There’s no escaping the influence of Stardew Valley in Lightyear Frontier; After all, it’s a wholesome, lush game about farming, but after half an hour of hands-on harvesting and planting, there’s a distinct difference, and it’s not the mech.
This is a farming game, albeit one in which the lone settler is in command of a giant robot that seems more suited to destruction than creation. There’s no rundown town to restore and you won’t find anyone around to befriend – it’s just you, your robot and a planet to farm.
The cultivation process is quite simple. You build some planting beds, collect seeds from some of the local flora, and then stick those seeds into the ground and give them a generous drink of water. It’s basic, gardening for dummies, but the fact that you’re doing it from the cockpit of a noisy, unwieldy robot adds a dash of slapstick sweetness.
Collecting materials, for example, involves waving a ridiculous vacuum cleaner around the environment and watching as whole ears of corn, small rocks, and gallons of water flood your inventory and automatically sort into neat resource pools. You plant new crops by launching them into the ground with a cannon and water them by carefully arcing high-pressure streams of water, and if you want to move faster, you can click a button to transform your walker into a rocket-powered tank. reinforcement
All that gardening power speeds things up. The process of planting and maintaining a seedbed in most farming sims involves dozens of repetitive steps, but in Lightyear Frontier you can care for an entire seedbed in a couple of quick, fluid motions.
So fast farming, no townspeople bothering you with housework – what are you supposed to do with all that free time? Beyond the starting area is an open meadow with several paths branching off into new biomes. I can’t explore beyond the Edenic Prairie in Gamesom’s version of Lightyear Frontier, but it looks like you’ll be spending as much time farming as you are discovering new areas and analyzing the resources you find there. When you return home, you can plant anything new, build new machinery, and use freshly harvested materials to upgrade your robot with new tools to explore more.
And you’ll want to explore more, because the planet you’re isolated on is an instantly beautiful and relaxing alien idyll. It’s familiar enough that there are still trees and streams and swathes of green grass, but strange enough that it feels a little fantastical. Staple crops are bejeweled with luminescent fruit, massive clusters of gemstones dot the cliffs, and canopies feature vibrant splashes of pink, purple, and yellow. The soft-edged cartoon art style ensures that the world always feels friendly and calm.
And that is the feeling that Lightyear Frontier leaves you. Despite stomping on a robot that might have served Ellen Ripley in a previous life, your relationship with this planet isn’t about knocking things down and lifting things up. Your job isn’t to pave the way for an urban settlement, you’re just carving out a small life for yourself, working with everything the planet has to offer, and learning more about your new home as the days go by.
Early Access is scheduled to launch in Spring 2023, but if you’re hungry for more farming sims, check out our lists of the best games like Stardew Valley, life games, and farming games on PC. There is a lot of virtual growth to be done before Lightyear Frontier hits Steam.