Slime Rancher is one of the rare games these days where you just play ‘for fun’. Sure, all games are fun, but usually underpinned by a competitive element, or challenging environment. Not often do they give you a world and say, “Just enjoy”.
That is the modus operandi for Slime Rancher. There’s no real threat here, and most things smile at you. The core concept here is to (surprise) build a farm of your slimes. Or rather, collect them and turn them into a way to make your living. You see, Slime Rancher is a deceptive little game, that looks cutesy from the outset but has a rather involved management element to running your slime business.
Played in first-person, there’s a lightweight plot which stars you as a traveller who finds themselves in charge of a ranch. Not dissimilar to Stardew Valley in this respect, it is then up to you how you proceed. The goal really is just to continue to explore and build your empire, but like a lot of games the early days are the most gruelling. Repetition is the main activity here. Without really knowing what to do I found myself roaming the landscape and hoovering up (your primary tool is a vacuum) random slimes dotted around the world. Back to homebase and you fire them into your pens. What else is there to do?
The Slimeopedia helps, as it gives you a few tips on what to do with all of your captured slimes. Feeding them has them produce ‘plots’ which then can be sold for currency which let you upgrade your own tools and your ranch. Only at this point does it start to click, as you explore and start to accelerate your progress. Tips are dotted about the game world and offer things to try (presumably left by a previous ranch owner) but progression really opens up once mysterious doors are opened by your progress (I won’t spoil how).
You will eventually encounter the game’s threats – essentially bad slimes, but fox-shaped once will lurk and try to each your penned up slimes if you’re not careful. These threats are minimal really and don’t annoy but provide a slight distraction.
NPCs offer basic quests which give you some other things to aim for and consequently reward you with prizes. It’s all just a bit too… nice. This seems like a harsh critique really; can a game be too nice? Slime Rancher is incredibly colourful, Slimes have massive smiles on their faces as they bounce around. It’s all just lovely, but dare I say, a bit too pedestrian. I found myself desperate for some action, some time pressure, a bigger threat… anything. Once the management increases, it is a bit easier to feel engrossed but the first few hours are a difficult time as the game does not rush to dig its hooks into you.
Essentially Slime Rancher is a lovely sandbox. It’s lack of challenge will irk some, but it’s harmless fun – and that’s exactly what Slime Rancher is aiming for.
Reviewed on PS4