On the surface, Farworld Pioneers should be my sort of game; I enjoy management games, I enjoy city builders, and I even enjoy a survival game here and there. The trailers made the game look like a lot of fun, combining the pixel art style of Terraria with the survival and people management of something like RimWorld – it sounds cool, right? Unfortunately, in Farworld Pioneers’ case, it is a premise that is only cool in theory, and not in its execution. From its essentially nonexistent tutorial to its inconsistent AI and poor console controls, it is a hard sell in its current state.
The game opens with your character waking up after crashlanding on a strange world, surrounded by a demolished space pod and one NPC companion named Buddy. You have the choice of customizing your character at the beginning or rolling with a randomly generated avatar. Either way, the crashed pod houses a few supplies to get you started – a gun, some medkits, and a few rations, among other items. The game’s overly brief tutorial picks up here and instructs you on how to complete basic tasks such as building a stockpile and assigning tasks to your colonists, which is just Buddy early on.
Just like that, the tutorial is over, and the game cuts you loose in a strange alien world full of both familiar and odd creatures. There are snakes with wings, chickens, and Manseals that have human legs with a seal torso, which love to smack you to death, by the way. While I appreciate the intrigue of a space sandbox to roam around in, I did not feel properly onboarded at all. I don’t need full blown on-the-job training, but I do need something. Instead, the game simply told me to find a way to get off the planet, and so I wandered off aimlessly in pursuit of an escape plan. What I didn’t realize at the time was just how aimless it would be, not to mention frustrating.
Amid trying to get off the planet, your other primary focus is survival – both yours and the eventual throng of colonists that you’ll amass. To do so, you will need to collect resources and craft structures, such as a smelter to turn ore into metal ingots, or the research station to unlock new technologies to build. Everything that can be crafted needs other resources to be built. In other words, crafting and building are core parts of the Farworld Pioneers experience, but doing so on a console controller was an absolute chore due to finnicky controls and menus.
Building custom structures requires placing each type of tile exactly where you want it, which includes flooring, walls, ceilings, doors, and so on. Often, while selecting which type of tile I wanted to use, the game would skip a step and place one where I was standing when I pressed Cross to make my selection. As you might imagine, this was precisely not where I wanted it to be.
The way the process is supposed to work looks something like this – press the right bumper to pull up the building menu, navigate the submenus to the tab you need, highlight and press Cross to select the wood floor tile, then use the right joystick to select the location you would like it placed, and finally, press Cross again to place said tile. However, here is how that process played out for me time and time again – press the right bumper to pull up the building menu, fight my way through the submenus to get to the correct tab, fumble through the list of items and highlight the one I want to build, press Cross to select the item, but instead of you moving the right joystick to place it, the game plops it right in front of your body, and finally, you equip your pickaxe to deconstruct the misplaced tile and try again hoping it works right the next time. It is beyond laborious – it is broken, though not entirely, because it seems to work fine with other categories of items, but still partially broken, nonetheless. For a game so reliant on building items and structures, it sucked a lot of the fun out of the experience, and at times was downright maddening. I’m sure it won’t come as a shock that I walked away from my first play session frustrated but resolved to press forward.
My persistence didn’t pay off, as the control issues remained while new ones reared their ugly head. Venturing out beyond my basecamp led to the discovery of nearly 10 NPCs that I was able to recruit to my fledgling colony. None required any convincing beyond a simple “join me!”, and I thought they would be able to help me automate some of those tasks that were driving me nuts. At times, depending on the task and location, the AI handled what I threw at them just fine, but other times they would run into pathfinding issues and not be able to find their way back home. They’d get stuck on objects or fall in holes and not be able to navigate their way back out without me digging them a new path. Turns out, I wasn’t so much managing a colony as I was babysitting.
My colonists would automatically perform tasks so long as the proper tools and materials were available to them. If I placed a structure to be constructed, they’d hop right to it, provided they didn’t fall in a hole on the way there. Once again Farworld Pioneers got in its own way with the colony management functionality, not only with the AI, but also with its user interface and lack of direction. The folks at camp would get hungry constantly, so I would kill an animal and bring it back to the butcher table for one of them to prepare for the group. Placing the carcass on the table would bring up a menu to place orders for someone to perform this task, but I never exactly knew what I was doing because the game never cared to even mildly explain how these functions worked.
I tried to make the best of it and carried on with my ambiguous objective to find a way off the planet. I ran back and forth across the game’s 2D map, gathering plants, mining ore, and killing the occasional hostile fauna. These open-ended survival games weren’t new to me, so my instincts told me to focus on building and unlocking as many structures and technology as I could, and eventually the path would reveal itself. On one of my expeditions across the map, I discovered an old research facility that had some nice loot – machine guns, metal ingots, food, and more. I returned to camp and distributed the weapons to my compatriots and dropped the loot at the stockpile for all to use. Not too long after, my camp was attacked by raiders who killed my entire group of navigationally challenged colonists, despite them having their own weapons, and then killed me too. I was able to respawn but was repeatedly killed by the raiders, forcing me to abandon my home. I returned later and the raiders acted like I wasn’t there – never bothering to attack me at all. However, suspecting that something was wrong with the AI, I walked out and immediately back into my old camp, and they unleashed all their might on me – I was dead again, and the AI had lost its mind again. That’s when I threw in the towel; frustrated, lost, and defeated, I could no longer carry on hoping that Farworld Pioneers was somehow going to get out of its own way, and somehow make me like it.
As a reviewer, it is not fun having to cut down the hard work of a team of developers, but the bottom line is that it's difficult to recommend a game that made me want to snap my controller in half. Not because it is difficult, but because it insists on shooting itself (and the player) in the foot. The controls on console are cumbersome, the lack of any worthwhile onboarding is cumbersome, and the AI’s low IQ is cumbersome. Farworld Pioneers could have been so much more, with its cool mash-up of genre favorites, but what we received is a flawed port of a PC game that assumes too much.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hello! I'm Jason, the newest member of Gaming Nexus. My favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports games, RPGs, and shooters, but I don't limit myself to those. My favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2 and I have somehow played it for nearly 1,000 hours. I also co-host a weekly PlayStation news podcast called The Dual Sense Podcast, so I stay pretty well versed in that ecosystem. Before that, I co-hosted a basketball podcast.View Profile