This Beautiful Farming Sim Combines Chinese Fantasy With Stardew Valley

This beautiful farm sim combines Chinese fantasy with Stardew Valley

Last Friday when I started playing Steam Early Access farming sim immortal life, I planned to play just a few hours before bed. I ended up finishing my session at 5am. It’s a standout among farming sims as it tries to emulate the truth of life rather than the bleak economy of running a farm. immortal life has a beautiful art style, the villagers are all intensely sympathetic, and the farming systems are satisfying without feeling punishing. While the game is still in early access only, immortal life is my favorite farming simulation game since 2009 Runic Factory 3 on Nintendo DS.

immortal life is a cross between rune factory and Stardew Valleybut with one big difference: instead of European fantasy, the game developed in China is firmly rooted in xianxia influences† You play as the surviving member of a fallen Taoist sect and must restore the organization to its former glory. This means expanding your farm, ‘cultivating’ spiritual power by fighting local monsters and improving your relationships with the local community.

The game does not innovate in any of these mechanics, but shines through the sheer charm of its world-building. I mean, look at these beautiful crops. There’s something incredibly meditative about rolling out of bed every morning and shaking your plants until the little veggies fall out. I’ve never gotten the same satisfaction from the rune factory games, where you just pick vegetables from the ground. And instead of spraying your saplings with a super watering can, you can use special powers to summon a small thundercloud to sprinkle your farming grids with rain. immortal life doesn’t just focus on the ultimate goal of minimizing your crops for profit – it strives to make farming itself as enjoyable as possible.

immortal life does not go out of his way to punish you in pursuit of realism. Your character won’t get sick for staying out after bedtime, and you’ll still recover your stamina after going to bed at 4am. If you plant in the wrong season, you will get a slightly smaller yield. The game does everything it can to punish you, which is a welcome change when so many similar games force you to micromanage your fictional farm.

Example: I’ve always struggled with how rune factory games can often feel like jobs after a while. There are always dozens of ways to get more energy points and expand the amount you can grow, so instead of going to bed at a reasonable time, use readily available ingredients to create dishes with more staying power, giving you working day gets longer. immortal life‘s systems are more conservative and only allow you a very limited amount of mana points per day. It’s also quite expensive to restore the stamina you need for farm resources. While this may sound like major drawbacks, it kept my farming life from becoming an endless grind. I would prioritize getting specific resources each day, and I would just go to bed early if I finished late in the afternoon. Farming feels like a way to make a living, rather than a brutal capitalist simulator.

Screenshot: 2P Games / Kotaku

immortal life Also has a surprisingly robust farming game cooking mini-game. Most farming simulators just check that you have the right amount of ingredients and the right equipment. This game takes it one step further by making you run around the kitchen, processing each ingredient in the correct order. While there is no penalty for taking your time, I was able to obtain higher quality dishes by memorizing recipes and thinking ahead over several steps; it was very satisfying to get a “Perfect” score by expertly chopping vegetables while my fish was steaming over the fire. Plus, there’s fun in-game art for the ingredients at each step of the process, such as diced vegetables or ground beef.

Honestly, immortal life‘s cooking system gave me higher expectations for comparable systems in all games. Cooking is so satisfying in real life, and most games simplify the process until it’s just navigating menus. But this game mimics life, not just the economics behind farming. For example, you have to cut vegetables on a separate board than the one with which you cut meat. It’s a small detail, but it reflects a common attitude the Chinese have towards meat. You don’t cut cucumbers on the same plate you cut gory pieces of pork; it’s just common sense. And it’s the little details that matter immortal life a feeling of being a civilized world rather than a sterile playground.

Screenshot: 2P Games / KotakuScreenshot: 2P Games / Kotaku

Being an early access game, it has some rough edges. Not all text is translated, so some description boxes are just a space or untranslated Chinese characters. The localization of the side quest may also be unclear. The combat is finicky and uninteresting, and I found myself avoiding encounters so I could just mine the rocks I needed. The game also has some optimization issues that can cause screens to load up to 30 seconds.

While these issues were somewhat annoying, they didn’t detract from the beauty of immortal life‘s environments or the lively personalities of the villagers. I became attached to every member of my cult, and my favorite part of advancing the plot was getting into a new dialogue with them. immortal life is an early access game worth trying.

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