Review: Forager

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Time keeps slipping away

Forager might just be the most comfortable and laid-back video game I’ve ended up playing this year.

I didn’t know exactly what was happening there is farming and crafting and skeleton based screens but I knew I would be in it, and it was the right time and the right place. The PC version is well established, but forager is only now on Nintendo Switch and PS4. That’s all I needed to hear.

Before the big video games arrive for us this fall and don’t let go until we’re well into winter, you might want to make room for something more low-key. Something much less stressful, but no less engaging. Something you can really sink into. forager is this game. He knows the value of a good grind.

Review of Forager for Nintendo Switch

Forager (Nintendo Switch [reviewed]PC, PS4)
Developer: HopFrog
Publisher: Humble Bundle
Released: April 18, 2019 (PC) / July 30, 2019 (Switch, PS4)
MSRP: $19.99

If there is an element above all that defines foragerthat’s it it’s the grind.

From the very first moment to the 3 p.m. mark and beyond, you are always making progress in forager. To start, you’ll scavenge a small island, smashing open rocks, plants, and other natural resources to collect items with which to build a base and shiny new gear. You all know how this loop goes now. The better your equipment, the faster you can work, and so on, ad infinitum.

What sets forager apart from its open structure. As the money comes in, you can spend it to expand your map piece by piece. The world is made up of individual landmasses arranged on a giant grid (grouped by biomes), and each space has an associated price. As long as you have the funds, you can buy a new island nothing else is holding you back. It’s such a smart design choice for this type of game. It sets the pace just right. My map is pure chaos at this point, but because I’ve gradually grown into it over many hours, its resource and building-rich layout makes perfect sense to me.

This freedom to progress as you see fit also extends to the skill tree, which plus upgradable gear like a backpack, sword, and shovel is the driving force. This is the thing you will most want to fill.

Everything you do in forager earns XP for your little adventurer, and with each level up you can choose a new skill. This will reveal adjacent skills on the chart, and since they’re grouped into thematic quadrants (Foraging, Magic, Economy, and Industry), it’s easy to lean in a particular direction that suits your preferred playstyle. I took a balanced approach, but could have focused on farming, alchemy, or mining automation. Skills, in general, are passive. They mainly unlock recipes and improve efficiency.

Everything is so satisfying in the moment. It’s a game you can play for hours at a time, and it works especially well on Nintendo Switch if you’re the type of person who likes to multitask. Other than a specific case where the frame rate dropped while I was exploring a dungeon, the Switch version works better than expected. I have no other technical complaints whatsoever.

Much of your time forager will be spent wandering from biome to biome, clearing the land only to return again and again as resources repopulate, but harvesting and crafting is not the entire live. There are also dungeons, (fetch) quests, and puzzles scattered around the map.

Dungeons take a Zelda-light approach, and I mean light. Rooms branch out with simple puzzles and enemies to keep you busy, culminating in an eventual boss, all of whom drop an elemental rod weapon. (There are four dungeons in total). If action-adventure is your priority, I advise caution – combat is the weakest aspect of Forager, from afar. It’s not bad, but it’s like a means to an end. I think I only died once, and I didn’t play that carefully either. You start with only a few hit points to your name, but Spirit Orbs one of the regular rewards can be used to get more HP, increase your stamina, or gain an instant level for skill unlocking purposes. Further, you will feel untouchable.

World puzzles are more memorable. As you unlock islands, you’ll start encountering strange obelisks, color-coded pedestals, and a highly visible rainbow, among other finds. I had fun figuring out how (and in some cases when) to interact with them to uncover their secrets.

A dungeon boss fight in Forager

Forager keep it up until you finally stop. There is no definitive end point.

In the 18 hours I played before I fueled up and decided to tap (at least for now), I maxed out my weapons and gear (with one exception) and left a few unclaimed skills. The developer described forager as an “idle game that you want to continue actively playing”, but I would really only call the last few hours Deep in the game “idle.” This is the point at which leveling suddenly takes for-ev-er.

The path forager goes off unceremoniously and leaves a bad aftertaste, though I understand that kind of comes with the territory. It’s a game about grinding, all right. And, to HopFrog’s credit, there are plans to expand forager and address some of the criticisms I’ve mentioned here. The current roadmap extends into 2020 with a new biome, polished combat, and multiplayer on the update folder.

I’m not sure I have the courage in me to come back anytime soon I’m through the mirror of “incremental progress” but a better endgame experience might do the trick. As it is, the grind has lost all meaning.

Despite some inconsistencies, forager absolutely worth a look. If anyone ever asks me for a relaxing game they can get into and obsess over for a week, that’s my pick.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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