There are a lot of games with life and building elements that feel like they can go on forever. Someone could work a single Stardew Valley save file for months or maintain an Animal Crossing game for years. While Forager can absolutely feel like one of those sorts of games, there’s something else to it that makes it unique. It is also a game that feels like yes, you could play this for hours at a time and just enjoy seeing your growth and progress, but it feels even better if you keep going through it multiple times and experimenting with your progress.
In Forager, players follow a person on an island. You have one plot of land initially and nothing available to you. Some trees will be around, to provide fruit and wood. Some bushes nearby may have berries. You could also see some initial rocks that provide stone, coal, iron, or gold. The only thing the game suggests you do is create an Furnace, then a Forge, so you can start making more materials, cooking food, and forging better equipment. It is up to you to choose your path. New natural resources and animals will appear as you progress, you’ll gain experience from every action, and eventually you’ll be able to invest into a skill tree that has Economy, Foraging, Industry, and Magic branches.
From there, well, it is about doing whatever makes you happy and successful. When a monster appears or you happen upon a dungeon, Forager can have a The Legend of Zelda feel to its fights and puzzles. Its Museum, which asks you to fill its ranks with different categories like Alchemy and Cooking to fill bundles, feels a lot like Stardew Valley’s community center challenges. You could pair the Foraging skills you learn, which get into things like farming and mining, and pair them with the Economy skills that unlock Markets and Commerce to earn you money. Industry and Magic could give you better equipment and and fighting abilities for handling bosses. An autosave function means there are no take-backs, and the way things randomly generate and appears means you could have a file where you intended to only be a farmer, but found you had a thriving lumber industry with many markets instead.
All of these paths and the way Forager rewards you for completing feats, like buying land gets you a Fedora or planting seeds gets you a farm hat, means going back and seeing what could happen another time is an encouraging prospect. Especially since Speedrun is timing your actions. In a Normal game, you have all the time in the world available to you. There are no restrictions. When you select Speedrun at the start of an adventure, a timer looks at how long it takes you to get every single feat. Given that these have some objectives that are more easily accomplished by filling out every section of the skill tree, and can still be a lengthy way to play.
Forager’s Single Island Challenge seems like an even more major method of encouraging people to start fresh in a new way. In the standard and Speedrun modes, players can gradually expand their playing area by purchasing additional landmasses with coins. This means more room to experiment, the freedom to change your mind if your current life path isn’t working out, and constant expansion. When you only have one island, you have to think ahead more and still have to see that timer ticking down. More powerful enemies and materials will start spawning right away. It’s better if you have played through a few other runs, so you have an idea of which progression methods work for different lifestyles. You can practice and see what is or isn’t essential to your success. Then, when you do go with the single island, you go in knowing what works. But, at the same time, you might also enter it knowing it may not be as long an experience as a more typical playthrough.
With Forager, there are always options. You don’t know what will generate on your starting islands or how things will look when you kick things off. You might find pursuing different paths is better in certain situations, once you really get invested. Options that let you try and do as much as you can with one island or going with Speedrun to see a constant timer encourage you to try and do as much as possible. It’s like getting to have the sort of endless experience a game like Stardew Valley encourages, but with a format that makes you want to try and go back to play in shorter sessions.
Forager is immediately available for PCs. Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 digital copies will arrive on July 30, 2019 and physical copies will appear on September 10, 2019 in North America and September 13, 2019 in Europe.