Homestead Arcana is a farming sim by Serenity Forge in which you cleanse the land of Miasma and grow plants.
You play as a player-customized young witch who travels to the frontier of the Miasma, which is the only place with viable soil for growing crops. To begin with, you set up your tent, get familiar with crafting and cooking, and grow your first crops.
You interact with plants to enter a menu where the right stick allows you to select different parts of the plant. To begin with, you’ll water the plant and then channel magic to speed its growth, which you do by collecting energy and tracing a path with the right stick. Once a crop grows, you can flick over to it and harvest it, after which the plant continues growing new crops as long as you keep watering.
There’s some depth; channeling too much will kill your plants, and you can trim particular parts of the plant to help them grow. But by and large, it’s an unfortunately shallow, slightly more time-consuming interface.
Once you have produce, you can use various crafting stations to turn it into food, potions, or decorations. Each craft you make takes a set amount of real time to create, during which you can walk away and do other tasks. Most crafting takes less than 30 seconds, but a number of crafts go as long as a minute each, and when you stack multiple of the same craft, it can take a while. You can’t stack different crafts, so you’ll need to keep coming back to the station.
You need to eat regularly to avoid being hungry, but early-game cooking quickly makes this a non-issue. Many of your crafts can be sent via letter to fulfill quests, and there are so many of these it’s overwhelming.
The more pressing use for food is selling it to the merchant, who holds important upgrades. Making enough money can take a while, but the farming has a decent rhythm to it. You also need to craft in order to make spell potions, which you’ll need for avoiding enemies in the Miasma.
In the Miasma you search for the end of the path, as well as items along that path needed to clear a wall of Miasma. You must both enter and exit the Miasma before you run out of time and lose all items you found inside. You’ll end up backtracking so many times both because you get lost or defeated by enemies you were supposed to avoid using spells, and because you’re forced to backtrack after successfully finding your way, since you need to grow a new plant and craft a new recipe to proceed.
You do unlock shortcuts that reduce the tedium of backtracking, but this part of the game is immensely frustrating and boring. I found myself getting lost and having to turn back, or else rushing and missing important items on the ground.
It’s frustrating because Huckleberry, your cat familiar, is a likable character, and there are some great moments in the story. The voice acting is good, the art is decent, and the music is nice, but it’s all dragged down by the gameplay.
If you get into a groove exploring, the game will rip you right back to mandatory farming. If you enjoy farming, you can ignore the story, but there are only two characters and no friendship system — this is a sparse farming game.
At times, I enjoyed the mix of exploration and farming, but Homestead Arcana is brought down by frustrating and rigid systems that make an almost good game not worth the trouble.
Homestead Arcana is out now for PC and Xbox Series S and X for $19.99 and is also on Xbox Game Pass.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Homestead Arcana.