The announcement of Slime Rancher 2 at this year’s E3 was a very welcome surprise, the original 2016 Slime Rancher having served as a wonderful form of escapism for me personally. Monomi Park’s unique simulator game can become a very addictive time-sink with a unique, endearing style and the cutest creatures with which to gather resources from. The titular slimes being the main draw of the game, they make the player invest heavily in caring for them and find new slimes to continue unlocking more of the ranch features. This addictive gameplay loop helped me as a relaxing escape during times where I felt homesick and during the COVID-19 pandemic when an escape here and there was needed. So, before the sequel comes out next year, let’s look back at what made the original so wonderfully engaging.
The story of Slime Rancher focuses on the player character, Beatrix LeBeau, taking over a ranch on an alien planet left in disrepair by a man called Hobson. From there the story is mainly told through Hobson’s diary entries found throughout the game world and the ‘star mail’ system. This system involves Beatrix receiving mail from her “special someone,” Casey, and several other ranchers who also serve as minigames/side quests within the game. Casey’s letters give most of the character background and Hobson’s diary entries provide a bit of lore as you travel to different locations in the overworld.
The minimal nature of the story works overall to the games advantage. Slime Rancher isn’t a game which tries to force its story on you, leaving the player to the gameplay loop which they are going to be involved in for the vast majority of the time. Despite this, there is still some story and brief lore for those who may be interested in learning about it. Allowing the player to choose how much story they engage with is a wonderful choice. The game also includes some simple but effective humour with the character of Bob, and gives the slimes some personality through a cataloguing feature called the Slimepedia.
Slime Rancher is an interesting amalgamation of genres which creates a repetitive but addictive experience. The game is primarily a first-person shooter but instead of shooting bad guys, you gather up slimes, fruit, vegetables, chickens or slime plorts to use in the game’s farming element. The farming element is where the player spends most of their time: making pens for the slimes, growing their specific dietary foods/raising chickens, collecting the plorts they make after eating, and then selling those plorts for money or occasionally using them to adventure the overworld. While this sounds very simplistic (and to an extent it is), the loop of gaining money from plorts, allowing the player to make more pens, coops or soil to increase the rate of feeding different slimes, then buying upgrades for both the player and the aforementioned pens, coops and soil becomes addictive – especially for “creatures of habit” like me. The ranch can also be expanded with the money gained from plorts, including a science lab which only increases the number of things to do on the ranch such as making teleporters, excavation gear and some customisation items for the slimes.
In terms of difficulty the game doesn’t focus on challenging the player with the notion of death. The player can die by falling into water or being attacked by some of the aggressive slimes, or the Tarr slimes which serve as the closest thing to an enemy but that you can defeat by shooting water at them. Dying to any of these elements will send the player back to the ranch with an empty inventory and skip to the next day. While this is not as bad as losing your inventory in other games – as the inventory space is very small in Slime Rancher comparatively – it does still present a reason to avoid the Tarr slime until you get the upgrade to shoot water. However, I would say for Slime Rancher 2 that the inventory space should be upped at least a little bit to make avoiding deaths more important, and to also allow the player to operate the ranch more effectively once they have unlocked a lot of its extra areas like the science lab or the caves.
The OST for Sime Rancher is used very sparingly, only appearing every so often such as when a Tarr is on screen or when you sleep to a new morning. While the soundtrack is so minimal, the music that is present achieves a great deal of ambience and fits the chilled-out atmosphere of the game (except for the Tarr music which really wouldn’t fit being chill and ambient).
Graphics and Art Style
The graphical style of the game is very colourful and gives off the aura of a wholesome cartoon. The smiling faces of the slimes and the cartoon hearts that rise from them as they’re fed creates an atmosphere of comfort which makes the player care for them. The art style really comes into effect in the later areas of the game where we see old ruins or desert areas with more unique slimes and oases which add a sense of wonder and makes the player want to adventure as far as possible. The graphics themselves, while nothing mind-blowing for 2016, work very well with the game’s art style, with each environment looking unique and some of the later areas – such as the cave area of the ranch – being real standouts in terms of graphics and effects.
Slime Rancher is truly a “personal experience” type of game. Every player will organise their ranch their own way with their own favourite slimes and game progress they make. The game can be played for however long the player wants to, as they can do as much as they want based on how invested in the world they get. I would implore anyone who plays games with life-sim elements to play Slime Rancher, as long as they have a lot of time to invest – because you will definitely want to sink a lot of time into your personal ranch. For me personally, the game holds a place in my heart as it provided a place to escape to for a few hours each day when I needed it, and it still serves as a good time-sink past those periods of my life. The emotional response that many fans of the original had when seeing the sequel revealed a couple of months back is a testament to the love from both the developers and fans of this surprise gem.
Slime Rancher is available on Xbox One and PS4 for £15.99 and PC via Steam for £14.99, also being available on Xbox Game Pass. The game also recently released for Nintendo Switch as the Slime Rancher: Plortable Edition for £19.49.
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Reviewed on: Xbox One
Developer: Monomi Park
Publisher: Monomi Park