When Xbox Live avatars were first rolled out on the Xbox 360 they had the unique ability of being available to developers as ready made, custom avatars that could be used as playable characters in games. Xbox avatars made appearances in a plethora of Xbox Live Arcade games, such as Full House Poker, Doritos’ Crash Course and A Kingdom for Keflings. One such title that may have slipped under the radar for most people was Milkstone Studios’ Avatar Farm.
A few years have gone by, and Milkstone Studios has shown that they weren’t content to leave Avatar Farm behind on the 360. While the Xbox One ecosystem has recently gotten snazzy new avatars that are dramatically improved over their predecessors, they do not appear to be available for game developers to work with. That means Milkstone Studios has had to go whole hog on giving Avatar Farm a make over, starting with creating character models. If you’re going to create new character models, you may as well go ahead and rework the entire art style and gameplay mechanics while you’re at it, right?
That’s exactly what Milkstone Studios has done with Farm Together. Farm Together’s art style is incredibly clean, with an impressive draw distance even on the Xbox One S. Players can choose between male or female character models and then further customize the characters by choosing hair colors and styles, outfits and accessories like glasses or earrings. Once your character is set in stone it’s time to jump into the actual farm.
Once on a farm, players are greeted by lush green grass and a world of possibilities. There’s an underlying ‘grid’ on the ground, effectively breaking every area up until smaller, more manageable tiles. Each tile has a series of actions that can be performed on it. If you’re looking to plow the land and plant crops on a tile, you can do so by pressing A. Pressing A once plows the ground, pressing it again opens up a shop interface where players can select the crops they’d like to plant. If you’d like to use the tile for building, however, or add a decoration, then you can press Y to go to the store, and browse those items instead.
Unfortunately, browsing the store brings up one of Farm Together’s missteps. There’s simply too many currency types available. Rather than simply earning money to purchase your items, you have the ability to earn coins, diamonds, medals, and tickets. Coins are typically earned for harvesting crops, and likewise are used to plant new crops. Diamonds are typically earned when you’ve converted raw materials, like milk into cheese or fruit into jam, and then sold them using their respective shop stalls. Medals are rewarded for completing quests which are usually something along the lines of growing a number of a specific crop or harvesting byproducts from a specific breed of animal. Tickets are earned by doing jobs inside of houses and can only be spent on furniture and decorations for your homes.
Much like Farm Together’s currency system, the experience and leveling system is a bit too segmented, as well. There’s a character specific level, a farm specific level, and then an additional leveling system for each crop, tree, and animal species. Its entirely possible to have a farm that is around level 30, while your character is much lower in the 20s and your livestock is still hanging around level 2-3, depending on how much you’ve harvested from it following its unlock. This fragmented leveling experience can make the game feel a little lopsided if you’ve focused too much on one specific crop or product over the others.
Despite the more convoluted experience and currency system, Farm Together’s a surprisingly simple game to pick up that is suitable for all ages. There’s no combat or threat to your farm. Its just you, your tractor, and a few hundred of your favorite livestock. Oh, and some helpers, should you have friends with the game who are willing to stop by and lend a hand on your farm. It is Farm Together, after all. If you choose to visit other players’ farms to lend a hand, your character will receive a boost meter of their very own that serves as a boosted time indicator. When you return to your own farm that boost meter will gradually drain, but while it is there you will receive additional boosts to your farm in the form of bonus XP and extra coins from harvests.
Other players can stop by your farm, as well, which would pose the risk of inviting griefers. Thankfully, Milkstone Studios had already thought of that possibility and implemented player settings that allow the host farm’s owner to dictate how much visiting players can do. Restricted players can be limited to only visiting and not helping at all, while more lenient settings may allow visitors to help by harvesting crops for you or moving and buying buildings.
Farm Together is a charming farming simulator that is easily to pick up and learn, but can require a serious time commitment if you’re looking to grind out some real progress. This grind is compounded by the fact that the game passes in real time, and some of the crops can take as many as two to three days before they can be harvested. While there is no real pressure to carry out any quests within a set time limit it does help to be mindful of Farm Together’s season system, which sees the weather cycle through the four seasons one at a time every 17 minutes. Each season comes with its own special challenges like droughts or snow, as well as the type of crops that may be available to you for planting during that season.
It helps to have a friend in Farm Together, especially while tackling the grind if you’re looking to unlock all of the additional farm expansions. Tthere’s plenty of safe guards in place to keep would-be griefers at bay. With Farm Together, ultimately players can expect a relaxing gameplay experience that encourages them to be both creative and strategic.