Welcome to the Island of Staxel. A charming little island full of adventures to explore, hobbies to hobby, plants to grow, animals to rear and friends to make. The Finger Guns review:
Minecraft? Is That You?
Staxel is a voxel based farming and life sandbox simulator now coming to Nintendo Switch. To begin, players can choose between two different worlds. Standard and Creative. The Standard mode allows players to work themselves up from the bottom. You will have to buy items, make money and sell produce to get some coin. Resources are limited until they grow back. In creative mode, money is no object. Build and build away to the top for free. Have a mansion house to create with crops and animals galore (you also gain the ability to fly – super cool).
Players will begin with overtaking a very run down battered farm. You will meet Farm Fan, a character who will be the players guide to navigating around the island, and game mechanics such as crafting, moving, building and interacting. They will give you missions, introduce you to characters, remind you of tutorials and what to do next and all around be the support you need to get you up and running.
The character you choose to take on your life farming journey is customizable. You can choose your class, whether you are elf, human or caith. There does not appear to be any negative or positive perks to your choice, simply just an aesthetic charm. I choose caith, because they have cat like ears, and what’s better than that? Changing clothes, buying a new wardrobe and having seasonal outfits is all an option should you want to keep up the trends.
Visually, Staxel brings a Minecraft-like aesthetic. Where each tidbit of detail is in the form of cubes. Do not let this put you off should you not like the Minecraft games. Although similar to the eye, the premise and gameplay hold two very different ideas and an expansion on the former building block franchise.
Day one of Staxel certainly airs a Stardew Valley atmosphere. Starting with a barren farm, that is broken down, full of cobwebs, and the bare minimum in terms of decor. In fact the first thing I did was sit on the toilet. You are gifted tools and a few seeds to get up and running and then Staxel Island is your oyster.
The game is incredibly layered and full of depth. There is much to handle each day, and I fear I have only scratched the surface in the 10’s of hours I have played. The tutorial mode is kept throughout your play in the forms of a bookshelf you can keep inside the farm house. This is easy to navigate, and allows you to attend to it should you get stuck and need a refresher on how to do something.
Staxel offers a somewhat relationship sim within its game. Each character will evolve a different relationship with you and their relationship with you could determine missions later down the line. The game will show you how they feel about you and how strong your relationship is together.
“Block by Boring Block”
Building and crafting is a big part of the game, missions will require you to build peoples houses, fishing sites, as well as attend to your own farm and expand and decorate any other abodes you may need too. With every item needed, may require you to craft, carve, and combine multiple items. It will require you to go out and resource that item. This is where things get a little tricky. The tutorial doesn’t quite tell you how to find this. The map offers two handy shops where things will replenish over time. The town village also offers four market stalls with new items periodically which allows you to buy their goods or sell yours for cash.
There were many times I was significantly slowed down in completing a task, because what I needed to build I couldn’t find, and what I couldn’t find, I couldn’t craft. For example a pillow. The shop didn’t have them, neither did the stalls, and the tutorial bookshelf gave me no insight on how I could complete this task. This happened often, which just led to a bit of frustration and roaming around begging for a new character to task me with something new in the hope it would be stocked in the shop a few days later.
However, the praise needs to be on what you can do in the game with these items, once you do have your grubby mits on them. The possibilities of what you may need to do, and what you gather is extensive. You’ll need a saw to cut trees, chopping wood, to saw into lumber, to then combine with nails, to make a wooden box is a lot to do for one tiny wooden box. Which then may need combining with flower petals and varnish to create something else that is different. As you create more, the intricacy of what you need to resource, uncover and create will expand.
Staxel doesn’t lend itself to smooth sailing however. Despite the intricacy in your creations, the blueprints you may make the character memorise, or a recipe to learn. Building itself, is as janky and as clunky as you can imagine it would be constantly putting squares together. It motivated me to do no more than make barns no taller than my own cute little Caith. The depth perception is almost headache inducing, and with no multiple build button every block needs to be placed individually and the placement of the blocks can be extremely temperamental. You will need to knock down and replace bricking or roofing multiple times just to get the right angle and placement. However, this does not seem to be the case when it comes to room items making decorating rooms quite an enjoyable task.
As well as building and crafting you will need to grow produce, learn recipes, mix fruits and vegetables to create wonderful meals. Staxel also offers the choice of having a pet (that you can literally pet – GOTY obviously). As well as rearing your own farm animals to provide the town with yummy treats. Fishing is also available should you fancy a late night fish and chips.
Collecting is also another in-game element to Staxel. If you fancy your hand with entomology, there are bugs aplenty. With different species of most insects lying around for you to catch, keep or sell.
The Island of Staxel is a moderately sized Island with much terrain to explore and gather from. As a player you do not feel that you are travelling too far to get anywhere, and that the process is slow or labouring but it feels big enough to aid your creative juices of farming. The map is a lovely charming demonstration of the goings on of the town at a birds eye view. Live locations of all the characters and yourself, Much like Marauders Map in Harry Potter is a delight to see when deciding where to explore next or where the character is I need to speak to.
Once fully acquainted with the surroundings. Staxel offers different times of day and seasons, as well as festivals that take place around the village. On waking up, you may find an alert that alerts you to a new going on to explore. This can range from portals to new islands, to new buildings and characters to help or just a simple flowery forest to pick from. This adds variety and some purpose within the village, on top of all the other tasks you may need to do, as these festivals are time limited and will soon be replaced with a new festival.
Staxel offers a place where nothing can hurt you. There are no monsters lurking in the sea, or underground in hidden caves. There is no threat to what you create or your character losing all of their inventory.
Staxel has a bunch of achievements within the game that the player can work towards. These fill the gap for me in terms of ‘trophy hunting’ and I found these really fun working towards. This could be “catch your first queen bee” to “gathering x amount of resources”. This will satiate anyone who is still mad at Nintendo for lack of trophies or achievements in game.
Final Farming Thoughts
Staxel offers a multiplayer mode, and although I have had no pals to explore this with, playing the game solo, I can imagine the fun you would have with more friends to help you on the Island. Missions would be easier with the workload shared and the finished product could be enjoyed much sooner and with friends.
Technically, the game had minor hitches, but not enough that I felt it ruined my experience. I had one hard crash when entering a portal and I have a consistent unrendered piece of map on my map. At first I thought this was a nice pond, but it turns out it is just empty space. Luckily said area’ isn’t a huge portion but I do hope it fixes itself.
As previously mentioned, I feel that only the surface has been scratched with what there is to see, do, craft, cook and explore. And despite its areas of clunkyness and lack of direction I can see myself playing for some time to uncover everything I may have not seen yet. Whilst also discovering all the ways I can design the community and my own farm. I bet I will also convince some friends to come along for the ride. Staxel’s potential is one to get excited about and one that I feel people will be diving into for a long time.
Staxel provides a fun, zen farming and life simulator that replicates the visuals of Minecraft, and the premise of Stardew Valley. There is much to uncover and it could be everyone’s new favourite farm to milk cows, grow crops and build abodes, whilst making friends along the way.
Staxel is available on Nintendo Switch (reviewed) on September 23rd.
Publisher: Humble Bundle
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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