Forager Review: A Precious Life
Kalvin Martinez / Sep 17th, 2019 No Comments
There is a genre of games that could be uncharitably classified as a chore simulators. Harvest Moon, Animal Crossing, and Stardew Valley, among others have received this esteemed classification. Whether you can recognize the appeal, there is no denying that these games are exceptionally addictive. Forager can be added to that lineage of games.
However, Forager is a delightful mix of gameplay styles. It takes the best parts of collecting and building (chore) sims and adds in fun hack-n-slash action along with dungeon crawling and puzzle solving. The elements never feel disjointed coming together in an addictive package.
Imagine waking up alone on an empty piece of land. All you can see around you is a vast horizon and bright blue water for miles. You can’t remember how you got there and no idea where you came from.
The only thing you can latch onto are some keepsakes in your bag: a shiny trinket and a pickax. What do you do? Wallow in self-pity or figure out a way to make the best of the situation?
Eventually trees, flowers, fruits, rocks, and animals start popping up. That trinket when used in water causes more land to spring for as if by magic (maybe it is).
By collecting the resources that pop up you can build structures and turn those resources into materials. Your world becomes bigger and more complex the more you collect and explore.
Forager sucks you into its mysterious world by using a simple premise: you don’t know much except what you can do. What you can do is use that pickax and start collecting things. The world opens up bit by bit as you start collecting.
As the world gets bigger, more mysteries appear begging you to investigate them. These mysteries range from strangers asking you for favors to structures begging to be explored to puzzles itching to be solved. While these mysteries open up more questions than they answer, they keep you intimately curious about what is going on in this world.
On top of the tantalizing mysteries, there is a lot of fun dialogue from the random characters you meet. Some of it is funny non-sequiturs like when you help the fox collect poop, while some of it is deeply self-referential and breaks the 4th wall like when you help the wizard or the forest hermit. These interactions help ground you in the world and add to the flavor and flair of it.
As a bonus for hitting milestones in the game, you can unlock special comic books. While most of these include more context/story for Forager the game, the most compelling comic involves how the game came to exist. It is a heartwarming tale of a young man working through heartache and adversity to make his dream a reality. That dream is the wonderful game you’re playing.
Gather, Build, and Discover
Forager is predicated on doing. At the start of the game you’re alone on a small patch of land in a large body of water. There is little context for why you’re there or what this place is. While meaning eludes you, what you can do doesn’t.
Armed with a pickax and an adventurer’s spirit you begin breaking up rocks, chopping down trees, and harvesting fruit. As you chip away at rocks, you start amassing a collection of stones. Eventually after gathering enough stones you learn you’re able to build a furnace
The furnace allows you start crafting different useful items like coal, brick, iron ingots, and gold ingots. As you begin building and crafting more things appear in the world like flowers, plants, and animals. This gives you the opportunity to gather more resources, build more facilities, and craft more items.
A drawback to more resources popping up is space starts to become a premium. Eventually you’ll be able to craft gold ingots with gold ore and smelt gold coins. When you throw coins into the sea it causes land to surge forth from the depths.
By smelting more coins, you’re able to buy more land and expand the world exponentially. This opens up a lot more space to build along with new resources to gather and creatures to encounter. It also gives you the opportunity to explore different regions like the desert or the wintery north among others.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of purchasing new lands is the potential of discovering an odd structure, a peculiar stranger, or a mysterious formation. It is through these structures and formation that you encounter the game’s dungeons and puzzles. The different characters you meet hand out the game’s quests.
Quests in Forager are rather simple. Mostly for quests, you’re asked to gather items the quest giver needs. Sometimes it is as easy as handing over a bunch of resources you already have. Other times you’ll need to work for it because you either haven’t discovered the resource yet or haven’t gathered/crafted enough of it yet. Quests always net something useful.
While dungeons have puzzles to solve in their own right, they also feature many dangers both in the form of traps, enemies, and massive bosses. The dungeons are fun to explore, but they are easily gamed if you have the freeze enemy perk. Freezing a boss allows you to wail on it until its health is depleted taking the danger out of the encounter, but that does speak to how resourceful you can be in the game more than anything.
The puzzle element of Forager takes the form of both massive cathedral looking buildings and random installations like a princess looking statue or a set of giant bells. These cathedrals house the games’ toughest puzzles that require you to solve challenging riddles or position electric sparking cubes in a specific order to activate pillars.
Whereas the installations range from simply lighting torches to turning off a switch puzzle where activating one switch turns surround switches on or off. Regardless of the difficulty of the puzzle, they’ll net you some good swag.
There is plenty to do and more to explore in Forager. That isn’t even accounting for the robust upgrade/perk system that unlocks new abilities, buildings, craftable items, and more. As you spend more time in Forager, you’ll find yourself able to create an experience suited to how you like to play.
While it is hard to put down Forager when you start playing, there is a point where you play more of a waiting game. There is a lot of automation in Forager and if you smartly manage your resources, perks, and buildings you can make it so you automatically rake in vital resources and level up.
At that point you simply are waiting around to craft upgrades and amass enough money to buy up remaining parcels of land. The game never loses its fun or addictive qualities, but late game you can easily leave the game running for a few hours while you eat a nice meal in order to get the money necessary to buy up all the things.
If there is one thing you need to know about Forager before playing it, it’s that you don’t ever want to stop playing Forager. The game is sickly addictive. There is something deeply satisfying and gratifying about Forager’s gameplay that makes it difficult to tear yourself away. So be warned you may lose hours gathering, building, and discovering.
Forager was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.
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tags: Forager , Forager Review , hopfrog , humble bundle , Nintendo Switch , review , Switch