OpinionVideo Games

Routine Is Pointless in Fae Farm

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In farming games, I wake up every morning with the same daily routine in mind; water my crops, pick anything that’s ripe, care for my animals, and walk around talking to whichever characters I’m trying to befriend or date. After that, the routine’s over, and I figure out what I’m going to do for the rest of that day. Maybe I need to do some mining, or maybe there’s a festival this afternoon, or maybe it’s a new season, and I need to plant new crops. Over time, most farming games shift this routine. Instead of watering each crop one by one, they might be automated by creating a sprinkler, or maybe instead of walking I ride my horse around, thundering through the streets to hand over some milk and gain relationship points. Initially, Fae Farm is like every other farming game, but with a merciful jump button. No more getting stopped by tiny streams or fences! But over time, the game struggles to evolve its daily gameplay loop, and it loses sight of the reason repetition works in games.

There are a few reasons to create routines for players. One is, the actions that make up the routine are fun. Doing actions in a set routine creates a natural variety of gameplay – you can’t just water plants all day, because you need to look after your animals and build relationships. It also allows games to be longer and satisfy the player with a certain mechanic. If they only shoot one or two bad guys in the entire game, the player might feel they wanted to do more shooting. That all said, the most important reason for repetition is that it provides pacing and structure.

The only reason changes in gameplay are meaningful is because you’ve done the same thing before. When you unlock the horse in Harvest Moon games, it’s exciting to travel so fast precisely because you were previously slow. When you get a new gun in a shooter, it’s interesting because it allows different tactics than the previous gun. You complete your full gameplay loop a certain number of times, and then it shifts, providing structure to the game.

Related: Fae Farm Review in 3 Minutes

Your long term goals in farming games generally remain the same, but the ways you get to those outcomes changes over time. You start with limited stamina and money, forcing you to grow a small group of plants. You unlock better tools that let you water crops faster, and increase your stamina so you can water more plants. You unlock automated systems like sprinklers or friends who’ll do your watering for you, freeing up your stamina for other tasks. By the end of the game, farming is often mostly automated, leaving you to pick up your crops and turn them into something that’ll sell for a high price, and perhaps do some other fun activities with your free time. This evolution keeps the repetition from getting stale, and also reduces as the player begins to tire of it.

Fae Farm doesn’t change all that much after the first eight or so hours. In the first handful of hours, you’ll unlock a double jump, letting you take bigger shortcuts, increase your stamina so you can grow more plants, unlock a spell that lets you harvest a large amount of crops at once, and upgrade your watering can so you can water more than one crop at a time. From then on, all upgrades are incremental. You can get more stamina, water more crops at once, and that’s about it.

To be fair to the game, it does lean into crafting, and you’ll unlock new crafting stations that allow you to turn your crops into more advanced foods that’ll sell for more. But this doesn’t make up for the lack of other changes to the core gameplay loop. The feeling of growth freezes after the early game, and you still have at least 30 hours of farming left for a barebones playthrough of the main story.

Another way to make the daily routine meaningful is to disrupt it. Farming games tend to run on calendars, with events that happen irregularly, birthdays to plan gifts for, and maybe character events that trigger if you enter the right area at the right time. Fae Farm made sure I ignored all of these things.

In Fae Farm, you can’t give characters just any item; they have one particular item they will accept. However, for most of the game, you may not have the ability to acquire that item. There were some character’s favored gifts I never found during my playthrough because they involved hybridizing flowers, which is horribly confusing and difficult. On birthdays, I tended to not bother giving gifts, because I couldn’t acquire them anyway.

The events in Fae Farm always happen on the last day of a month, and they always involve the same thing: a bunch of characters standing around the town hall. There’s a temporary shop you can buy from with special outfit colors and clothes, but they require specific resources you might not have. Unlike other farming games, where events will often have a unique story, minigames, or a competition based on your farming abilities, Fae Farm’s events barely disrupt the gameplay. You just walk in, look at the shop, talk to a few people, then leave.

Character events only really exist in the form of dates. Characters you can romance will send you a letter inviting you on a date at certain relationship thresholds, and then you can talk to them and trigger a cute conversation at a scenic spot. Because you have to seek these out, they don’t interrupt your gameplay routine.

All of this combined to make me not care what day it was. When a birthday came up, I ignored it, and when the last day of the month rolled around, I spent a minute or two walking to the festival, bought from the shop, then went about my usual routine.

This might be forgivable if the main quest shook up the gameplay, but it has the same problem. There are two kinds of main quests. One type requires you to bring specific items to a character, which often require upgrading your tools by mining, then using your tools to get the items. Another type requires you to mine to upgrade your tools so you can get further into the mine and unlock the next quest.

It’s mining all the way down, with the occasional break to catch a bug or grow a plant someone wants.

I wanted to fall in love with Fae Farm. It contains some nice quality of life features, and it has a solidly made progression loop. Despite that, it’s missing the magic of truly transformative upgrades, and fails to vary its gameplay over time. If the game had interesting, deep characters, this might be easier to forgive, but the game has most characters repeating the same handful of phrases, and I didn’t care about them.

I like the fae aesthetic and the magic spells, and giving you wings is a cool hint toward a more fantastical version of the game. But ultimately, the game doesn’t go far enough, leaving its magic feeling barely more powerful than a good sprinkler.

Repetition has a place in games. It can effectively highlight progression, allow the player to gain mastery over a system, or allow the game to create a break a routine for the player. Repetition can also be overdone, with not enough variety to break it apart, and when that happens, the game suffers, like it does in Fae Farm.

About the author

Elise Avery
Elise Avery is a freelance video editor and writer who has written for The Escapist for the last year and a half. She has written for PCGamesN and regularly reviews games for The Escapist's YouTube channel. Her writing focuses on indie games and game design, as well as coverage of Nintendo titles.