There are times when a game has a lot to say, and there are times when a game has very little to say. Depending on the type of game you’re playing, this can either be to its bane or benefit; You don’t want a game that’s supposed to be a political manifesto to end up saying next to nothing, and you certainly don’t want a thesis on economic politics in Fall Guys.
Farlanders is the former on that spectrum. It has a lot to say, but not quite in the way I meant. Farlanders is a game that touches on imperialism, capitalism, dissatisfaction with your work, and more. It says a lot of things but doesn’t really commit a lot of time to any of them. The gameplay is very similar.
The story in Farlanders is definitely interesting and tightly written, to the point where it becomes obvious how much the creators cared about it. I won’t tell you much about it in this review, as unfortunately it’s very, very short and sprinkled pretty far apart in the game itself.
Basically, you play as Marco, the new lead architect on a Martian colony who vlogs about his exciting new career. As the game goes on, Marco’s enthusiasm will slowly be crushed as he comes to realize his dream job is far more complicated, stressful, and less rewarding than he ever could have imagined.
Farlander’s story also delves into the role man has with the environment; What right do you have to mine this planet, one you weren’t even born on, and exploit its natural resources for your own gain? This easily could have been the sole theme of Farlanders and the story would have worked, but it mixes in a few more alongside it, like what I mentioned above.
The story, which is told through visual novel-type interactable screens over the game’s short 7 mission long campaign, is easily the best part of Farlanders. While it juggles a lot of themes, it does manage to pull together a cohesive story to tell and it was one that was well worth the $15 I paid for the game, even if it was a bit shorter than I would have liked.
Farlander’s gameplay, much like the story, also juggles a few ideas instead of just sticking to one. Notably, it is a turn-based city-building game, a unique take on the genre. Farlander’s gameplay is like combining Civilization and Age of Empires, with a little Frostpunk colony management and Factorio resource mining thrown in.
While the gameplay may be like the game’s writing when it comes to combining different ‘core’ themes, that is unfortunately where the similarities end, and Farlander’s gameplay is not nearly as tightly executed or satisfying as the story.
The colony management gameplay itself is pretty straightforward and simple to understand. You need to exploit the space and resources provided by Mars to produce food, electricity, water, happiness, etc. As you start to run low on space, decisions you make for how to use the land become more complicated and can make or break your colony without you even realizing it.
The game’s real problem is with the Happiness resource, which grows steadily early on, but takes a sharp nose dive once you have too many colonists, and once it’s going down it becomes incredibly hard to raise it back up. This is especially hard when reaching a certain colony population is how you beat a level, and happiness and population sit on opposite ends of a pendulum; More population means less happiness, and less happiness means nobody wants to move to your colony.
Attempting to balance the two becomes near impossible when the game’s campaign hits its difficulty curve. Around mission five in this seven-mission story, the difficulty ramps up so suddenly that it’ll almost jump-scare you. Around this point, the game stops feeling so rewarding and starts feeling like a punishing slugfest to all but the most experienced colony sim vets.
Not only that, but the tools you need to finish missions are often locked behind an RNG wall. A mission will tell you that you need a certain population to advance, but you simply will not be lucky enough to find the water harvesting tool you need to make that happen. This can be pretty frustrating. A lot of the tools necessary to make tiles usable are also locked behind RNG, so you often won’t be able to use a large amount of the map unless you get lucky.
The absolute worst part holding back Farlanders is how much information it fails to give you. A lot of game mechanics are locked behind lengthy paragraphs of text in the help menu, which often don’t fully explain what you’re trying to learn. Experience is your only real teacher here, and you really wish you had those lessons when the game suddenly increases the difficulty.
The Final Word
Farlanders has a well-written story and some interesting ideas behind it. However, the game does a bad job of presenting its most important gameplay mechanics and will punish you hard for not knowing them fairly quickly into the campaign. While some players might enjoy this title, I suggest you wait until the game has a few wiki guides made.
Our Farlanders review was written based on the PC version of the game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website!