Staxel is a delightful farming/life simulator that really lets you be the master of your own destiny. You begin the game as the newcomer to a small coastal village who will be taking over the old rundown farm on the outskirts of town…
Wait. This all sounds a bit familiar.
And you’d be right. Any seasoned veteran of Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley will feel right at home in this game. Inspired by those aforementioned titles and entwined with the first-person blocky graphical style of Minecraft, the entire world oozes charm that is both comforting and totally nostalgic.
You step into the world and are introduced to your guide for the first tutorial of the game ‘Farm Fan’ (side note: Developers – please give her an actual name). You’re led around the bright and colourful village and have a chance to get to know the locals and investigate your surroundings. The game mechanics are simple and intuitive (added bonus that you can use either keyboard or controller depending on your preference). You’ll find out where you can buy supplies, register your farm, pick up some extra quests and sell anything you harvest. Once you’ve made your way around town and discovered your farm, Farm Fan gets you to grips with the basics you will need to start cultivating your land.
And beyond this, the rest is up to you! You can grow crops, explore the land, harvest material, build farm structures, care for pets and livestock, fish, catch bugs and take on quests on behalf of the local villagers.
One of the main features I really enjoyed in this game was the crafting system. Yes, you have to follow a basic blueprint when building any farm structures (such as a barn for your cows), but it really is a basic guideline that you’re free to build and expand on as much or as little as you like. For any Master Builder, this will be a huge advantage over titles like Stardew Valley where crafting was completely taken out of your own hands. For me, there is something quite satisfying about this, as it really allows you to build your own unique space.
Having lost many hours (days) engulfed in the worlds of Stardew Valley and Minecraft, I could definitely see myself getting totally invested in their combined lovechild. As with many Early Access titles, there are some teething issues, for example, the game can be laggy at times (and I’ve had a few incidents of cows flying across the farm without warning). The gameplay is also fairly basic and repetitive at this stage, but there is more than enough content to keep any casual gamer entertained for a long time. Those avid Stardew Valley fans may miss the ability to build relationships with the NPCs, however, I believe this might be the natural progression of the game in future. So watch this space!
I have yet to test the multiplayer function but any game like this that offers both single and multiplayer gets a huge thumbs up from me and I will be checking it out soon. In conclusion, this Early Access title has so much potential and I can’t wait to see where the developers take it!