Friday, January 29, 2016

Slime Rancher [Early Access]




Developer: Monomi Park
Release Date: January 14, 2016
Genre: Adventure, Resource Management, Early Access

One Sentence Review:
Treat it as a donation or you're going to end up disappointed.

Before I begin let me say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Slime Rancher. It's adorable, the slimes are cute, and there is a little gray tabby slime that likes to steal plants and hop around with them in its mouth without eating them. I want to cuddle each and every slime at least twenty times over. However, the developers are asking $20 for what is currently 8 hours worth of gameplay with almost no replayability and that just doesn't fly with me. I know the game is in early access but so is Factorio and that thing has already consumed more of my life than Slime Rancher and many Triple A games. Early access is not an all purpose shield and this game does not deserve the protection its getting no matter how much I like what's there.

Gameplay

You play as some weirdo wandering around a planet vacuuming up slimes, fruits, vegetables, and water depending on the situation. You can feed slimes their preferred foods to make them poop out little objects called Plorts. The plorts are apparently very valuable because you can then sell them on the slime market for money for upgrading your character, vacuum, or purchasing corals and food generating plots to make farming the plorts a lot easier.

If I had to list one complaint for the gameplay department it's probably that you run out of upgrades extremely fast. My character and all my plots were completely upgraded with all areas around my farm unlocked by about day 10. I hadn't even unlocked the area where you can see the extremely huggable honey slimes yet and I was already out of reasons to go exploring!

Even for a relaxing game like this the player needs some goal or motivation to keep working. Unfortunately once you're done with upgrades you're left with... nothing. A challenge mode of some type wouldn't go amiss, or something that constantly soaks up money like a slime tournament.

World Design

This is an example of world design done extremely well. Both the slimes and the areas themselves all look cohesive. From the trees to the fruits to the carrots, there doesn't seem to be much out of place! There are some interesting bugs where fruits will grow about 2 meters away from the tree they're supposed to be sprouting on, but that's early access for you.

A minor nitpick I have about the world design is that the slime ocean does seem out of place. I can't quite describe what's missing or wrong about it but I feel like either a different texture or consistency is needed in that to make it fit in with the rest of the world.

Combat

Every so often when a hybrid slime consumes another plort it will turn into a terrible, gluttonous Tarr. These creatures will stop at nothing to consume and absorb other slimes and even attack the player. The only ways to defeat the vile tarr is to either splash them repeatedly with water or suck them up and eject them into the ocean. Nobody does the first one because it's tedious.

Even worse there are some slimes in the world who aren't as huggable or lovely as your regular friends. These angry-eyed slimes will attack you on sight for the crime of being in their presence when they're apparently on their period. You can solve this problem either by killing the poor little bastards or just tossing food at them. Though the latter one does have the interesting problem of creating slimes that will follow you around wherever you go until they despawn.

Combat is about what you'd expect in a game like this. There isn't much.

Music

The music in this game is passable. For a looping soundtrack there's nothing that stands out as utterly fantastic or completely abysmal. Truth be told that's actually for the better. When a game's music is fantastic you expect there to be a lot more of it so you don't get bored. The music here is just passable enough to not grate on your ears but not good enough that you'll focus on it and let it get annoying.

It's no Undertale soundtrack but did you really expect one?

Summary

I like what's there in Slime Rancher but there are a lot of problems that need ironing out, a lot of content that needs to be added, and with the scarcity of meaty updates that the developers have pushed out thus far I sincerely doubt their ability to deliver a game worth $20 by their target of Fall 2016.

Slime Rancher is an adorable game but it's not worth the asking price even if it is in early access. If this wasn't in early access I'd give this game a price tag close to about $5. However, since the game is still in development, and likely will be for at least a couple more years if the devs want this game to be worth anything, I'd price this game at around $15 in its current state. That would be a fairly small and safe investment for a game that shows a lot of promise but has a lot of risks.