Here’s a game proposal for you…
Wake up at 6:00am! Get your hands dirty with back breaking labor: Plowing! Weeding! Watering! Harvesting! Don’t forget to feed your livestock! And collect the eggs! Milk! Wool! Clean those little guys, too! Brush, brush, brush!! Still got daylight? Run errands for your neighbors! On your way don’t forget to forage those mushroom, nuts, berries and everything else before they disappear at the change of season! Still have energy? Clean out the rest of your field! Break those rocks! Chop those logs! Pull up an endless amount of weeds! But you better get your ass in bed before midnight or else you won’t wake up on time to do it all again tomorrow! And the next day! And the next! And the next!!!
What a game! Sign me the frick up.
Okay, this kind of game may not be for everybody. But with the surprise success of indie hit Stardew Valley that odd percentage of us gamers who get a real pleasure out of pretending to have a real job and doing hard labor all day has grown exponentially. Now we have a bunch of gamers who have never before dreamed of picking up a game like this looking for their next hit of that satisfying tedium. Which leaves us with the question…
Is Verdant Skies the answer?
Which then leads into the next obvious question…
What the hell is Verdant Skies?
To put it in simplest of terms Verdant Skies is Stardew Valley in space.
From Howling Moon Software, the studio that brought you nothing else because this is their first game, is the life/farm simulation game Verdant Skies!
You crash land on a planet. But you’re fine! You only did a little damage! But it may be taken out of your paycheck. Because you’re working for the company that is trying to colonize this new planet. It needed a farmer. And that luck son of a gun is you!
The way you farm and harvest is nothing new if you’re familiar with this type of game. And, other than the strange names of your crops (which are just space versions of normal crops), everything is fairly familiar.
But where Verdant Skies’ charm comes in is really playing with the idea of starting a colony.
You’re honestly pretty damn alone on this planet. A planet with pretty much nothing. And when I say nothing I mean nothing.
Well, maybe something. BUT NOT MUCH.
At the beginning of the game you’re the third person to arrive at Viridis Primus. You’re met by Rosie, the mechanical engineer, and Jade, the director and boss of it all. There are a couple machines set up to ship goods, order blueprints and manufacture other items and equipment. There are two buildings. Jade’s main headquarters and Rosie’s workshop.
Day one you have to bum it on Jade’s spare bed in her storage room. Like a bum. A dirty bum. Were you expecting a house? Ha! You gotta build that shit yourself. Ain’t no handouts here! Except for your tools! Better get to collecting some materials!
And you better get used to it, soldier- farmer.
You pretty much have to build this shit from the ground up yourself.
You want to shop? Need a merchant? Better figure out how to trick one into joining a colony with almost no customers whatsoever! You keep passing out face first in the dirt at night with no one to care for your ass? Well, you better pick yourself up and dust yourself off so you can lure some doctor to your colony. Running out of space (heheehe)? Better clear a whole different section of land so you can expand even further! More houses! More roads! More buildings! Is anyone going to do this for you? Hell no! You’re the backbone of this damn colony.
And it rocks.
I’ve put about 12 hours into this game already and I love it. I’ve always enjoyed these types of simulators and, while some have played with the idea of starting a town and recruiting new people, Verdant Skies really nails it. You really feel like you’re building something.
When you first arrive on the planet it’s empty but by completing tasks and achievements you literally see the world coming together around you. After a dozen hours I have tripled my population, built bridges, a town square, a hotel and MY OWN DAMN HOUSE. No more couch surfing for me! I’m a home owner!
These type of games really thrive on the little achievements to break up the monotony. Unlocking a new crop, clearing a new field, breeding new livestock. But with Verdant Skies you don’t just get little upgrades or items to reward you for completing your listed quests; you literally are building your new home around you. And with the unlocking of new colonists and expanding into new areas you’re introduced to new aspects of gameplay.
This system has a really great way of keeping you motivated to keep going and going and going. I found myself wanting to keep playing to see what’s next. Who else is going to join the colony? What new events am I going to unlock?
So other than building, what does Verdant Skies do with its setting?
Holy cow, the technology in this game is damn fun. Verdant Skies takes place in a hypothetical future where we’ve advanced so much that Elon Musk’s descendants are funding the colonization of planets lightyears away!
No longer are we taking years to painstakingly breed traits into crops. We literally have a machine that splices seeds with other seeds! It’s a blast to mix one seed with another and discover new traits that you can then further cultivate with a machine that extracts all seeds from your crops so you can splice them again and again! It’s the future! GMOs for everyone!
And you’re no longer breeding livestock. You literally walk around with a syringe and extract DNA from the local fauna. That you then take home and manipulate in a machine. That you can then incubate to clone your own version of that animal. Clone army! Or… ranch. This junk peaceful af.
Gameplay wise it really streamlines the breeding of crops and animals. Verdant Skies makes you feel like you’re customizing the game. You want crops that regrow so you don’t have to plant them ever again? Do it. You want crops that don’t need to be fertilized? You can do that, too! Play how you want to play!
While I did very much enjoy my experience with Verdant Skies, I feel like it did have a couple missteps.
While the colony setting is great for making you feel like you’re really building and growing, the space setting is a bit underutilized. At least in a fluff sort of way. And I’m a gamer who enjoys the fluff.
Most design elements feel like normal things but with some space paint thrown on top. The crops, animals, fish, bugs, plants are all so… common. You have cows but they’re space cows! They’re pink and shaped weird! And have a different name! But they still just eat and give milk. Like… regular cows… huh. But you also have space corn! It’s shaped weird! And colored weird! And has a funny name! But… it’s pretty much just corn. Bummer.
All of your typical farm fare: cows, chickens, sheep, corn, rice, and so on, are just what you’d expect… but space flavored. I guess with such a unique setting like a WHOLE NEW PLANET I was hoping for a bit more creativity. You could honestly just take off the space paint and not lose anything or really notice a difference in these aspects. It feels like a wasted opportunity.
So, how’s this sucker look?
Overall, I’m a fan of the art direction. It’s pleasing to look at.
The sprite art of the plants, animals, and overall setting is attractive and really sets the scene. The full character portraits are gorgeous. I love games where the little character portraits change depending on how the character is feeling. And this game has that down pat. Except for a few hiccups. Some people really need to get ahold on how they express embarrassment. I’m honestly embarrassed for them. Calm down, baby.
My only qualm, art wise, are with the character sprites. There are too many details trying to fit on faces that are just too narrow for them to come across and everything ends up looking squished. And those arms are just… awkward. Length is not great. And once you see it it’s hard not to notice. That all makes for some distracting sprite art that I wish was tweaked just a little in the final product.
Blah, blah, blah. Let’s get to what you’ve all been looking for.
I’d say it’s a buy. While it isn’t a perfect game and could use a few tweaks, the most important thing for this type of game is that feel. Verdant Skies nails it. If you’re a fan of this type of game this may just scratch that itch Stardew Valley left behind. But you might want to get that checked.
Verdant Skies is out now on Steam for $19.99. You can also check out their site Here.
Our copy was a review copy provided for free by Howling Moon Software.
- Colony progression and Milestones is well paced and fun
- Splicing System allows customization of the farming
- Character Portraits are gorgeous
- Relaxed Harvest Moon/Animal Crossing Gameplay
- Character Personalities are rich and distinct
- Underutilized Setting
- Character Sprite art needs improvement
- Frustrating lack of menu screens during customization
- Steam Price is a little high for comparable games