Developer/Publisher: Monomi Park
Platform(s): PC, Xbox One
Playtime: 9 hours
Slime Rancher has actually been on my wishlist for a quite a while, but I only got around to buying it with the recent Steam sale. I initially found out about this game through a Youtuber, and was amazed at how cute it was. …that was months ago. While the game is still in Early Access, what Monomi Park has proven is that they are dedicated and are consistent with their updates. It’s great to see the game grow with new features.
So, for those who don’t know – what exactly is Slime Rancher? I would categorize it under the simulation genre and would definitely recommend it if you’re into games like Minecraft and Stardew Valley. It’s very cute, very casual, and a great game to just sit down and enjoy as you unwind.
Taken from the website:
Slime Rancher is the tale of Beatrix LeBeau, a plucky, young rancher who sets out for a life a thousand light years away from Earth on the ‘Far, Far Range’ where she tries her hand at making a living wrangling slimes. With a can-do attitude, plenty of grit, and her trusty vacpack, Beatrix attempts to stake a claim, amass a fortune, and avoid the continual peril that looms from the rolling, jiggling avalanche of slimes around every corner!
In terms of actual gameplay, it’s fairly simple. You interact through your Vacpack, which can suck in or spit out objects – slimes, foods, drops, you name it. There’s also the option to sprint around and later on you can unlock a jetpack, giving you access to even more areas to explore.
The heart of the game lies in collecting those oh-so-cute slimes. You start off on an empty-ish ranch without a single x to your name. Collect slimes, build up cages, and collect their drops (called “Plorts,” heh) so you can sell on the Slime Mart for newbucks. Then, use those hard-earned newbucks to unlock upgrades and expansions.
Now for my impressions:
I played this game like mad for two days. It felt like Stardew Valley all over again. My god, everything is just so cute. And overall it really scratched that itch I was looking for in a casual game – just being able to play and relax without consequence or competitiveness.
Yet the novelty of the game started to wear off soon. The awe of exploration disappeared once I became familiar with my surroundings. It only took about 2 or 3 days of in-game time for me to get a grasp of any new area I unlocked.
And as soon as I collected all of the possible slimes in the game, I just lost interest. Yeah, I gathered enough money to unlock the lab area and messed around with it a bit, but I really saw no motivation to play anymore. And the whole concept of gordo slimes and treasure troves is nice, but are minor features that doesn’t address the main issue that I have.
Like a switch, it suddenly felt like there was something inherently empty about the game. I suppose the whole grind of gathering newbucks wore off as soon as I gathered all the slimes and crops and became very self-sufficient. It also doesn’t help that you are gated with limited plots, limited storage values, and a sensitive market whose prices directly change with the amount you try to sell. I guess it was that moment where something fun turns into something tedious. And I hit that mark just 9 hours in.
I suppose, for a game focused on slimes and raising them, there really isn’t a lot of personal interaction with the slimes. How can you, when you can feasibly stuff hundreds of slimes into a single corral, haha. I feel like in the future, being able to personally connect with slimes, giving them personalities and needs, might be a direction to go in. Right now you see some forms of that – but it’s very basic.
Furthermore, I think there needs to be some sort of balancing in how often plorts are pooped out. In most games of this type, pay-off is not realized until much later; namely Harvest Moon-type games being entire seasons. (Oh, that’s another idea – seasons and season-exclusive slimes.) While I admit the start was a bit slow, the curve is just way too steep with how easily you can start bringing in the dough. Double plorts if you feed slimes their favorite foods – at multiple intervals in a day – is a lot. My collectors were constantly filling up. I also found auto-feeders to be pretty useless because the rate they dispense is really no different from you just dumping all the food on the ground. Another thing I realized was that food left on the ground actually does expire (like, it rots and shrivels up!), but the time is so long it’s really not an issue.
Ultimately, I feel like what I faced in Slime Rancher is like what I did with Stardew Valley, but much sooner. It was incredibly fun and magical while it lasted, but I really can’t bring myself to pick it up again. Slime Rancher is a few updates short of being a fully fleshed out game – but that’s why it’s in Early Access, no?