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Games S.M.A.R.T.

The S.M.A.R.T. on: Slime Rancher

Developers: Monomi Park

Price: 19.99 euros

Available on: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Review console: Xbox One

A bit about the game:

Slime Rancher is a life-sim game with heavy farm-sim, first-person exploration and economy influences. It stars Beatrix LeBeau as a ‘slime rancher’ wannabe, who leaves her life on Earth to relocate to ‘Far Far Range’, the habitat of slimes, so she can raise and breed these adorable and quirky creatures, while exploring the world around her and make a living. The game features a pleasant art style, a detailed economy system and systems-driven interactions, as wildlife in the ‘Far Far Range’ have their own needs and desires and go about trying to meet their goals, creating fun and unexpected encounters. Beatrix can also grow her ranch, explore new areas, upgrade her equipment and buildings as well as partake in slime science to find new avenues of making money and crafting new and cute decorations for her and her slimes.

 

Gameplay: 8.5/10

Points for:

  • Fun and engaging systems-driven gameplay experience that melts well with the simulation and exploration aspects of the game.
  • Open-ended progression system that, at first, is a real treat as the game provides no end-goal which allows the player to pick and choose their own goals and make their own fun, uninfluenced from arbitrary story goals or side objectives.
  • Fairly detailed farming and economy mechanics/systems that are fun and rewarding to interact with; upgrade systems for equipment, buildings and the Ranch provide meaningful progression at least at the start.
  • Inquisitive nature of exploration and progression make discovering and observing the world a relaxing, joyful and fun experience. Also, stumbling upon a new area, discovering new slimes/resources and figuring out that areas secrets was always immensely satisfying and rewarding.
  • Puzzle design, dealing with ‘feral’ slimes and science system add variety in the gameplay loop.

Points against:

  • While the open-ended nature of the game is a treat in the beginning, as you start to run out of meaningful progression goals, the game drags on and gives you no real reason to keep coming back besides the goals you set on yourself. This worked when there was something to upgrade or a new place to discover, but as soon as those elements are gone then the game starts feeling empty.

 

Visuals& Technical Performance: 8.5/10

Points for:

  • Cute and attractive art style that sells the goofy, light-hearted and relaxing vibe of the game.
  • Animations and facial expressions of slimes and animals as well as the cartoonish look to characters and architecture found in the ‘Far Far Range’ are delightful and charming.
  • Visually distinct areas that provide variety.

Points against:

  • The game runs poorly on Xbox One with frequent frame rate drops that sour the experience, but do not ruin it.

Sound& Music: 9/10

Points for:

  • There aren’t that many music tracks to speak of, but what is there is really good and charming-from the relaxing and pleasant theme of the world that is playful and calming at the same time to the alerting but still joyful track that plays when something goes wrong. Each area also has its own theme and some of those tracks are also very good.
  • Sound design also follows a similar formula with sounds being really good and charming-from the slimes’ cute and playful sounds to the jetpack sounding like blowing bubbles in a milkshake. Overall great sound designs that help the world sell the calm and cheerful vibe it is going for.

Points against:

  • I would have preferred a bit more variation in the music-for example some night themes- as well as some clear distinction between types of wildlife-for example I couldn’t tell if what I heard was a hen hen or a stony hen by sound alone which would have been a neat way to convey information to the player.

 

Story: 6/10

Points for:

  • The absence of any story besides the name of the playable character and the reasoning behind her move to the ‘Far Far Range’ is what made the game click with me in the first place, thus in this case it is a positive.
  • The little bits of text sprinkled throughout that help tutorialize the world and tinkle your fantasy a bit as to who was here before you, what happened to them and why would anyone choose to live in complete isolation are a welcome and much appreciated. The texts also allude to deeper questions and mysteries about the world which spark an interest in the world and its lore.
  • Also, Beatrix receives messages on a regular basis from someone that have the same effect as stated before (tinkling your fantasy and sparking your interest in the world) but it is done in a more personal manner, speaking directly to Beatrix. This gives the player context and information about Beatrix and who she is. The text logs are well written, interesting and appreciated but won’t blow your mind.

Points against:

  • Although the absence of a story makes the game more enticing and fresh in the beginning, it also asks the player to find their own reasons and goals beyond progression and exploration, to keep playing. Once I reached a point where I had all the upgrades to my characters and the full Ranch unlocked, I struggled to find reasons to pursue bigger, more costly goals like building a podium for slimes; a by-product of this is that once you’ve uncovered and explored an area you are given little reason to keep coming back and no indication that there are ways to progress to new areas through them. In the end, where other similar games give the player amble reason to keep coming back, even when they are theoretically done with the story (in fact, for some games it is where the ‘meat’ of the game lies) Slime Rancher does not and failed in making me invested in my character or the world or the late-game content.

 

Overall: 8/10

Slime Rancher is a great game, one that deserves the entry cost and distinguishes itself from the rest of the genre in fun ways. But in the ways Slime Rancher distinguishes itself from similar games and the way it offers its unique brand of fun are the ways that, in the end, kept me from enjoying it for as long as I had hoped. What started out as an addictive experience which I could see myself loosing dozens of hours on, quickly hit a wall; that’s not to suggest that the game has little content, but it can be tricky to find and tricky to keep interest in finding it. In some ways, Slime Rancher is exactly what I wanted: a relaxing, anxious-free environment for goofy fun, exploration and a stress-free routine to immerse yourself into. But, in those same ways, Slime Rancher builds a wall around it and makes it a very specific experience for very specific style of gamers. Thus, if Slime Rancher sounds like your kind of game, then you should absolutely try it; at the very least you will get a dozen of hours of pure fun. If it turns out that you are part of that specific style the game is built for, get ready to spend dozens of hours more.

 

As always the G.R.IN.D. is recommended for those who want a more in-depth analysis. You can find it by clicking here.

 

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