Originally being made as part of a game jam in 2018, Forager is a 2D game mixing elements of crafting, survival, and exploration. Developed by HopFrog, the game originally came out for PC in April, and recently released for PS4 and Nintendo Switch. For this review, we’ll be looking at the PS4 release.
The game is fairly solid, providing the player with goals to reach and having pretty charming visuals. For most people, it would be a pretty enjoyable experience. That being said, some minor issues on a gameplay and technical level do exist.
Story and Writing
Forager doesn’t have a story, dropping the player into the world and telling them to just play. What little writing there is outside of item names comes from NPC’s found throughout the game. Even then, this is usually minimal, though what is there is fine.
Some characters you meet are a princess stuck in a desert island, an old druid and a ghost who wants to be spookier. They usually make a quirky quip and then send you on a fetch quest. Some of them are a bit endearing, but for the most part, they simply exist to give you rewards.
I didn’t go into this game expecting some vast, grand story, and to be honest, there even being NPC’s was a bit surprising to me. Various survival games give you little to no story, often making the player create their own story. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean the game has to rely pretty heavily on its visuals.
In this case, the game does a decent enough job. The art isn’t way out there but is done well enough to give a decent amount of charm. The choice of a pixel art style also helps a lot with this.
The main meat of the game comes from its various mechanics. The main goal of the gameplay is to collect and build resources, using them to survive and make money. Said cash is then used to expand to and explore new islands.
In addition to this, you keep your little blob man energized with food and avoid being murdered by monsters. The difficulty is pretty minimal, with the player quickly getting more food then they could ever eat before they even reach 5 islands. The game also constantly autosaves, so even if you die you are unlikely to lose any significant progress.
The game is semi-random in its world generation, having 49 islands split between 5 biomes. There will always be the same islands, but how they are puzzled together will change for each new game. The biomes will also always be in the same direction, such as the fire biome being to the south of the starting point.
In the initial stages of the game, the process goes pretty smoothly. Resource, such as food, pop up at random along the islands, and the player uses them. As more land and material becomes available, the players set up becomes more complex and automated.
In your initial play-through of the game, you’re bound to run into the need for specific resources impeding your progress. The upgrades to your tools will have specific requirements for their upgrade tiers, such as bones for a new pickaxe. If you don’t know what direction you need to go, you can be wind up just doing resource gathering.
Again, this is more of a problem during your first playthrough, but first impressions are important. The way it is set up, a new player could very easily get stuck in the early part of the game by just going in the wrong direction. For a lot of players, this could be a big turn off.
Another thing I wasn’t a big fan of was the combat. It’s pretty minimal, and mostly consists of mashing the square button until an enemy is dead. The game tries to give you weapons to use, but switching to them on the fly is a bit clunky. For the most part, you’ll be using your pickaxe for just about everything.
Finally, the game is also not great at explaining what the various structures you build will do. There are no item descriptions, forcing the player to figure it out themselves. Most of the items are pretty self-explanatory, but there are some where you have to just hope you’re building something useful at the moment.
One thing the game does very well is giving the player a motivation to keep on playing it. Each new island will have something on it, be it an NPC, a puzzle, or even just a buff. These, alongside the museum, give the player a goal to work towards.
The game also has dungeons for the player to explore, one for each biome. Each will have its own gimmick to get through it and special rewards. They also have a boss at the end of them, though once again, combat is not the game’s strong point.
The game is also pretty good about making sure you don’t spend too much time doing inventory management. Items don’t have any cap on how much they can stack, and it isn’t until the end of the game you need to start watching it more closely. This means for the majority of the game you don’t have to constantly run back and forth to store excess items.
Graphics and Sound
Graphically, the game has a fairly simple pixel art style. Everything is appropriately cute and quirky, and has mentioned above provides most of the game’s charm. The game also has a decent amount of assets besides just the gameplay resources.
Each of the five biomes is distinct enough from each other to feel different, having unique designs for the resources located on them. There are a decent enough amount of enemy variety, though they aren’t particularly interesting. They also have a fair amount of cosmetic options for your little blob man, earning more as you play.
Sound-wise the game is okay. The music that’s there is decent, though I wouldn’t be craving to listen to it outside of playing the game. The only problem I had with it was the music changing each time you went into a menu, which was a bit annoying.
The sound effects used fare a bit better. Breaking items and killing enemies is made satisfying enough to keep playing. I will also give credit for them making an effect for mining which doesn’t get on my nerves after 5 minutes.
On a technical level, the game has a couple of issues. The farther you progress the longer it takes the game to load into new screens, such as a dungeon or even your upgrade menu. In some instances, it causes the game to soft-lock.
There was also a game-breaking bug that occurred and cost me a few hours of work. This, alongside all the soft-locks and slowdown, made the ending portion of the game a lot more tedious. Perhaps it can be patched in the future, but as I said before, first impressions are really important.