I sit down at my Summer Game Fest Fae Farm hands-on expecting just another Stardew Valley clone, another cozy game that will temporarily capture the attention of Disney adults and children. But within minutes, I realize I am very wrong. Sure, Fae Farm has crops you can farm, and cutesy little NPCs you can romance, and a home you can decorate, all the stuff you’d expect. But there’s more going on under the hood.
It has dungeons, for one thing, filled with resources you’ll need to craft the countless necessary items to grow and improve your house, your pets’ stables, your potion stations, and your crops. You can go into these dungeons with your weapon swinging and bash the baddies until they give you their resources, or you can learn spells to cast at them, or you can brew a potion that will make you invisible and let you sneak past to find the treasures that lie past them.
Your house has a coziness system that provides buffs for your strength, stamina, and mana, all of which you’ll need to explore Fae Farm’s world. There’s seasons and dynamic weather systems that can negatively affect your stamina or strength, but you can combat them by brewing a special tea that will help keep you warm or cool in more extreme temps.
Fae Farm lets you keep animals, as well, and gather resources from them while also building a bond between you. And the dozen or so NPCs in the world will teach you how to expand your abilities, whether it’s building things that allow you to cook more involved foods, or teach you spells that let you water all your crops in one go, or send you on quests that will get you money and goodies galore.
When I ask Phoenix Labs PR Manager Andy Burt how he’d describe Fae Farm, since so many people will assume it’s just a farming sim, he tells me that it’s the magical elements that make this game so different, and the fact that there are so many different approaches you can take to the game that will dictate your experience. If you want to go whacking your way through dungeons, you can, but if you want to play it as a farming sim for 300 hours, you can do that, too.
Add a lovely character customization system that includes they/them pronouns, various body types and skin tones, and cutesy magical elements, and Fae Farm is, thus far, my big Summer Game Fest surprise.
Fae Farm is out later this year for Nintendo Switch and PC.
Kotaku is covering everything Summer Game Fest, from the main show on Thursday to other events happening throughout the next week. Whether you’re into larger-than-life triple-A games or intimate, offbeat indies, you can keep up with all things SGF here.