Staxel feels like a love letter to the Minecraft-style of game design, with elements of Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon mixed in for good measure. The familiar, blocky graphics and square-based objects, movement, and crafting are typical of the Minecraft-inspired subgenre, but Staxel is more than meets the eye. Released into Steam’s Early Access on January 23th, 2018, from Plukit, this Sandbox and Simulation title has RPG elements and an outstanding Multiplayer option. But does it live up to its highly popular, famous roots?
Staxel is essentially a Farming Simulator with both a Creative mode and a storyline option, and a Multiplayer feature that allows players to interact together, sharing one Sandbox world, from the very beginning of the tutorial. Players step into the role of a new farmer in town, and as a newcomer, you’re treated to a rudimentary tutorial that mostly comprises of talking to friendly NPCs and gaining items and in-game cash from them. It’s a little tedious, but also basic enough that even Veterans of these genres won’t be delayed too long. Once you meet the important NPCs in town, you’re escorted to your own personal, private farm plot – assuming you’re not in a Multiplayer game, which has everyone sharing one home location – with all the gear you need to get started. And Staxel has a huge array of stuff to spend your time doing: literal farming, raising livestock in the form of cows, chickens, and sheep, fishing, mining, even dungeon diving and combat.
And while the single-player game is fun, Staxel absolutely shines in the Multiplayer experience. Only one player is allowed to do the tutorial, but other characters are given petals (the in-game coins) so that they can purchase their own items. The old, rundown farmhouse that everyone shares is in need of updates, but it’s certainly enough to get you started. The world is vibrant even if blocky; I was surprised by how adorable Staxel is, without seeming too childish or simple. It looks like a Minecraft clone at first, but there are actually numerous differences that set it apart, including the option of simplified but still rewardingly complex farming. Players are tasked early on with building their own barn, and are given both a chicken and a personal pet of either a dog or a cat; it seems that this critter has a random name, gender, and appearance, which was one of those little things easily overlooked but that adds a lot of charm to the experience.
Another fantastic aspect of Staxel is that it already has the Steam Workshop enabled and supported. This allows the community to make mods, which serve as free, mini-DLC, available at no charge on the Workshop page. There are new outfits, items, clothing options, and even Languages available already, and the developers have provided an active, friendly Discord server where fans can find other players, get help with making mods, and more. It’s a highly social experience, and it sets Staxel apart from other Stardew Valley style games. I was pleased to see a lot of variety in-game as well, not only in animals and plans available, but in races for characters – essentially, you can be a human, an elf, or a cat person – and their appearances, which you can change for free at any time. There are cute furniture items, plenty of NPCs, critters to collect, and plants to harvest.
The music is mellow and blends beautifully with the chill vibe that Staxel creates. I loved the in-game rain and weather; the sound effects are solid, and while the graphics are the blocky look typical for the Minecraft style of game design they’re colorful, varied, and fun. It creates a unique dynamic, and Staxel is a truly memorable experience especially in the Multiplayer category. There is a pervasive, feel-good quality with this Strategy/Simulation gem, and the community has embraced the Workshop feature by already adding a host of fun new content.
I had a minimal amount of issues with instability, and only one crash, but Staxel is still in Early Access so there are liable to be some moderate issues with concern to glitches and bugs. Staxel is actually very well polished for a new, Early Access release, and I can’t wait to get back into the game and see what surprises are still in store.
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