World’s Dawn

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.

8 Comments

  1. Roarke says:

    Ah, this reminds me of that one game, Battleborn. It was basically a game that came out around the same time as Overwatch, Blizz’s Next Big Thing, and they both had the same premise: team-based FPS with different character classes and RPG archetypes like healers and tanks.

    I don’t know anything about the merits of Battleborn in itself, but it never got off the ground at least in part due to competition and overlap with Blizzard’s newest IP. It is kinda sad, since that game seemed to have a character all its own.

    Ultimately though, you don’t have to feel weird or guilty about not recommending a game based solely on the success of its competitors. That’s the nature of competition, and indie gaming is probably the one place where I’d really say “just play the best one”, because that’s really where the relationship between effort -> quality shines, I think. Edit: Though honestly, that might be an overstatement. There are some average games that nevertheless manage to offer something worthwhile, whether that’s music, voice acting, or just pure character. I dunno.

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  2. Nerem says:
    Battleborn really had an issue with the fact that it’s story, setting, and characters were absolutely wrong for the game it was. It was basically another Borderland in everything but the gameplay.

     

    Also it pretty aggressively marketed itself as being like Overwatch, I guess hoping to ride on its coattrails by beating it to the punch, but ended up flopping.

     

    Which is funny as its really nothing like Overwatch. It’s actually a MOBA that pretends its a Team Shooter like Overwatch/TF2.

     

    It’s not the only game that has fallen into this trap. Paladins made the same bid and has flopped as a result as well, though it also changed itself to be more like Overwatch in very rip-offy ways once Overwatch actually came out.

    1. Roarke says:

      Haha, interesting. I played Overwatch and, well, it’s decent, but FPS are not my style no matter what spin they put on it. I haven’t played since before Ana was released.

      Incidentally, kudos for Overwatch, having the first two new heroes being women and actually tilting the cast female if I’ve got my math right. Oh, and Tracer being lesbian did truly hilarious things to the neckbeard fanbase. 

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      1. Nerem says:
        Part of Battleborn’s failure was also that you paid full AAA price for the game and it came with only a couple of characters unlocked. It was trying to have it both ways – have the Free To Play style of a MOBA, but also require an up-front commitment.

         

        Also its story mode was incredibly short and frustratingly difficult if you were trying to do it by yourself. And after that was all done, you could either repeat the 8 story mode missions or just do regular PvP MOBA gameplay.

        The story and writing is quite charming and funny, it’s just a shame it was attached to a woefully short story mode and largely wasted.  The gameplay also is only kind of ‘it’s fine’. The leveling system doesn’t work super well to be honest, because a lot of the abilities don’t feel strong enough for how long it takes you to get them and then improve them to what they’d be in any other game. It gives some variance to your play style, at least.

        1. Roarke says:

          So yeah, in other words it sounds quite like they’re an indie dev who had wildly inflated notions of what their game was actually worth. I can tell by that pricing scheme that they’d have crashed and burned even without Overwatch.

          My favorite Blizzard game currently is actually Heroes of the Storm, which I’m gonna say is probably the best MOBA ever (small pool of competition). People actually regard HOTS as a financial failure (for a Blizz game), because, well, MOBA. Free-to-play and heroes can be unlocked with in-game gold. I personally have dumped easily over a hundred dollars on it.

    2. Farla says:

      Battleborn really had an issue with the fact that it’s story, setting, and characters were absolutely wrong for the game it was.

      As someone who has played none of this and has only a passing familiarity with the genres, can you elaborate? Gameplay/story synergy (and failure thereof) really interest me.

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      1. Roarke says:

        Gameplay/story synergy (and failure thereof) really interest me.

        Play Darkest Dungeon. In fact, I’m going to go to your rec page right now.

        It’s about to get an update that creates a shorter (but not easier) mode for people who think 80-hour campaigns are a slog.

      2. Nerem says:
        Basically MOBAs are fundamentally plotless largely because the gameplay does not support it. Borderlands made its mark in large part due to its silly, irreverant style set in a crapsack world where everything sucks, with great writing that made it work.

        MOBAs are basically PvP battles much like Overwatch or Team Fortress 2. Two sides duking it out to complete their objectives. MOBAs differ largely in how they are played and what the main objective is. You have to, with the help of other players and ‘minions’, who constantly spawn and attack the enemy structures which need to be destroyed. Towers and walls guard the other side’s territory in layers, and you have to pierce them to get into the enemy base and destroy their support buildings to get access to their core and destroy it.

         

        That is why there is no real plot, as the rigid structure makes it unworkable. Battleborn tried to have its plot with ‘story missions’, which use much of the same structure but looser in order to try and work a narration. This somewhat works, but the missions are so few and so short (which they need to be, due to the nature of the game) that nothing manages to develop and there’s no time for any of the characters.

        I was deeply annoyed that they introduced a bunch of cool story characters, even letting you play one for the tutorial mission. And then they take them away for difficult unlocks on harder difficulties for the final missions of the story mode – or a lot of grinding.

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