Farming simulators seem to get of traction these days. Maybe it’s a question of escapism or the fact they trivialise the back-breaking labour of farm work but people seem to love them. I can see the appeal but there’s always a sense the repetition might wear me down. In comes Everdream Valley from Moon Eaters. Proposing more of a sandbox, this effort seems to allow players more freedom in their approach.
Whilst it is being marketed as more of a sandbox, there is a slight structure to it. Certain tasks are marked as main objectives and completion of these leads to little dream interludes. These are simple and short scenarios where you usually take on the form of an animal. It could be a sheepdog protecting a herd or a bee trying to return to the swarm. These are neat and do break up the monotony of farm life on a semi-regular basis. A lot of them form the basis of teaching you new things and each one brings you new options for how you want to spend your time.
As for the rest of the gameplay, you’re doing the usual chores. Crops need to be sewn and attended to, livestock needs to be acquired and fed. Daylight is your best chance to achieve this as night brings with it predators and, as a small child, it’s best not to chance it. As a result, it can make the days feel surprisingly short. There’s no real pressure to manage time but there are certain situations that make the clockwork life of agriculture stand still. Hungry animals don’t produce wool or lay eggs, for instance.
It never feels hectic although wandering out has some dangers. Aside from the terrors as the sun goes down, wild animals like geese or bees have their own problems. You can pick up injuries which steadily drain a typically generous stamina bar. Strenuous tasks like chopping trees are out of the question until you patch yourself up. It did me wary as I went gathering for items although animals are usually marked on the map. If backup is required, you can always bring your trusty dog along as security.
The sheer breadth of stuff to do is admirable. None of it is especially challenging but there’s always one more task to get your teeth into. Fences need to be mended, you can cook dishes for stamina gains, equipment needs to be fixed to gain more access to even more tasks. It’s nice to feel busy and Everdream Valley‘s in no rush to hurry you. Crops don’t rot with neglect, animals don’t suffer. It’s chill and I appreciate that.
Is there a story? It’s more of a premise. You play a child who’s been left with their grandparents whilst their parents are away. As an elderly couple their first instinct is to harness your youth for some child labour. They’ll hand out chores whilst your character gladly takes up the chance. They mill about the farm but don’t offer much in the way off assistance. Completion of quests does offer some meaningful rewards but I find it daft that these two adults can’t manage their own affairs.
Whilst most of your tools can be found wandering the lush countryside, there is a permanently placed merchant who will sell you most things. These are unlocked steadily but he has a good selection to start with. You can also sell your own items and he’s not choosy about what you can give him. If you sell something in error you can buy it back. Given how most crops respawn over time, you can make this man a personal bank.
It does make Everdream Valley feel repetitive. With the onus being on a sandbox, trophies focus around collecting things. You can do quite a few of them with ease but there are some that require a time investment. Some tasks like milking cows come with their own mini-games. These are fairly basic and, in-keeping with the rest of the game, don’t tend to punish you for failure. In fact, they tend to wait whilst you get it right. Of these, only herding gave me a slight problem. Largely because I wasn’t entirely sure how it operated. You and your dog effectively direct animals to the farm. You can give your dog a direction to move in but you can also shuffle the crowd. Originally, I thought it was all the dog doing the work. This can still be a little tricky and I find the zoomed out perspective causes hassle.
Frustration is few and far between, although I have had instances where the task I’m planning to do simply won’t trigger. I can shear the ram I’ve brought to the farm but the others won’t let me clip them. I’m also struggling to get the dog to hunt. The lack of a comprehensive text tutorial means I’m unsure if I’m being dumb or if the game is broken. Some tasks will happily draw points of interest on your map but not in every case. There’s an inconsistency that can make gathering livestock tricky business. I can find a sheep a mile off but lost ducks are a different story.
The landscape of the valley is lush and gorgeous. It’s mostly baked in glorious sunshine whilst some rain showers provide crops with a free watering. The gradual transition from day to night is nice to see and there’s just a good summer feeling throughout. By default, your character wakes up at midday but the later evenings allow for plenty of time to work.
It looks very lively with livestock scattered around the farm. Any pets you have will gladly follow you and bound across the map with great enthusiasm. It looks fairly polished with my only real complaints being the look of animals themselves. It’s a little on the plastic side. You can pet any tame animal you discover but there’s no fluff or feathers to really make that feel fuzzy.
The music retains the bright aesthetic. There’s no peril to the soundtrack with mostly cheery music there to accompany you on your journey. It largely fades off into the background for me but there’s a couple of tracks that pipe up when you’re getting close to home. Otherwise, the birds provide ample chirping to give off a twee sense of place.
Everdream Valley is not exactly changing the genre. I feel all of these farming efforts have a sense of freedom and relaxation to them. Being placed within a 3D world does add more flair but the core loop of summer agriculture remains the same. Whilst the game appears breezy and polished, there’s a few rough edges beneath the bright facade. Inconsistencies between objectives make me wonder if I’m doing something wrong or if quests are genuinely broken. It’s a concern for those wanting a clearer path.
+ Very forgiving and paced leisurely.
+ Plenty of tasks to undertake or ignore.
+ A big map to explore.
- As with most of these games, repetition isn't far away.
- Not much in the way of structure or plot.
- As cute as the animals are, they look like they're made of plastic.