If you enjoy filling out the bundle collections in Stardew Valley's community centre then Forager will be right up your alley.
When you first boot up Forager, you might be pleasantly surprised by its graphics and similarity to the farming sim Stardew Valley. If you've ever played that game then the pixelated design and gameplay will send you right back to your time spent collecting items to fill out the bundles in the community centre as Forager takes this concept and bases an entire game on it. There's clearly inspiration from Stardew Valley and similar games yet it manages to forge its own identity and not feel like a copycat.
At the start of the campaign, you find yourself on a small island with an empty museum that contains many bare display stands waiting for donated items. There are 8 sections (AKA bundles) in total, each with between 5 and 10 types of items to be found. Just finding 1 of some items is good enough to satisfy filling a spot in a bundle but others will require a lot more; some of which can be a real grind to fulfill, especially when you really want to conserve some of the materials for building.
Filling out these bundles is one of your main goals but there are also plenty of other challenges to keep you occupied. For starters, you won't be happy foraging on your tiny island for long and will want to save up gold to unlock more islands out of the 48 available ones. With 5 different themed biomes (each with their own items, enemies, and challenges), unlocking and exploring them all will keep you busy for a while. Some of the islands contain puzzles that range from easy to somewhat difficult. For example, one has you do a binary to ASCII conversion in order to complete it. Each biome also includes a dungeon that requires a little thinking to complete and provides you with a new item or weapon during your exploration as a worthwhile reward.
There are dozens of items to be found and made whether it's just for the fun of completing your entire collection or out of necessity to boost your attack power against the enemies that spawn across the map. However, fighting these enemies doesn't pose any real challenge. I did perish a few times but it was mostly due to my own negligence and not having upgraded my weapons enough. Anyway, the attack system simply requires a few taps of a button to finish off an enemy and gather the items that they leave behind. In fact, as soon as I got to about 10 hours in, I found absolutely no challenge even when surrounded by powerful enemies because my weapon was so overpowered. By that point, they were just an annoyance.
Other than monsters, you'll also come across NPCs and animals as you unlock new islands. Feeding animal food to cows will give you a bunch of poop that you can use to create more animal food. This reminds me of my guinea pigs which is pretty gross but I guess it's a fact of life. Other animals grant you different items when fed and attacking them will give you meat; those poor chickens...
The NPCs basically offer fetch quests. These range from dead easy to almost impossible such as one character asking for an extremely rare dino egg that can apparently be found by digging but I feel like it's a myth at this point given how much time I've put in to finding it. Satisfying the NPCs' needs and opening chests will often reward you with an orb that gives you the choice of increasing your health or attack power or level up which grants you a skill point. The skill tree in Forager is quite impressive with some nifty unique skills to unlock such as new recipes for buildings that manufacture items or the ability to eat rocks to increase your energy meter.
Unfortunately, this brings me to my main issue with Forager. Once you unlock the market skill that allows you to sell your items, the pace changes completely. Prior to this point, you'll look for ways to make a dime so you can finally unlock the next island but once you can sell all of the gems you find, you'll be so rich that you can unlock almost every island with ease. Up until that point, I found the pacing to be just right if not a little on the slow side. Therefore, the selling price for valuable items should be drastically reduced.
Forager has other issues such as lag, annoying sound effects, and bugs that force you to reload the game. Somehow, the Switch version seems to have escaped most of the PS4 version's glitches including a bug that basically makes dying permanent. However, I still experienced major lag in one dungeon, got stuck inside an object once, and the sound and controller vibration whenever a mining rod hits an item is enough to give me a headache. I also had issues looking at the island maps. Sometimes, I couldn't even see the islands I wanted to unlock or the price would show off-screen. Hopefully, the patches released for the Steam version make their way to Switch soon. Speaking of which, there are slots in the main menu for what looks like DLC so I'll be sure to check those out as they are released. Also, maybe the Switch version could make clever use of the touch screen at some point other than merely in the menus.
One final issue is that although you can build structures as you please, there aren't many simulation elements involved. Considering you're limited by the islands that you have unlocked and your available materials, you'll probably end up building structures in completely random locations. This can be annoying when you want to craft a bunch of metal materials at once or check out the items that you've stored in your vaults as you'll have to visit many arbitrary locations. Speaking of storing items, even after unlocking the higher level backpacks; I still had nowhere near enough item slots and had to make use of the early game vaults. There's no way to see what's in your vaults without going up to them and you also can't sort them or move items in bulk. As a result, Forager would really benefit from an improved inventory management system; perhaps something along the lines of the latest Dragon Quest Builders game.
I had a ton of fun with Forager for the first 10 hours or so but once I got to the point when the pacing becomes tedious, that fun quickly came to a halt. Nevertheless, I would still recommend Forager to fans of similar games.
- + Large array of items, islands, and structures to collect and explore
- + Skill tree is fun to unlock
- + First few hours are seriously addictive
- - Bad pacing means the fun is over abruptly
- - Multiple technical annoyances
- - Cumbersome inventory management