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Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review

The Animal Crossing series has been around for a while now, but this is my first time playing an Animal Crossing game. The idea of chilling on an island and decorating it seemed to have some appeal, and is very different to any other game I generally play, so why not give it a go?

The premise is simple enough. Once you’ve created your character, you arrive on an uncharted island, along with infamous Tom Nook and co, and begin living your island life. But everything that needs doing won’t happen overnight. You’ll need to slowly, but surely, collect materials, make money, upgrade your house, and much much more if you want to create a new life for yourself on your island.

All About The Journey, Not The Destination

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is not a game that really has an end goal. If you like your games to have an end, or some kind of purpose/story, then this game might not be for you. Here you’re encouraged to really do things at your own pace. If you want to spend a chunk of time getting things done you can. If you want to play every now and then without strict commitment, you can. In some ways, this can work for the game, but also against it, and I’ll cover reasons for that soon.

This game is played out in real time- if you play in the morning, the sun will be out and will have that morning feel to it. If you play at night, it’s dark outside and you’ll need to start turning lights on. There’s a level of realism and detail to New Horizons that is quite mind-blowing.

Now because this game heavily uses time as a mechanic, there’s a lot of tasks that are bound by time. If you chop wood off a tree, it won’t ‘recharge’ until the next day. Some fish and bugs are only available during certain times too, meaning you will have to wait until the right time (or even month) to catch them. This is both clever and restrictive at the same time. On one hand, by using time in this way, it helps prolong the life of the game, ensuring you’ll always want to come back. On the other hand, if you want to get certain things done, you’ll simply have to wait until to can start doing them again.

However you view this depends entirely on the type of gamer you are. Some may get frustrated that they won’t be able to do a whole lot in one sitting and will have to wait the next day to resume. Some people might not be bothered at all, especially if they don’t plan on spending too long at a time. There were times I would do my usual tasks, only to have literally nothing else to do and be forced to turn off and wait until tomorrow. It’s then I realised I’m not supposed to play this game for hours at a time, and it’s clearly designed around that.

You’re meant to be playing this game over the many months, or even years, and I do believe ultimately that really works in this game’s favour. Real world seasons and events (like Easter, for example) are woven into this world and that is what will keep gamers coming back, including myself.

New Horizons is designed to drip feed content to you, meaning you won’t be able to complete everything in a week or two. That being said, it doesn’t mean there’s little to do every time you play, because it all depends on what you want to focus on. Like I said before, there’s no end goal, but that’s because you create your own goal! Do you want a 5 star island? A top ranked home? A completed museum? All of the above? The choice is yours!

A Designers Dream

Now that we’ve established some sort of purpose for this game, how well does it work as an island/home designer? The answer is extremely well! The sheer amount of options for exterior and interior decorating is immense, and somehow manages to do it without feeling overwhelming.

Gamers of any age wil be able to grasp the design aspect of this game, and you’re only limited by your imagination. Well, you may be limited by time itself, but that’s why you need to come back periodically to check the shops for new items. Even though there seems to be an endless amount of items and furniture, their only real purpose is for cosmetic reasons. I think this game would have been elevated even more if items had some other benefits to motivate you even more to decorate.

Maybe if they contained perks to collect items on the ground faster, or gave you some kind of abilities to improve your building, just anything other than just decorating would been amazing. I suppose this game was always meant to be more of a ‘sim’ and less of a ‘game’.

I think another way New Horizons could have been even better is if it had some kind of over-arching story to keep gamers coming back. There are objectives early on, but they feel more like tutorials, or just getting you started, than an actual story. Once you’ve completed them all, and you’re free to design your island how you see fit, there just feels a little less motivation to continue, at least for me it was.

Despite this, I still stuck around, because there’s always something to come back to. Wood can be recollected again, fossils can be dug up again, and turnip prices need to be checked to know the best time to sell. I love the idea of the ‘stalk market’, and it gave even more reason to stick with this game. The amount of systems this game employees is something you have to really appreciate, even if this game isn’t your thing.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons Review Summary

If you’ve ever wanted to settle on an island, build up your home, and design the island to your liking, I can’t think of a better alternative. To put things into perspective, this isn’t even my type of game, yet it got me coming back to it everyday for about 50 days since release. That’s some pulling power!

New Horizons is full of charm, and that alone will endear many people towards it. But it’s the detailed systems and mechanics that impressed me the most, as the developers clearly worked very hard creating an in-depth island designer. Even more impressive is how they used real-world time in so many aspects in this game. At the same time though, it does work to its detriment. Once you run out of things to do, you have no choice but to put the game down and wait until you can play it again.

But there’s so many surprises still to come, and that’s why I can’t see myself putting this game down for good. Whether you play this game solo, or with other people, there’s a strong sense of community (even with the NPCs). This makes your island truly feel like a second home, and one I will find very hard to say goodbye to.

Score: 9

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