The biggest problem with farm sim World’s Dawn is that Stardew Valley exists.
I actually got this game as part of my Winter Sale-palooza, but I couldn’t figure out where to put it, because it costs $10 normally and is definitely not worth that, while Stardew Valley costs $15 and is easily worth that and then some. Next to Stardew Valley, Wold’s Dawn is noticeably, suffocatingly small. The only reason to play it is if you a) love farm sims and b) have already played Stardew Valley, possibly multiple times. Unlike SV, it has no appeal to someone who isn’t already into the genre, and the only reason someone who does like the genre would play it is if their other options have been exhausted.
The reason I didn’t put this in QuickPans, though, was that World’s Dawn doesn’t really do anything wrong, and does some things quite well. The music is nice, and the art is very pretty — certainly it has an understanding of character design that SV doesn’t. It has a cohesive plot that puts a nice spin on the usual formula, and a great cast of 32 villagers with their own look, personalities, and cutscenes. The only real issue is that the controls were a bit oddly done — it’s crying out for a quick-button to pull things from your backpack, and the backpack menus were poorly laid out. Its hotkey system also felt a little random. Also, while it was really nice to be able to choose both your gender and sexual orientation, I thought it ended up highlighting how weird it was you couldn’t change your hair/skin tone.
The real issue, though, is that it’s so small. You can only have 7 animals, and only 20 crops growing at once. The mine is just five levels, with no hazards. There are only 10 types of fish, and only 10 crops. There are only a few ‘slots’ you can place furniture in. The game tries to artificially inflate itself by making items you sell — including crops — worth pennies (the most expensive crop sells for only 48g, and diamonds sell for 72), but this is just an annoying barrier to progression.
Three years ago, this would have been a great game to find, but Stardew Valley has so raised the bar for the genre that it’s made a lot of these smaller games basically obsolete, and frankly, I think it puts pressure on actual Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons game as well. It’s so rare to see a dev, never mind a dev that’s just one person, make huge promises and then deliver, but ConcernedApe somehow did it, and I think it’s going to have a palpable effect on the genre. For a long time, Harvest Moon proper was all farm simmers had, but the indie revolution changed the quantity, and now from a quality and breadth perspective it’s not true anymore, either — Stardew has shown that not only is it possible to make these games everything fans want them to be, but that there is a large audience for these types of games, and it’s put the audience in the position of being able to ask for more.
In the long run, obviously, the hope is that the people behind games like World’s Dawn look at what that extra effort can get you and make it, but in the meantime I think a lot of people are going to find their projects are just no longer up to snuff not through any real fault of their own, but not have the time/energy to get it up to snuff. And this is one of the ways that video games different from other art mediums — they require much larger time investment and good ones offer things like replayability, so the risk threshhold for people is that much higher, and every time someone does something great that threshhold gets even higher. You just don’t really see this kind of thing with books or even movies, where audiences demand more input, more length, more meat almost indefinitely, and while it causes some devs to produce great results, it also ups the barrier to entry.
And to a degree, that’s a good thing. There’s definitely a happy medium that exists between accessibility and an unaccessibility that filters out crap, but personally — and I think most of you would agree — I’d err on the side of “more crap” even if it only means one more gem. After all, that’s how Stardew Valley got here in the first place.
Part of the issue with this game, too, as with many indie games right now, is a self-inflated sense of worth. Asking $10 for this game is completely absurd. I’d pay 2, maybe 3, now that I’ve experienced it. I think a lot of devs conflate what games are worth to them and what they’d like to get for them with what the market actually says, and in a world where Stardew Valley’s MSRP is $15, there’s just no reasonable way to justify the price of this. This dev may not like that Stardew decided this was where it wanted to set the price, but, well, you didn’t make Stardew so it’s not really up to you. (I also think that devs think, “This is so much work, I deserve to make money!” which is true, but don’t stop to then consider how much work goes into a AAA title that retails for $60. You think this was 1/6 of the work that went into Witcher 3, really? And then you have things like ARK, which is above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen from a dev of that size, is of actual AAA quality, and is still only $30 — $15 when I bought it. World’s Dawn is not 1/3ARK. It’s part ignornace, part ego, and part not really having it click that to sell a game is to take other sellers and the customer’s POV into consideration — that it’s not just for and about you anymore. It’s a weird disconnect between people who like games and have access to RPGMaker and people who truly understand games.)
All of that said, I do think it’s kind of unfortunate where the world at large has left a game like this, that’s really quite solid but just outplayed. I don’t think I’d say that it’s really a flaw that a game isn’t the best in its genre, but at the same time, that not-flaw means I wouldn’t ever really rec it to people. It honestly makes me feel kind of weird, because it feels like not taking the game on its own merits, you know?
And that is the Ballad of Act Playing Farm Games.