The minute you boot up Forager, you’re flung into the game without much of an introduction. A quick tutorial shows you how to whack trees and stones with your pickaxe, how to build a furnace to craft items, and from there you’re left to your own devices on a small patch of land stranded in the middle of some far off ocean.

That’s one of the strengths and weaknesses of this crafting adventure. Forager lets you set your own goals and create what you want, which makes for a peaceful vacation, but after a while, you might start asking yourself, “Wait, why am I doing all this?”

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The Simple Life

In Forager, you play as a little dude who looks like the main character from Fez if he decided to settle down and lead a simple life living off the land. You mine various minerals and plants, then use them to craft materials to build structures and tools that then help you mine even more minerals and plants. You can also farm, hunt, fish, cook, sell items, fight skeletons, brew potions, write the Necronomicon, and any other action you’d expect from a crafting and survival game.

There isn’t a story, but the game does have a quirky sense of humor that I found charming. I remember one area had a bunch of giant smiling, adorable beets. I’m not sure if I was supposed to do this, but my little guy was hungry, so I began digging my pickaxe into them to harvest some vegetables and was amused and disturbed by their cries of, “Why are you doing this,” and, “I still love you!” I felt like a monster, but hey, a man’s got to eat. There was also an old man who would give me quests while warning me about people exploiting the land’s resources, likely not knowing that he was talking about me.

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The Most Adorable Real Estate Mogul

Forager is a strange game when it comes to actual progress, as initially there doesn’t seem to be an end goal. It’s all about grinding and building, which makes it a good game to turn your brain off and relax to. You earn experience points for just about everything you do, so every tree you chop down or windmill you build gets you one step closer to the next level.

Once you level up, you get to unlock a skill that allows you to make new building types or improves your ability to accumulate stuff. If you want to make more money, you can invest a skill point into building a market place or earning more gold from forging coins. You need to eat in Forager to keep your energy up, so if you’re tired of being hungry all the time, you can take up cooking so you can prepare better foods to gain more stamina for cracking stones.

You’ll also be looking to expand your burgeoning empire as time goes on, which you do by spending money to buy new land around the tiny island. What’s interesting about unlocking these new zones is that they’re rarely just another place to plop down your belongings.

Sometimes the new land will have an NPC who will give you a fetch quest to achieve, or there could be a dungeon for you to explore. One thing I liked was how these new places occasionally had a puzzle to figure out, and the solutions were often pretty creative. There are a decent amount of puzzles to discover, and a few of them require some significant brainpower.

Welcome To The Grind

The progression system has the unfortunate side effect of giving you a lot of downtime between levels. Most actions award XP, but in the early portions of the game, you might find yourself not having much to do until you’ve opened up a new area or unlocked a new skill. Thus, in order to level up, you might have to mindlessly mine, craft, and collect items until you’ve earned enough money or XP to move on.

As a result, everything can start to feel pretty grindy. Forager doesn’t immediately present the player with a goal, so after a few hours, it might seem like you’re just crafting for the sake of crafting. There is an end game of sorts, but by the time I figured it out, I had leveled up and kitted out my little buddy to the point that he could handle just about anything. Forager is not an incredibly challenging experience. I only died once, and that was because I took my eyes off the screen for a second to look at my phone and got stomped on by a slime. This probably isn’t the game to go to if you want an authentic wilderness survival experience.

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Sometimes A Pickaxe Is All You Need

While it’s not going to push your gaming skills to the max, Forager is a pretty pleasant little experience. Its lovely little pixellated world is nice to look at, and while the lack of a clear objective did cause me to lose interest at times, there’s a calming joy in just crafting, gathering, and exploring this tiny world that made it a go-to game when I needed to de-stress after a long day.

This isn’t for RPG players who want a sprawling narrative, or for crafting fans who want to recreate the Taj Mahal. Forager doesn’t reinvent the crafting genre, but it’s the perfect game to load up if you want to unwind, milk some cows, and make yourself some fancy new boots.

A physical Switch copy of Forager was provided to TheGamer for this review. Forager is available on PC, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch. The retail edition of Forager is distributed by Nighthawk Interactive and will be available for purchase from Gamestop, Amazon, Best Buy, and Target on October 29th for $29.99.

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