FPS/EXPLORATION – MONOMI PARK – AUG 1, 2017 – $19.99
I made a mistake this week when I chose to review Slime Rancher. It wasn’t one I realized off the bat, though I thought I had made a mistake immediately. I went to the Steam store, searched for best selling independent games, and found Slime Rancher near the top of the list. I was initially off put by the stereotypical tags of so many games nowadays; cute, colorful, exploration, etc. The reviews were positive and featured quotes like, “A bouncy rainbow in a sludge of sprawling, mud-coloured shooters.” (according to Rock, Paper, Shotgun) and, “I’ve never played a cuter, more pure game in my life…” (GSM). I rolled my eyes and tried to put aside some of the cynicism I’ve had around a lot of games and, after an hour or so, I had realized my mistake. I had underestimated this game entirely based on the cute, bubbly ascetic.
Slime Rancher casts you as Beatrix LeBeau, the adorable adventurer 1,000 light years from home looking to make her fortune on the ‘Far Far Range’ corralling and harvesting slimes. You begin with a short tutorial explaining the basics of the game and teaching you about how you make your income with ‘plorts’, the byproduct of fed slimes. You learn that different slimes make different plorts and that you can explore the world to find new and exciting species of slimes to get higher and higher value plorts to sell on the market, make profit, upgrade your kit and facilities and continue up the ladder. Seems simple, right? Well that’s where the game really put its hooks into me.
After you collect your first slimes you begin your journey out into the land finding many different types of fruits, veggies, chickens, and slimes. The environment seems friendly at first, inviting you to explore every nook and cranny of the area to find boxes, locked, treasure, and unlockable doors. It’s very easy to get trapped watching the bubbly creatures in their environment jumping around and chasing one another in search of food that walks into their view. As they drop plorts you chase them down to suck up any extras before slimes of different colors suck them up and turn into hybrids. This aspect, the hybrids of slimes, was the first step that drew me into the game. By feeding, say, a blue rock plort to a pink slime you get a hybrid of the two. A large rocky pink plort that combines the aspects of both. Typically blue slimes only eat vegetables, combine it with a pink plort and it takes on the ability of pink slimes, the ability to eat anything. In addition to the increased ability, when fed, they produce the plorts of both aspects, a pink and a blue one. Be warned, though, feed more than two different plorts to a slime and they mutate to become a tar slime, a dangerous and voracious hybrid that acts as the most dangerous enemy in the game.
After a bit of exploring, capturing, hybridizing, fighting off baddies, and selling plorts you’ve probably got a little bit of cash under your belt. Now comes the final, and my personal favorite, phase of the game, upgrades. Your ranch starts as a bunch of blank plots but you begin quickly upgrading and adding facilities to the area. You can plant gardens to grow your slimes favorite foods, add silos to store extra supplies, add a coop to house your chickens, and add more and more pens to keep your slimes contained. All of these facilities can be upgraded and add a lot of extra features to them. For an example you may have some slimes that are dangerous contained and their plorts fetch a pretty high price on the market. Feeding them is easy, just shoot their food into the pen and watch them go, but running in and gathering the goods risks life and limb. No problem says the game, 500 coins for a plort collector and problem solved. Having trouble keeping your slimes fed? Add an automatic feeder and keep them happy. As you add more and more automation to the ranch things really begin to take form and this is where the game truly comes into stride as you spend your mornings collecting resources, stocking feeders, and checking off your morning checklist of things to do. I had my most fun when things began to roll into this routine and where things were at their most relaxing. You truly get the sense that the investment you’re making really is beginning to pay off.
In the beginning I had written this game off as a cute game without much substance but in my exploration of it I’ve quickly written that assessment off. The depth runs through many layers, not just in the level design but in the game’s ability to make your ranch yours. I’ve been so pleasantly surprised by my experience with Slime Rancher and, as soon as this article is written, will be spending much more time in its colorful and pleasing world. Down below is a video of an hour of gameplay in the game and I encourage you, if you’re still on the fence like I was, to take a look at that. For anyone still holding out check out their free demo on Steam to get a taste for the game as well. At $19.99 it feels like a steep ask if you’re just judging it by the surface but the in game economy and the endless joy of creating and maintaining your ranch really make it worth it. I’ll be seeing you later, home on the Far Far Range.