Review | Staxel
A little unpolished but does that affect how it stax up?
Farming games are something I honestly don’t see enough of. Gems like Stardew Valley and to a degree Slime Rancher keep the passion alive for me but I’m always after more. Staxel was a good way to satisfy that itch, with its art style reminiscent of the ghost town Cube World and promising an ‘Experience of Village Life’ pulling me in.
I’ve spent a good week and a bit giving it a go and it’s been fantastic fun, Staxel delivers a wonderfully relaxed and chill experience, entertaining characters and a pretty, albeit sometimes too colourful, environment to explore. However, calling it ‘Feature complete’ or ‘Fully released’ is a bit of a stretch.
As soon as you start up a game your thrown right into a character creator, it’s hardly the most diverse selection of options but there was ample there to choose from and feel unique. From here your thrust right into a tutorial-esk interaction with a character simply named ‘Farm Fan’ who guides you around the village in its basic state and then off to the ruined farm you are to take over. Farm Fan offers quite a few nice easy quests that introduce you to several other NPC’s and give you the basics of running a farm, including a pretty in depth yet visually attractive crafting system. From here you’re left on your own, interacting with NPCs grants more quests and occasional tidbits on how to do things, but mostly your left to your own devices.
Now I enjoyed this later in my experience. Being left to do whatever I wished with little timescale, something common in the game is its forgiving nature, was refreshing without draining too much direction. But early on, it made getting into gameplay quite tough, finding out who to talk to and how to make things was quite a chore.
The farming is rather simple; Till, plant, water each day, harvest. While it’s good to keep it simple, it means there’s a huge amount of the very long game days free after a quick water and a trip to the market - this is where the meat of gameplay comes in. As opposed to the local farmer who might delve into the mines in games like Stardew Valley, in Staxel you’re a bit of a Do-it-all. Most quests revolve around crafting materials and building/expanding houses. Instead of having a farm you can interact with, the entire world is destructible and rebuildable in whatever image you like. This freedom has been great fun, but it feels more like a building game where the farming aspects purely serve as funding for your architectural pursuits.
There are of course other things to do, several events pop up through the seasons giving bug catching quests, cooking jobs and much more, but the building and farming seem to be the best way to make any real money. Speaking of money, it’s almost ridiculously easy to earn. While early on the purse is a little tight, as soon as the first or second harvest of crops come in you’ve jumped from scraping three figures to 10/20 grand right off the bat. While it won’t see you through forever, buying 20k worth of seeds will provide ludicrously large amounts of money and it quickly becomes very easy to fully stock the farm. From here the farming in my experience became the side business, funding the mass amount of materials needed to build a house, a patisserie, a fishing area, a museum and so on. It was incredibly relaxed, and I enjoyed it a great deal, building the town by hand brick by brick was refreshing even if unexpected.
Unfortunately, for a game about building up a whole village and helping everyone around you, the lighting system is shockingly bad. Often the inside of buildings is very dark even in the middle of the day, and windows are opaque so while looking nice from afar when you’re in the building it feels very dark and claustrophobic. This sudden dark tightness in the middle of a colourful and bright world is quite disorienting at times.
While the game has strong promise, there are just too many issues with it now to call it complete but one of the bigger issues for me is the relationships system.
Like most games of its nature, Staxel has a relationship system with the NPC’s. Doing quests, chatting and giving gifts fills up a rather crude but effective heart that resides above their head, unlocking new dialogue along the way. Unlike other games though, this is completely unromantic in nature. Achieving top level friends grants the ability to ask them to move in, where you chum it up with the NPC of choice but that’s about it. It’s also hard to keep track of their likes and desires when improving friendship, the menus provide no information about each character, what friend level they’re at or what they’ve told you in the past that isn’t quest related. A nice progressive relationship with an NPC where you help them and gift things, unlocking personality along the way is a nice idea. But it needs work, I have no clue who I’m buddies with or what they told me hours ago that they liked as a gift. This is a feature seen commonly in farming games like Stardew Valley as well, where the system is more refined.
The best way I can describe my Staxel experience is that it was incredibly chilled out. Similar games like Stardew Valley are hardly stressful but there is still a motive and limitations of seasons pushing you forward. Staxel has seasons to, but they last incredibly long and most crops grow in multiple seasons with no problem. Its forgiving and leaves lots of times to build or do cute funny things, particularly when playing multiplayer.
Overall despite its problems, I did still have a huge amount of fun with my 30 or so hours of Staxel. Its art is wonderful, and it does, to a degree, what it promises, providing a relaxed village building and farming game. I would certainly recommend avid farming/building fans give it a go but control your expectations. It’s a great game but it has its issues, with a little more time and development it could be something wonderful but in its current state it can underperform.
That being said, I suppose 30 hours growing carrots and making a few 100g’s off soup isn’t a bad way to live after all. All to fund a bright pink patisserie.
Review Round up:
Wonderfully colourful and vibrant voxel art
Relaxed and rewarding village builder
Lots of unique furniture and blocks to build different houses with
Issues with Lighting make interiors rather claustrophobic
With no timescale, health or challenge some may find it boring
Lack of guidance can be confusing
Demanding on higher quality settings