Slime Rancher first released on PC to a small following, alongside an Xbox One release. Due to the success on the Microsoft end of the pond, this cute little ranching game has finally be ported over to PS4. I played this game back in its early release, looking back at 2016 shows some of the steps this game has taken in its 2 years of early access to release. Returning to the cute little simulator game where we capture, take care of and profit from slimes, the creatures we normally kill in our RPGs.
You take on the role of a Slime Rancher, a profession where you capture and feed slimes you find around the Far Far Range. As Beatrix LeBeau you are expected to bring in a good income from the slimes, by feeding them and selling the plorts they drop to the 7Zee Corporation, the company you work for.
As you progress through the days, or after certain milestones, you will receive emails from both friends and foes in your hut, from people telling you the trading centre is running, advice on how to make your ranch as well as threats from a rival Rancher who still trades with you but aims higher than your small ranch.
Alongside these emails, you will need to spend a lot of Newbucks to unlock expansions to your farm, research technology and upgrade your equipment. Aiming to satisfy the player’s need to spend all their money, these upgrades get increasingly expensive to even costing thousands for aesthetic upgrades to the ranch itself.
Just like its initial stages of early access you can collect and farm a lot of the types of slimes, food, chickens as well as pop the Gordo slimes in over 8 hours, though the achievements on hand might give you a few more hours of game time. There is always a more efficient farm to set up for faster income.
Slime rancher is played in 1st person, moving with the left Thumbstick and sprinting by pushing it in. You jump with X and use your jetpack to hover and fly around, though this must be bought before it can be used. Circle shoots a blast of wind to blow back slimes, which again must be unlocked through an upgrade. Triangle is your light for dark areas. Controlling your slime gun is much more in-depth. You can swap selections with L1 and R1, suck up with L2 and shoot with R2.
The main objective of the game is to keep slimes in Corrals, feed them, hopefully with their favourite food, and then pick up their “plorts”, think of manure or if they pooped golden eggs. Plorts are mostly diamond shaped objects with varying qualities based on the slime who shot them out. With these plorts in your VacPac you will shoot them into the market machine to get compensated for the type of plort. With this money you can upgrade your character with more inventory space, health and energy, or put the money back into the slimes by increasing the size and security of the Corrals as well as giving them a music box and auto-feeder to keep them satisfied.
There are around 24 types of slimes, with some being hostile, randomly spawned, or fatter versions that require food. A Slime can eat a dropped plort if it comes from a different slime, resulting in a combination slime of bigger size, who drop plorts from both parts. However, when a combined slime eats a 3rd new plort they turn into Tarr, angry slimes who kill other slimes and the rancher. It can be lucrative to store large slimes of 2 types, but easy to lose control and have them turn into Tarr if you do not upgrade their cells.
The game feels very akin to Harvest Moon or Animal Crossing but with a 1st person perspective. There isn’t much danger in the early game, besides Tarr Slimes and falling in the ocean, so you can go at your own pace for the majority of it. After a certain amount of time, normally the time it takes to get a few cells setup with some higher-grade slimes, the game does kinda turn into a repetitive turn of feed-collect-sell to gain newbucks to purchase upgrades to go back into the cycle. Research does help with this monotony as you can unlock machines to place around the ranch.
Improving from its original early access design, Slime Rancher has taken quite a few good steps in the right direction. It comes with this feeling that you can always improve your farm, leading to a “Just 1 more minute” feel when you are playing it. The late game can feel a bit grindy and repetitive at times, along with the only goal truly making more money. The cartoony style still may be a hindrance for an older audience, though there are those who will enjoy the colourful design.
The music in Slime Rancher is consistently ranch like, with calm tunes throughout the ranch and neighbouring areas. Combining string instruments, drums and slight choir choruses, the soundtrack blends nicely from place to place. When the Tarr start to form, or you enter into dangerous locations, the music will take a turn to become more dark and gritty to fit the situation.
Overall, Slime Rancher gets an 8/10, it has improved on its design from the early access version and being ported to PS4 allows many more people to play this lovely little simulation game. It can feel quite grindy at times, with most of the story told through text rather than events or voices. The lack of NPCs or people to interact with besides mail can feel a bit lonely, though being surrounded by slimes adds to the immersion of being on the ranch.