REVIEW: Slime Rancher

Apr
04

REVIEW: Slime Rancher

This game is horrendously repetitive and boring, with a veneer of cuteness plastered over it.

Released: Steam
Type: Single-Player
Genres: Resource Management
Developer: Monomi Park
Publisher: Monomi Park
Release Date: 1 August, 2017

First Impressions

I was first aware of Slime Rancher (SR) when watching some YouTube videos over the game, though I hadn’t realized those were put out in 2016. I acquired SR from a Humble Bundle monthly deal, installing it as a fun game to play whenever. Considering how much it’s been enjoyed, as indicated by all the positive Steam reviews and the YouTube videos, it was sure to be a fun slime time. Turns out, I might have more fun being waterboarded by Nickelodeon slime.

I’m glad this game values ethical treatment of animals, as displayed by my crowded slime pen.

Gameplay

As the title suggests, you’ll wrangle wild slimes with the use of a vacpak, a tool that sucks up slimes and other items of interest, as well as shoot them back out again. You’ll contain slimes in small pens at your ranch, which serves as the hub point where you’ll often return. Caring for your slimes consists of gathering food and feeding them, which generates plort, the main export you sell for money. With your funds you’ll upgrade the slime pens and your vacpak, as well as build other structures such as vegetable gardens and a chicken coop.

Yes, I’ll take my eggs screaming in agony, please.

Opening up more areas introduces new slimes and locations to wander about, but it doesn’t change the gameplay in a meaningful way. You’ll still be gathering up slimes, cooping them up in a small pen, hucking food at them, and selling the plort. It’s a very basic, repetitive game. To be fair though, with enough money you can buy a lab, which allows players to build various gadgets that helps deal with some of the issues in SR. For instance, opening up portals so there’s quick shortcuts from place to place. Now if only there was a value in going anywhere in SR.

Getting anything in return for these worthless slimes is a good deal, as you’ll wind up with far more than you can use.

Controls

Matching the simplistic gameplay, the controls of SR are rather basic, though you can play with either the mouse and keyboard or a controller. Per my norm, I went with a controller. Movement is controlled with the ‘L joystick’ while the ‘R joystick’ looks around the environment. ‘A’ is used to jump, while ‘X’ interacts with objects such as upgrade hubs. The ‘L shoulder’ button sucks items up with the vacpak, while the ‘R shoulder’ button fires items back out. Regarding how the suction of the vacpak works, it had problems consistently pulling items toward me. Sometimes items would fly past me, or even though it’d be right in front of me and being affected by the flow, wouldn’t get sucked up.

Just look at how well this thing sucks up slime!

Story

The main character of SR is Beatrix LaBeau, who desires to traverse the stars and make a life for herself on a slime-ridden planet because somebody has to do it. Throughout the game, you’ll receive letters and read notes left by the former owner of the ranch she inhabits, but you never otherwise see anybody else while playing. Was making human models too hard or something? This basically gives the illusion of backstory and lore to SR, yet it’s not properly developed and leaves far too many questions unanswered. How did anyone discover this place to begin with, if humanity is exploring and developing other planets to this extent what else is being done out there, what value does plort have to civilization at large, and on and on with unexplored, unexplained matters.

An amateur musician? Well, isn’t that nice…

Graphics

Although you’re supposed to be on an alien world, with a variety of biomes to explore, it feels bland and empty. There’s plenty of surface layer distractions, such as the cute slimes and colorful plants, but with the only animals being a hodge podge of same-y slimes and chickens, the place comes across as a dead zone. Including some slime gates and basic secrets to find doesn’t breathe life or interest into the world around you.

Wow, what a find. A golden bauble. Surprised it wasn’t a DLC with the sheer value and joy it offers.

Sound Design

When I listened to the soundtrack, I found the music to be well composed, and is the one feature of SR I think was well done. Many of the songs have a similar tone and vibe, which can lead to them blending together, probably in part due to the use of the same instruments like the guitar. I think it fits a ranching lifestyle well enough, but it doesn’t call into mind anything alien or foreign, let alone pertaining to slimes. Even people who like the music might not notice if it was mixed into a relaxing songs compilation.

Fireworks, already? I hadn’t realized I finished playing this game so soon.

Pros

  • The slimes are quite cutesy. I’m pretty sure the central focus while designing SR was this mindset.
  • The music is generic, but sounds decent.

Cons

  • It feels like the game is constantly screwing you over. You’ve hibernated in a spaceship for a year to ranch slimes, a theoretically lucrative endeavor, but the game is set up so you’re always bleeding money and waiting around. The base pen used to hold slimes have such low walls that it barely contains any number of slimes you put into it, meaning to get any use out of it, you have to buy upgrades for it. As you sell the plort from the slimes you acquire in early areas, the value keeps decreasing from an oversaturated market. If it’s worth so little, why was this worth a year of my time?!
  • Having only 4 chambers for the vacpak makes the task of gathering items really tedious. It necessitates frequent back and forth trips, with you walking through the same places repeatedly, and nothing to accomplish as you do so. Notice how almost no other game provides you a backpack with such a small amount of inventory slots? It’s because they don’t suck. Even if you want to focus on a specific item or objective per trip, you can’t stack up more than 1 chamber of the same item. If I want to haul 2 chambers of carrots, let me.
  • You have a stamina bar, and can’t just run around freely. Considering how much you have to roam about, this is just annoying.

Tips

  • Large slimes are made when a slime eats the plort of another kind of slime, and when they eat food, they’ll drop a plort of each type it’s made out of. They’re harder to contain in a pen without the high walls and even a ceiling, but it’s a more efficient use of your food. Be sure to have secure pens in place before trying to mix slime types together, because a large slime eating the plort of another slime type it’s not made of will make the tarr monsters.
  • With how plentiful pink slimes are right near the ranch, it’s tempting to hoard them. However, they’re the least valuable choice. It’s more worthwhile to ignore them outright and gather up other options such as tabby and rock slimes. Phosphorous ones need a special feature in their pen to survive daylight, so ignore them at first as well.
  • It’s a good idea to start a farm at the ranch to establish a convenient food supply. The chicken coop is a bit less beginner friendly with how stray slimes can decimate your breeding population.

Final Thoughts

The mechanics and feel when playing SR reminds me of a clicker game, which may be why some find it wildly addicting, and I find it insufferable. Going around the same locations multiple times, with few objectives or anything to interact with other than the exact same slimes and food sources, and having to grind out a basic pattern of gathering food to feed slimes for profit gets old fast. It didn’t take me long to get burned out on this boring gameplay, knowing all that’d await me further on is different skins over the same creatures that I’d interact with in the same way as before. The gameplay to me can be summed up by the behavior displayed by the slimes, who only bounce around with stupid smiles on their face, eat, and poop. I know that’s some people’s kink, but it’s not for me, and I don’t recommend this insipid game. If they put in a mod that replaced the vacpak with a shotgun, then I might play another 30 minutes just to see the world of SR burn.

That’s about how I feel playing this game.

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