Genre: Indie RPG Simulation Early Access
Publisher: Humble Bundle
Release Date: Jan 23, 2018
If you imagine what the lovechild of Minecraft and Stardew Valley might look like, there’s a good chance you’d envision something along the lines of what Plukit has developed with Staxel. Released into Steam’s Early Access on January 23rd, 2017, Staxel is equal parts RPG, Sandbox, and Simulation, all wrapped up in a cute, colorful world that is blocky and charming. The basic premise is simple: Run your own farm, fish, harvest materials, and build your home into the palace of your dreams. With the added bonus of an online Multiplayer mode, Staxel is poised to capitalize on the online community environment that fans of Stardew Valley have been begging for since its release. But does it live up to the hype?
Gameplay begins with a fairly routine tutorial, in which the players meet NPC characters who walk them through the fundamental processes of buying items, tilling the soil, harvesting crops, and even pet ownership. There are tons of little perks here that were unexpected delights in terms of experience variety; for example, in my Multiplayer session, each of us ended up with a different pet. Their gender, name, and appearance seem to be randomly generated from a pool of options, and players can select whether they want a cat or a dog as their companion. This stacks on top of Steam Workshop content, which promises to be a huge source of additional options, material, features, and surprises. The base game has a decent amount of options when it comes to character appearance – including three races, which are essentially elves, humans, and cat-people – but the community has already added a lot of entirely free DLC by way of the Workshop.
The town is a bustling, tiny little mecca of activity, and the NPCs have a diverse skillset. There are fisherwomen, a barkeep, the mayor, and other characters to interact with; it also appears that, in a Multiplayer game, only one player will actually go through the tutorial. Which means the rest of the crew needs to find these NPCs on their own and listen to their roles in the town. If you don’t do the tutorial you’re granted money and a pet, and then you must go and purchase the tools not received for free with your extra cash.
The graphics are surprisingly fun and modern for a title that so closely resembles Minecraft and follows that style of artwork. The soundtrack is mild, and understated, but contributes to the relaxing, laid-back atmosphere that Staxel creates for its player base. The sound effects are deceptively detailed – I was surprised at how cool the blocky, pixelated rain sounded as it pelted the ground around me. The character models aren’t the only living things in this world; in addition to owning pets, players can purchase chickens, cows, and sheep, and encounter numerous creatures in the wild. There’s a broad variety in flowers and other fauna, decorations, and accessories, and even a couple hours of gameplay proved that there’s a ton of Stardew Valley similarities here that should be familiar to other fans of the Farming Simulation genre.
Staxel shines in its Multiplayer experience, especially among fans of titles like Stardew Valley who are used to the simple-player journey ultimately towards farm success. It’s still a lot of fun as a single-player option, but the community is primed to make the interactive aspect of this title a truly memorable one. The addition of Steam Workshop support means there’s no limit to the free, bonus content available, and fans are already adding charming, clever new hairstyles, objects, and reskins to the pool. Staxel is in Early Access, so it isn’t entirely free of bugs; during my playthrough, we struggled to figure out the problem with a one-player-only tutorial, and I had an incident of the game crashing to desktop. Still, the polish here is beyond what most of us see at Early Access launch, and Staxel is very much playable, and enjoyable, in its current form.
- Wonderful blend of Minecraft and Stardew Valley
- Wide variety of objects, animals, etc.
- Steam Workshop supported
- Fantastic multiplayer
- Active Discord/community
- Slightly unstable (Early Access)
- Laggy at times
Lori May gives Staxel a Drastik Measure of 7 out of 10 (70).
Staxel is available on Steam for $19.99 USD.