Farworld Pioneers: An ambitious 2D colony adventure
It isn’t often you see a game attempt to combine the best aspects of two very different genres. Farworld Pioneers is an ambitious attempt to mix together the colony-building survival gameplay of a title like Rimworld with the side-scrolling 2D adventure of Terraria. The folks over at Igloosoft were nice enough to send us a review copy so we could take a look at the game and bring you our thoughts on it.
So, does this game live up to the standards of the two genre-defining titles it seeks to emulate? Does it provide a new experience or a rehash of older ideas? What does it do well, and where does it fall short? We’ll be covering all of this and more in this review!
We’d like to note ahead of time that the copy sent to us was a PS5 Console game, and though we did our best to separate our opinions on the console port and the game as a whole, some overlap is inevitable. Additionally, we’d like to disclose that we couldn’t get as far into the game as we would have liked due to an unfortunate and severe bug.
Story and concept
On the surface, there admittedly isn’t a whole lot going on in the story of Farworld Pioneers. You are a settler crash-landed on a far-off world with minimal supplies and tasked with building a thriving colony while you search for a way off the planet. Much like Terraria and Rimworld, this title throws you into an unknown world and lets you figure things out for yourself.
That said, unlike both Rimworld and Terraria, the characters of Farworld Pioneers have little-to-no personality whatsoever. The most interesting character we met in our time with the game was Buddy, the game’s guide character and supposedly your character’s best friend. Buddy is exactly those things and nothing more. Additional characters you add to your colony later are actually less interesting, and though they each have different backgrounds in writing, none of them act, speak, or look different enough to distinguish them from one another without their name tags.
As surprising as it may sound, these flaws aren’t super important to the overall gameplay and are pretty easily ignored if you’re not looking for endearing colonists that you’ll feel bad for when they die. The story of this game is much more about what you make of it, how you choose to defend and build your colony, and your individual story. To be clear, though, you won’t find an engaging story or characters in this game.
The graphics of Farworld Pioneers is one of the aspects where we feel the developers really showed their skills. It might be easy to pass the game off as a Terraria clone at first glance in terms of visuals, but this FP’s pixel art is quite different. Sprites are well-drawn and surprisingly well-animated, even better than Terraria in some instances. Jumping, climbing, sleeping, and fighting all have their own animations that make characters and monsters seem lively.
The game’s background and foreground are detailed, stylish worlds that encapsulate the ideals behind pixel art with impressive detail. Lighting effects are dynamic and immersive and greatly impact the player’s interactions with the world.
Unfortunately, some aspects of the world still failed to impress. A lack of variation, in particular, left open stretches of land feeling blank and boring. All monsters and animals of a type will always look exactly the same, and the lack of variation in monster type made this particular issue even more prevalent.
Sound and atmosphere
We absolutely loved the soundtrack for Farworld Pioneers. From the catchy opening theme to the random onsets of background music, we were always excited to hear the next track being played. The music is a thematic mix of sci-fi ambient and lo-fi synth tracks that fit the atmosphere, world, and style to a tee.
The addition of ambient sound and background music changes also improved the game’s overall feel. Having the ambiance change from breezy meadows to dark, threatening caverns when underground really helped sell the immersion and made digging deep feel like a dangerous endeavor.
The sound effects of Farworld Pioneers were just as good. Gunshots are loud and flashy; characters will make welding and construction sounds when building, forges will hiss, and bubble, and trees will crack and splinter as they fall. Most importantly, the sound of your pickaxe striking stone felt perfect.
It’s weighty, and crunchy and even produces sparks that create momentary light. Different minerals even make different sounds when mined, making mining extremely satisfying and something you can do for a long time without getting burned out.
Let’s begin this section with our thoughts on the console port in particular and then move on to the game as a whole.
To be blunt, we strongly recommend players who mean to buy this title choose the PC version if possible. Though we haven’t worked with the PC version ourselves, we imagine the controls are much more fitting than we experienced. Though playing the game on a console is possible, several optimization issues severely impact gameplay.
Navigating menus is clunky and slow, and in a game with so much inventory and menu management, this makes things take quite a while. Additionally, most tooltips do not work properly with the console cursor, meaning you don’t know what you’re looking at half the time.
Aiming, a primary mechanic in combat, building, mining, looting, and most other aspects of the game, is slow, inaccurate, and frustrating. We experienced several performance issues with dropped frames and lag, especially when more than two or three entities were on screen at once.
Onto the game as a whole, let’s start with the goal. Farworld Pioneers aims to build a functional settlement from which you can base expeditions into unknown facilities in search of new technology and things to research. In between, you’ll defend your base, dig for ore, search for loot, and manage your fellow colonists. You don’t have to do everything yourself, either, and can give orders for colonists to grow crops, cook food, research, mine, and more.
On the subject of other colonists, we have to admit that we were not impressed by their intelligence. Their pathing is functional, most of the time, but they will disregard their safety in most situations. This means your colonists are limited to defending themselves by getting shot point blank in the face while they try to stab an intruder or by getting shot point blank in the face while they shoot an intruder point blank in the face.
In Rimworld, there are safeguards and zones you can set to prevent this kind of behavior in addition to their natural survival instincts, but the AI in FP lacks both of those features. Additionally, you can seemingly only assign or unassign a colonist to a task, and cannot set priorities without a workbench involved. The poor AI isn’t limited to colonists either, and monsters, raiders, animals, etc., all act pretty much the same way.
Though pretty simplistic overall, building out a 2D colony is actually quite fun and was probably our favorite part of the game. The more supplies and research you have on hand, the more materials and machines you can build, including electric lights, heaters, appliances, and more. Learning how to build effective defenses in 2D may take a bit of trial and error, but it’s a fun experience for the most part.
However, there isn’t much to be done at your base besides crafting and research. Additionally, bandit raids (a fairly common occurrence) are extremely predictable and always happen pretty much the same way. Once they break down the outermost door, your colonists will face them from 2 feet away and deal some damage before going down, leaving you to deal with the rest.
Combat overall isn’t very exciting for the most part. It relies mostly on the player using walls and climbing somewhere the AI can’t figure out how to reach you (pretty simple, usually) while you reload and heal before trading bullets with the enemy again. Monster combat is even less interesting since most rely on melee, and there are few structures to climb on in the flat open wild.
In terms of bugs, we faced quite a few, as we previously mentioned. Namely, certain materials will disappear from stockpiles and chests when loading in the game. Additionally, any fuel in a generator is automatically deleted upon startup.
However, the real showstopper that prevented us from continuing the game happened gradually over time. What would happen was that each time we loaded in the game, any human enemies we’d previously slain would spawn right on top of us. At first, this was manageable, and we’d simply clear them out each time we loaded in. But as more raids stacked up, it got worse. By the end, 40 enemies in a confined space caused the game to lag horribly and made it impossible to reclaim any of our stuff, effectively destroying our base moments after starting the game.
There is certainly something to be said about the formula the developers have concocted. The combination of survival crafting and base-building was rewarding and enjoyable despite the struggles. We kept finding ourselves wanting to put in one more hour just to finish up that workshop or machine we were working on.
Admittedly, we aren’t sure what kind of replay value Farworld Pioneers offers players at the moment. Exploring feels a bit unrewarding and bland, and the characters you meet aren’t interesting enough to be worth finding different ones.
That said, it’s perfectly possible to lose a lot of time building and upgrading your base in different ways. Ultimately, the replayability of this title will depend heavily on the kind of player you are.
It’s difficult for us to wholeheartedly recommend this title to our audience in its current state. However, we think the developers are definitely onto something with their Rimworld meets Terraria concept. The parts of that combination that functioned well were addictive, enjoyable, and overall a great gaming experience.
We sincerely hope the developers will continue to improve this title to smooth out the bugs and add the level of content necessary for it to bloom into its own kind of game. Despite the difficulties, we think survival gamers should keep an eye on this one if nothing else. With a little more ingenuity and some lessons from other titles, Farworld Pioneers has the potential to shape up into an incredibly unique and involved survival game.