Fae Farm Review

I have fond memories of playing the original Harvest Moon on the Super Nintendo growing up, and seeing as the cozy farming sim genre has seen a renaissance over the past number of years, I decided to give Fae Farm a try, and I’m glad I did. Little did I know that when my wife showed me videos of this charming new farming sim that it would turn out to be one of my favorite relaxing games in 2023.


After stumbling upon a washed-up invitation in a bottle, you quickly find the nearest boat you can find and make your way to the island of Azoria, searching for adventure. Things don’t go quite as smoothly as you’d like, as strange whirlpools surround the island, causing your boat to capsize on it. Marooned on the island and being the first visitor in quite some time,  you are rescued by the town’s mayor, gifted an abandoned farm, and are set off to your own devices.

The land of Azoria and its inhabitants are a mix of humans and elves from the fae realm who are happy to assist and help you along in your mission to solve the mysteries surrounding the island. Even with all of these natural hazards preventing travel on and off the island, everyone is still so happy and helpful that it just makes it hard to be sad or upset playing Fae Farm.


Compared to most of the other games I typically play, the story, while charming, isn’t particularly intricate or complex. While I enjoyed meeting the large spirits (the giant yeti who just wants to be left alone to be sad, a particular favorite) after completing the first dungeon, you will have a pretty good idea of what to expect going forward. 

As lovely as the narrative and denizens of Azoria and the Fae realm are, I will be the first to admit that the story and building relationships in farming sim titles I tend to put on the back burner and not my main focus when I play, and Fae Farm was no different.


Fae Farm offers all of the staples that fans of the farming sim genre have come to expect; rotating seasons, expandable housing, mines to explore, romance (players are able to romance characters of any gender), and more. Checking these boxes on its own, even when executed well, would not have been enough to raise Fae Farm to stand apart from the crowd. Where Fae Farm impresses — and what made this game really sink its pickaxes into me — were the aspects and gameplay that the team has been able to streamline, making the whole experience more enjoyable to play and hard to put down.

Arguably the most noticeable example of this streamlined design comes with how Fae Farm handles your tools. Instead of having to manually switch to your most used tools (pick axe, shovel, axe, watering can, scythe) as you do in other farming sim games, Fae Farm makes these frequently used items situation-specific, and automatically uses the necessary tool for the job you are trying to do. The three other specialized tools (the fishing rod, bug net, and magic wand) can be swapped in their place with a single press of a button. This very small adjustment made my life and experience with Fae Farm exponentially more enjoyable than any other farming game I have played in a long, long time. 


There is also a near-constant drip of rewards with almost any task you do that spoke to me as someone who attains a zen-like state from needlessly grinding in RPG. Whenever you pick up grass, mine ore, cut down trees, brew potions, or perform any of the other actions in Fae Farm, little experience point popups appear, letting you know you are a bit closer to the next level of expertise in that activity.

Longtime farming sim fans will be pleased to hear also that in Fae Farm as long as you have unlocked the recipe and have its materials, either in your storage or in your bag, you will be able to create the item at the proper station! This was a particular EUREKA! moment for my wife when she discovered this fact. To complete quests or contracts, you will still need to have the requested item on you, but the far more time-consuming task of crafting the items has thankfully been made less so simply by this incredibly welcome decision.

Fae Farm’s fun ideas extend beyond quality of life additions, with new takes on systems like home building too. With regards to your home building and decorating, while you will unlock and learn recipes for cool items to adorn the insides and the ability to expand the house’s size, the home also comes with a special “cozy level”. 

Certain items that you can place in your home are associated with a health, stamina, or magic stat. When you place a corresponding piece of furniture, it will improve your character's stat, meaning you can take more hits, cast more spells, and most importantly, stay out later.

You also won’t be caring just for a single plot of land either in Fae Farm; instead, you will be juggling and fleshing out four different farms, each with its own farmland, home, stable, and special properties. For me, I had one be my general crafting and resource refinement home, a crop-growing one whose soil gave me special benefits, and then the others for raising animals and other miscellaneous needs. 

Fae Farm ratchets up movement and world exploration, too, opting for a more seamless world, removing screen transitions with the exception of when you enter buildings, dungeons, or the fae realm. It felt great to be able to simply jump down cliffs to reach where I needed to or jump up them, discovering my own special shortcuts to the shops I needed to get to. Fae Farm goes so far as to incorporate a semi-Metroidvania / Zelda approach to its exploration. New areas become accessible as you gain new magic spells or enhancements from completing quests and dungeons. Exploring every nook and cranny and every shop also rewards you with scrolls, which are special recipes for objects that you can’t learn otherwise. It’s a little thing, but much like the small experience bubbles mentioned earlier, this went a long way in pulling me into Azoria.


Perhaps the aspect that feels the most tact-on and the least worthwhile comes with Fae Farm’s combat. While I wouldn’t call it poor, I found it simply the least rewarding of the game’s systems. Combat simply involves walking or jumping up to an enemy and smacking them with a three-hit combo, and avoiding attacks. You can throw in magic spells you learn for good measure and some extra visual flair, but I found that my magic bar was far better used utilizing the magic abilities of the more advanced tools to clear out large swathes of resources. 

This feeling of it being included seemingly out of some sense of genre obligation is elevated by the fact that you can simply brew or purchase special potions that will hide you from any enemies while exploring and gathering items so long as you don’t attack anything. Don’t get me wrong, I think including options for players to avoid combat altogether is brilliant and fits Fae Farm, it’s just unfortunate that opting to partake in the combat isn’t more involved or more rewarding to do. Outside of killing one of each enemy to add them to the almanac, combat just felt like a waste of your precious time, better spent doing other things.

Fae Farm’s whimsical and charming visual art style lends itself well to play on the Nintendo Switch (which is the platform I am reviewing the game on). The models and characters do a good job breathing life into the world with their unique designs for the monsters you face in the dungeons (I was not expecting a giant anchor or pocket watch enemies), the flora spread around, and critters you can capture all have personality. Admittedly, I would love it if a potential second entry had the ability to rotate around the camera instead of this game’s fixed view. That set view worked most of the time, but objects and characters would occasionally be obscured by trees and other objects due to the locked view, which could get annoying.

I have to give special kudos to Phoenix Labs for their attention to representation in Fae Farm. The character creator gives players options to a range of body types, selectable pronouns, and, for the first time I can recall, a variety of culturally important headwear to adorn your character in, including different types of turbans and hijabs. As a firm believer that representation matters, good on you, Phoenix Labs, and Fae Farm.


For farmers who prefer to work with others, Fae Farm also offers multiplayer, allowing you to work with up to three other players online and local multiplayer if you are playing on Switch. Crossplay is also available when playing online, allowing Switch players to team up with those on PC, which is a nice and welcome feature, though I did not get a chance to try it out. I did, however, get to try the Switch’s local multiplayer with great success.
My wife Becky and I explored Azoria together, tended to crops, helped citizens complete quests (which earned us both rewards!), and tackled the dangerous dungeons in search of resources. At least in local multiplayer, I was a bit disappointed I couldn’t use my main character and his tools in the world, instead having to create a brand new one just for playing with her. Regardless, it was a genuinely pleasant time, and I think this will be a game we play together for quite some time.

For all that I love about Fae Farm, and there is a good deal, it’s far from a perfect game. I mentioned how refreshing it was that much of the crafting never required the raw materials to be on your person or the ease of depositing items into storage, which is why the inability to simply organize your bag or permanently sort your storage annoyed me. Perhaps it's a minute case of OCD, but the fact that my inventory would look like a random hodgepodge of items unless I manually rearranged it was annoying. This was only made worse in that it would quickly return to chaos the next time I went through a dungeon or redeposited items.


I also grew annoyed by fast traveling the more that I played Fae Farm. As you explore Azoria, you will find points scattered around that will require you to craft a special seal to unlock the option to fast travel to that location - this process isn’t my issue. What is, though, is the inability to fast-travel to these points unless you are already at one of the locations you have unlocked already, instead of freely fast-traveling from anywhere. I’m hoping that eventually, a patch will make this change to allow you to do this, even if it costs magic or to use. Having to run over somewhere just to travel somewhere else is just an unnecessary step.

Having played Fae Farm primarily in handheld mode on my OLED Nintendo Switch, the game performed fine enough. I experience the occasional stutter and loading times, particularly when loading my game from the main menu, which could take 30 seconds or more. I encountered a few bugs, such as tools randomly disappearing from my inventory, getting stuck in geometry, or simply being unable to interact with things. These hiccups were rare enough and could easily be remedied by restarting the game that I never found it to hinder my time with Fae Farm to badly.


When I booted up Fae Farm, I wasn’t expecting it to become one of my favorite relaxing games of the year. It’s one of those games that I can see myself keeping on my Switch for a good long while when I just need to detach for a bit and go on autopilot. It’s an added bonus that it’s also a game I can play along with my wife after putting our baby down before turning in for the night. Phoenix Lab has brought a serious contender into the crowded farming sim and cozy game space with Fae Farm, and while there may be some issues I’d like to see addressed in a future patch or sequel, I still found it to be an incredibly solid first entry of a new IP. Now, if you excuse me, those queen bees won’t catch themselves!