Listen, there’s an empty museum that needs completing and that’s all I had to hear
I’m a sucker for a well-implemented crafting system. There’s something about gathering and experimenting with materials, tinkering away at recipes and slowly hunting down rare ingredients that engages my brain. So, when I saw Nintendo showcase Forager as part of their latest Indies Showcase, I was immediately intrigued.
Forager, the second game from Argentina based studio HopFrog, advertises itself as “Legend of Zelda + Terraria + Stardew Valley.” It has a similar art style and movement to Enter the Gungeon but much, much less hectic. You begin on a tiny square of land surrounded by water, armed only with a pickaxe. Everything around you can be broken down into collectible materials and shoved into your pack. Don’t worry about over-harvesting: nodes respawn almost as quickly as you can knock them down.
Crafting takes place at work stations, of course, which must be constructed from the most basic and readily available of materials, like wood and stone. After that, things gradually ramp up, needing more complex materials like steel, glass, thread, etc. It’s an established system that needs little explanation if you’ve ever played a crafting game post-Minecraft.
Oh, and there are levels and skills. You’re awarded one point every time you gather enough experience from scooping up your island home’s natural resources. These points unlock one of four starting skills, with branches unfurling from those starting points. Want to get more resources from each node? Invest in gathering skills. Need coins to unlock more islands beyond your tiny initial plot? The economy tree is the way to go.
That’s really it for the demo. You’re allowed 10 levels and a number of islands before the leash tightens, but it’s more than enough to know whether Forager will be something you want in your life. I must admit it re-fired some dangerous dopamine receptors in my head, the same ones that shunned responsibility and kept me mining and crafting until the wee hours of the morning.
But I’m hesitant to say whether or not Forager has legs. Beyond a deep and satisfying crafting system, there’s little in the way of story or motivation. It’s progress for the sake of progress. Perhaps being a great game to play while listening to podcasts, commuting, or on lunch break is good enough. But there are a lot of games already out there doing what Forager promises. And that’s all without even trying to unpack how buying land and exploiting resources in the pursuit of more efficient land buying and resource exploitation is a hell of a thing to just exist in-game without context or commentary.
One island houses a museum whose proprietor apologizes for the utterly empty state of the place. They also promise rewards for helping fill the barren displays with resources, a move custom-designed to sink its hooks into me. But that’s more of a late-game time sink than substantive content.
Videos and images on HopFrog’s website talk about building and defending bases, huge boss monsters, and other NPCs, which could definitely be the missing piece that cements Forager as my go-to dowtime game. The full game is scheduled for sometime in early 2019, and I’ll be sure to see how this adorable little title shapes up.
Forager’s demo is now available for pay-what-you-want on Itch.io.