollow Knight skin, which made my jaw drop upon first sight. Beyond that, there are also references to Overwatch, Shovel Knight, Terraria, The Legend of Zelda, and even Super Meat Boy.
I Hardly Even Touched Him!
Combat in Forager is incredibly easy. Since there are only a handful of different enemy types, none of which with any particularly difficult mechanics, combat interactions are always pretty short, regardless of weapon type. This made me wonder why there would be any need for weapon upgrades and variety, and combat actions. No enemy is moving fast enough to require dodge rolling, and though new swords kill enemies faster, they couldn’t hit me if I always moving. Since I made food such as cooked fish, it was even easier, as downing a few fish will restore any health lost as long as I wasn’t full. Over the course of the game I was given many opportunities to expand my health, but really never needed to.
I would love to have more enemies and difficult combat experiences in the future, should any of the teased installments be added to the game.
Just…Just Let Me See the Map. Please
As I had said before, a horrible UI update ruined my PS4 Terraria experience in the past. Like a nightmarish flashback, Forager gave me a similar experience at times as well. However, unlike the Terraria update, this is not too late to change!
There are two very egregious examples of gameplay irritation I am thinking of. The first is the lack of a good overworld map. Throughout the game I was always on the move, between gathering resources, to crafting, to making money. Because of this, I was often on the opposite side of my Empire than the next piece of land I was buying, or item I was crafting. The only option to see a decent map was to go to a menu section labeled “Buy Land” and check. However! Even when using this tab, the map window often would stop panning, depending on where I was located. For example, If I wanted to buy a Northern piece of land, but was in a Southern map piece, I could only see the pieces of land in the grid row underneath the the Northern piece of land, requiring me to move North a bit so my map could expand further. This drove me crazy, and was horribly inconvenient, especially when in a timed scenario.
The second red flag I experienced was with ranged weapon controls. When using, say, a bow, the button prompt requires the regular “action” input and uses the right stick to aim. Regular stuff. However, while the aim cursor is pointing left, if I let go of the aiming stick, the bow would fire right, while the aim cursor remained to my left. Due to the aforementioned ease of combat within Forager, this wasn’t too inconvenient, but it did render several weapons almost worthless for quick use in gameplay.
The Best Forager Has To Offer
If I were to take all the game experiences that Forager gave me, bad and good, and boiled out the single strongest feature that puts it above the competition, the RPG elements would be it. The skill tree is Forager‘s best and most unique feature. From passive effects, like earning 20% more gold selling items, to active effects, such as earning more crafting materials, I was always excited to find out what my next levels could unlock. The system isn’t perfect for me, but that’s also a part of the system’s ingenuity: not everyone has my playstyle.
Mmm…It’s Missing Something
For a time, Forager presents plenty to do. Throughout my playthrough I made three personal goals: first, to buy all available properties; second, to see all that the skill tree had to offer; and lastly, to craft every item I could. Over time I found that the third goal became more and more out of reach, as the time sink became too heavy and resources too numerous. With 5 tiers of item crafting, the time, resources, and energy to make new items literally increased exponentially. Eventually I drew a line when a new item, the “obliterator,” wanted 100 of 3 different types of very difficult and rare materials.
Using those three goals, I believe I have been able to experience all that Forager has to offer me, and for the most part, I enjoyed it. However, there’s just something…missing. For example, there was a very limited variety of weapon upgrades, and all of the perks are the same no matter the playthrough. Crafting items moved from very manageable to nearly impossible almost instantly, and there is next-to-no incentive for game completion besides the completion itself.
To put it flatly, I feel that the late-game experience strongly builds up to the upcoming update and patch releases, but until then, is missing a crucial step in gameplay. Seeing as Forager just officially came out in the middle of this year, I continue to have strong hopes for it’s expansion and potential.
Review copy generously provided by Humble Bundle
The Bottom Line
Though entertaining and containing massive potential, Forager's content still struggles to compete with modern gaming giants such as Terraria, and is not quite strong enough to fully stand as it's own genre masterpiece.