Minecraft and Stardew Valley have had a baby, and its name is Staxel. This cute little indie game takes the best from both worlds and lumps it together. The result is a beautiful, vibrant cuboid world.
Staxel, developed by Plukit and published by Humble Bundle, is at its core a farming simulator. But that’s not to say it isn’t unique. Staxel is very ambitious, taking on elements from Minecraft (mostly the blocky graphics) as well as deriving parts from Stardew Valley. Yet it seems a lot freer than the latter, and has slightly more purpose than the former.
Farming has never been more adorable.
When you first start out, it’s Spring the 1st. It’s a warm-looking day… but you’ve appeared inside, in a building, with absolutely no idea where you actually are. It’s easy to grasp that you’ve just moved in, however, especially when you go to leave the building and see a person waiting for you. I was initially apprehensive, but decided to take my chances and see what this person wanted.
Her name is Farm Fan. I am not kidding nor do I wish to be kidding. She helps you get acquainted with the town to some small degree, showing you where the tavern and the general store is, and then when your farm is.
Note: I started on Creative Mode. It is probably best if you do not do this.
After Farm Fan sends you back to the local tavern, where it is revealed she drinks too much ‘sap’ (most likely mead), you are asked to go get a parcel from the general store. One quickly retrieves that, gives it over, finds out a pet has been sent to Farm Fan, and is sent back to the farm with a letter. She almost doesn’t give your pet to you, but she does. It’s either a dog or a cat, depending on your preference (you get to choose early on).
A few more instructions are given, in which you go see the mayor, Maximillian, then you head to what I’m going to call the hardware store. And this is where the fun – and my true criticism – comes into play!
Building a barn is… surprisingly easy.
Let it be known that I have never, in my life, played Minecraft. I do not have the level of expertise at building others may have. But even I was able to create a barn, albeit simple. The crafting system is a little complicated until you figure it out. You can buy the blocks you need to build houses and other structures from the hardware store, but a lot of other things are needed to build specific things (e.g. the barn). This is where the unique crafting system comes into play.
Let’s say you’re building a food trough. You have get wood for this, but it’s not as easy as that. It’s a step-by-step process that requires you get wood, refine it, then combine it with other materials such as nails and hay to actually create a trough.
Sounds easy, right?
Unfortunately, there was no quest log style thing sitting in any corner of my screen. As much as this is reminiscent of Minecraft, that quest log thing is something I could have sorely used as I played. It would be a great reminder of what a person’s doing when they log out of the game and log back in.
But that is one bad point amidst a sea of good.
I have almost nothing but praise for this little game. The controls are excellent. They work well, almost. Using the right mouse clicker to talk or interact with people and things is something I am admittedly still getting used to, but outside of that, everything is fluid.
The colour of the game is astounding. You wouldn’t think that a world up of blocks and pixels could be so vibrant, so full of life, but it is. From fields of flowers, to the edge of the ocean, to the small townscape your farm is attached to… it’s absolutely wonderful and I love the work the developers have done.
I was also lucky enough to see a weather change. The way the rain was done was soothing, something I could watch for hours. Mix that in with an exceptional ambient soundtrack and voila! Perfection.
Speaking of the soundtrack, it fits well with the game itself. It’s not too loud or jarring. It changes seamlessly with the day’s progression, and depending on where you are. The sound effects mix in just as well, creating the illusion of an idyllic little life.
The developers of this game deserve a lot of praise.
While there does not appear to be a direct storyline – Maximillian states that you can do whatever you like in regards to the game – there is always something to do. Whether that be assist the residents of the town, build houses for new residents, spend time improving your farm, or exploring the land, you’ll never be bored.
Staxel is available on Steam from Jan. 23, 2018.
- THE GOOD
- Interesting and unique
- Lots of ways to play
- So many ways to create things
- THE BAD
- No quest list
A must-have little game that takes inspiration from Minecraft and Stardew Valley, blending it into something perfectly unique.