Right now it’s impossible to avoid news about the coronavirus, aka COVID-19, which is an odd way makes it the perfect time for Animal Crossing: New Horizons to release. Despite the simple charms, Animal Crossing has found success by making things as simple and relaxing as possible. Each new entry adds more to the world and the latest adventure might finally bring the beloved franchise back to home consoles. But, given the slow nature of Animal Crossing, will it prove successful or are you better off sticking to DOOM Eternal?
The premise of Animal Crossing: New Horizons is relatively straightforward. You’re sent to a previously deserted island and basically need to set up shop there. Even if it starts off empty, Tom Nook and other familiar faces are present or will at least appear after some time, along with two initial residents. After helping your random residents overcome their struggles setting up their home and naming the island, you’re basically appointed leader and your adventure begins.
Arguably the biggest strength and weakness to Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the lack of direction. This isn’t a game where you necessarily need to chase objectives or overcome specific obstacles if you want to progress. For example, your initial goal is to collect 5,000 Nook Miles to pay off your trip. In many ways, this is a glorified tutorial, as you’ll get most of these miles through mundane tasks and basic exploration. Finding insects and fish, crafting resources, picking weeds, playing with wasps, spending money and more award some kind of progress towards paying off your trip.
Next, you need to pay off your home and the adventure really starts. This can be done any number of ways, so you can just pick thousands of weeds, craft various things, potentially catch all kinds of wildlife, it’s really up to you. Where the lack of direction becomes a strength is your central task might direct your end goal but does not impact your adventure.
There is something relaxing about collecting wood for supplies or just fishing. For some, the simple act of picking weeds is rewarding and even during this review I didn’t do anything as intense or fascinating as DOOM Eternal had to offer, but it had its own quaint charm.
Instead of rushing to your next goal or bigger problems, Animal Crossing: New Horizons builds a routine around small tasks that reward you for constantly playing a little bit each day, over investing 100 hours in a week and building your own dream island. Over time there is a natural sense of progression. New residents offer different elements to your world, just like traveling to another player’s island might give you new resources or a way to make quick money.
Not unlike life, you’re rewarded for how much you contribute to the world around you. Solving problems and interacting with the community helps it grow, just like being a strange loner might have more change in the world than the weeknight line up on broadcast but these are your choices to make. And, whichever path you choose, it is a relatively positive environment for you to explore and change.
With this adventure powered by the Nintendo Switch and other changes along the way, it’s one of the best-looking adventures out there. Between soft colors and simplistic designs, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is both relaxing and pretty to look at. In some ways, it capitalizes on what you’d expect from a series built around running your own city and interacting with a whacky set of characters.
If there is really a downside to Animal Crossing: New Horizons, it’s that it isn’t the best in terms of pacing. The initial tutorial assumes you know absolutely nothing and wants to really engrain the main concepts early. Where this starts to fall apart is, once you establish everything, you start looking for the next task at a time when you’re supposed to just explore your world. It also doesn’t help that you need a fair time investment before most of the options really come into play. Even if this isn’t the best experience to start, it’s rewarding taking a relatively empty world and crafting the place you want to see, even if it isn’t particularly fun at the start.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review – Verdict
There is no denying Animal Crossing: New Horizons won’t appeal to everyone. However, given how so many things have changed, it’s nice to have a routine and other mundane tasks that give your life a sense of normalcy. Not only is it relaxing in general, it’s the kind of escape that is perfect in a time when things are everything but. It might not be the best in terms of pacing, but anyone willing to invest in this adventure and give the simple charms a genuine try will likely be surprised by just how fun it can be.
[Editor’s Note: Animal Crossing: New Horizons was reviewed on Nintendo Switch platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]