Xbox One X Enhancements:
- 4k resolution
- Improved overall graphics quality
- Improved water shader rendering
- Improved texture detail
- Improved framerate
There have been only a few Xbox One X games audacious enough to attempt a simulation of life itself and its impossibly complicated molecular miracles over the years, and fewer still have been as joyous as Slime Rancher. Monomi Park’s game succeeds as a piece of sci-fi, a management game, an FPS, and…
Look, I just can’t stop playing it, alright? I’d tell myself it succeeded as a licensed baseball game if it made me feel better about spending hours literally hoovering globules and distributing them according to a mental map of a farm I’ve imagined.
Despite its colour palette and abundance of smiling faces, though, it’s not all plain sailing. Intentionally or not, Slime Rancher pokes and prods at my ideology about meat eating and industrialised farming techniques. Laugh if you want, but there’s a conscious process that needs to happen when you feed some Hen Hens to a corral full of carnivorous Tabby Slimes, and running it through the brain produces some thought-provoking results.
Is it right that I’m keeping the Hen Hens in a tiny enclosure just to be fed to these Slimes so I can sell their poo? Is it right that I’m keeping the Tabby Slimes in the first place? And what’s the point of it all – to invest in ever-more aggressive methods of farming these once wild and carefree beings for their faeces? Maybe I’m overthinking it and Slime Rancher isn’t actually a sneaky parable about industrialised farming techniques, but it’s always nice to have your real-world views challenged, and especially so when the challenge emerges in a surprising place.
Without ever truly admitting it to myself, I persevere with what I imagine to be a kinder, environmentally friendly Slime ranch. The Slimes I keep are in corrals of no more than eight, so there’s plenty of room for them to… well, they only bounce up and down making squeaking noises really, but there’s at least plenty of room to do that.
I only keep herbivores, too, which means my chicken coop is superfluous and can henceforth be demolished, my feathered captives suddenly free (to be eaten by wild Slimes instead, inevitably). The Tabby Slimes who’ve been subsisting on a diet of battery Hen Hens – and I don’t feel great about this part – get sucked up into my vacuum gun and spat out again as kindly and benevolently as I can manage in a nearby wood. They begin bouncing towards some Pink Slimes and I leave before having to watch them interact in case things get messy.
Pink Slimes – now we’re talking. Their Plort (excrement to you or I) might be the least valuable in the game, but these guys don’t seem to mind the corral at all, and they eat carrots or Pogo Fruits without complaint. Money’s tight on the ranch these days, and it’ll be a long time before I have all the mod cons some other, less scrupulous ranchers seem to have strapped to their boots, gun, and deployed around their farms. But I’m okay with that.
Slime Rancher feels like one of those buzzing with electricity, once in a generation-type games, but at the same time it’s hard to believe no one’s harnessed the intrinsic act of harvesting things from an organic environment this beautifully before. Slime-vacuuming should be an established genre with 20 years of back catalogue to go through.
On a more earnest note, it really is something to ponder that so few games have managed to turn concepts like breeding and evolution – both of which are handled in some depth here – into something fun. Perhaps everyone was put off by PC flop Spore’s galaxies of user-created phalluses over a decade ago, and the wounds are only just beginning to heal.
Perhaps there’s a tendency on the designer’s part to overcomplicate things, or endow the player with just enough power that they perpetually feel afloat in a world populated by their mistakes – again, just look at Spore, and be glad the folks in hazmat suits quarantined it to PC. In this game you’re absolutely never overfaced by the ramifications of your actions on the environment. Slime Rancher’s is the lightest of touches, and its casual mobile game gear-gating structure actually works brilliantly to bring you in line with its concepts at a gratifying pace. And if you’re able to move past the fact that you crossbreed Slimes by feeding them waste matter, all the better.
Slowly, a dangerous element encroaches on my happy-clappy green farm. A dark, oily Slime, bigger than the others and carrying a menacing frown, keeps appearing just outsides the confines of my estate, and at first I don’t know anything about it other than the fact it hurts me on sight. The Tarr, I eventually learn, are created when a Largo (a crossbreed of two Slime Types) eats the Plort of a Slime whom it is not a crossbreed of. While I reflect on the fact my chosen career requires me to type a sentence like that one, think about how much work must have gone under the hood for this ecosystem to work. Well done indeed, Monomi Park.
But, like the creations of a M Night Shyamalan thriller, the Tarr are unusually susceptible to water. Spending a few of my hard-earned Newbucks on a water tank upgrade for my Vacpack keeps my tiny utopia safe… for now. Currently safeguarding the ranch from this threat is the excuse I’m using to justify my frankly silly devotion to this game. In my heart, I know there’ll be another justification ready and waiting when I’ve solved that problem. Perhaps a new garden, or a Ranch expansion, or a particularly pricey upgrade. Thinking about it, it’s probably just as well that games like this don’t come along all that often. I can feel my social skills eroding, my deathly pallor intensifying, and the words ‘Plort’ and ‘Largo’ sounding like common parlance. But crikey, my ranch is in good shape.
This article originally appeared in Xbox: The Official Magazine. For more great Xbox coverage, you can subscribe here.