Sometimes, you just want to kick back and relax when playing a video game. Instead of trying to save the galaxy or stop a super-villain, perhaps you just want to hang out with some adorable slime creatures for a bit. Slime Rancher, developed by Monomi Park, is perfect for the gamer who wants to take it easy and enjoy a wonderfully relaxed, stress-free experience. The game started in early access on PC, and has now made its way to console.
In Slime Rancher, you play as Beatrix LeBeau, a woman who has travelled across the galaxy to the Far, Far Range in order to become a slime farmer. We don’t really get a very clear idea of why she left all of her loved ones to become a farmer, as she never communicates. We only get snippets of a backstory from e-mails sent to the player from an ex-lover, but that doesn’t give us a whole lot of context.
Whilst giving her more of a personality might have ruined the immersion somewhat, it is still a bit weird that the game gives the player character a name, appearance and sort of a backstory without much elaboration. Nonetheless, the previous owner of a derelict slime farm has left, and you are in charge of rebuilding it to its former greatness.
Slime Rancher is very much a game that opens up over time. At first, you only have a small variety of farm utilities and slimes to choose from. Armed with a high-powered “vacpack” to suck up slimes and resources with, you must capture the slimes in corrals in order to extract and sell resources from them. By feeding the slimes food, they produce gem-like resources called “plorts”, which can be sold. After a while, you will have dozens of slimes, and a sprawling farm with drones doing all the work.
“It is fun to experiment with mixing and matching different slimes to find the most efficient and profitable combinations.”
Plorts are good for more than just selling, however. When a slime eats the plort of another kind of slime, it becomes a larger “Largo” slime with the properties of both slime types. For example, feeding a radioactive rad plort to an explosive Boom slime will turn it into a Boom Rad Largo.
This gives the Boom Slime the Rad Slime’s radioactive properties. In addition, it mixes their diets as well, meaning it can eat both meat and veggies. It is fun to experiment with mixing and matching different slimes to find the most efficient and profitable combinations.
Actually managing the slimes can be a bit of a struggle. Your only means of interacting with slimes and objects is your vacuum gun. However, it can be difficult to pick up specific objects when they are scattered across the landscape. Often you will find yourself picking up random stuff you don’t want. This makes the restrictive four item inventory limit quite frustrating. You can upgrade how many of each item you can hold, but not how many types of items.
In particular, it meant frequent backtracking to my farm to sell or store slimes and resources I had found. Whilst the game makes this process easier with shortcuts unlocked over time, being able to carry more items would have been useful.
Fortunately, the game comes with the “Slimepedia”, which has necessary information about all of the slimes and ranch features. I had to resort to it to figure out why my slimes kept turning into evil Tarr Slimes and killing everyone. However, once I did the research, and stopped keeping different slime types in the same corral, things went a lot more smoothly.
Adventuring outside the ranch can be a dangerous endeavour. Whilst you are able to upgrade your vacpack, health and energy reserves, you are still vulnerable. The penalty for running out of health means losing all of your held items and a full day of progress. Annoyingly, this also counts for falling into water, as Beatrix can’t swim for some reason. Whilst the threat of drowning is lessened when the jetpack is unlocked, it can often feel unfair when I am knocked into the sea and lose a lot of progress.
Slime ranching is also an oddly lonely experience. You are the only human inhabitant of The Far, Far Range. Aside from regular emails from your contacts, you don’t directly interact with anyone that isn’t a slime. The game even comments on it in the datalogs left around the place by the ranch’s previous owner. It made me grateful for the presence of my captive slimes jumping around and making cute noises to add some life into the game.
Slime Rancher’s art and sound direction are truly stellar. From the fun sound effects of when an in-game achievement is unlocked to the varied squeaks of the slimes, I always looked forward to interacting with the game world. The Far, Far Range has many subtle alien aspects, like the weird cloud shapes and strange plants.
“Even when the slimes escaped or tried to kill me, they were just too cute to stay mad at.”
The slimes themselves are simply adorable, bouncing around when they see movement, and making the cutest noises. Even when the slimes escaped or tried to kill me, they were just too cute to stay mad at. Different slime types had different designs, but all of them were delightful. My favourite was the Tabby Slime, the slime that has little cat ears and a tail.
On the PS4, performance is generally solid, but there are some issues regarding the frame-rate. It mostly feels consistent, however when you have dozens of slimes on screen at once, or are vacuuming multiple objects at the same time, it can feel quite choppy at times.
As the game goes on, you unlock more labour-saving features to aid with your farming. Not having to wade into a corral of aggressive slimes to feed them and extract plorts was useful. However, the lack of a compelling narrative or end goal aside from exploring the map and improving your slime ranch did hurt the experience.
Once I had formed an efficient and profitable farm setup and done my best to prevent another Tarr Slime outbreak, the repetition of the gameplay had started to set in. Slime Rancher’s setting is certainly fun to explore, but it’s one where you have to make your own fun for the most part. Whilst there are many gamers who love that kind of freedom, it may turn off those who prefer a more structured experience.
The Bottom Line
Slime Rancher is an addictive and vibrant slime-themed farm sim . I thoroughly enjoyed being able to explore the strange setting at my leisure and experimenting on slimes. Once I had amassed a mighty slime farm and had unlocked all of the areas, it felt incredibly satisfying. However, without much of an end-goal or story to focus on, its somewhat repetitive structure of resource gathering and plort harvesting became apparent over time. Gamers who prefer an experience that has more of a structured narrative may be turned off. However, those who like being let loose to explore Slime Rancher’s well-realised setting will have a blast.