Forager is an interesting game that seemingly came out of nowhere and is starting to build a vibrant and passionate fan base. Often described as Stardew Valley meets Zelda, Forager puts the player in a massive world that they must explore, expand, and develop in order to survive and progress.
While the game takes a lot of inspiration from Stardew Valley, there are a lot of interesting and exciting directions that Forager takes that make it better in some ways. Not to say that it's necessarily a better game overall, but there are things you can do in Forager that are an improvement to Stardew Valley and something things that didn’t even exist in the older farming game.
While Stardew Valley did include a lot of exploration and places to discover, it pales in comparison to the number of places Foragar offers for the player to find. In Forager there are a number of different biomes like Grass, Desert, and Graveyard, that all include ten smaller lands to explore.
For instance, the player can encounter the Graveyard biome which is an area of gray earth inhabited by skeletons. Yet inside this biome players can find places like the Skull Maze which is a maze-like dungeon containing a number of enemies, a boss, and loot to be found.
Forager also has a greater emphasis on combat, populating the world with a large number of enemies that can be destroyed. Each enemy yields loot that can provide helpful resources for expansion and character growth.
While Stardew Valley did have its share of combat, Forager makes it faster paced and more rewarding. Combat doesn’t feel like an optional task, but an integral part of gameplay designed to help the player progress. Combat doesn’t feel distracting in the same way it did in Stardew Valley.
In Stardew Valley the player has the opportunity to find a Treasure Chest during fishing expeditions, which granted the player a hefty amount of gold when sold, but apart from these random encounters there wasn’t anything special about treasure hunting.
Forager enables the player to become an archaeologist and hunt down various items and store them in a museum in collections. Once a collection is complete the player is rewarded with a big chest that contains artifacts which grants the player special abilities. Treasure hunting is much more involved and much more rewarding in Forager rather than the randomized loot afterthought it was in Stardew Valley.
Despite the presence of wizards and witches in Stardew Valley, the player never has access to any magic to improve their situation. Sure there was a helpful teleportation rune to go between the basement and the witch's hut or the ability to change appearances, but that was kind of it.
Forager gives the player access to all kinds of magic to improve their circumstances. Players can build Cauldrons to produce potions, Inscription Tables to draft scrolls, shrines for buffs and use spirit crystals to build powerful rods of magic. Whether it’s health regeneration, fireballs, or boosts to production, Forager has lots of magic.
Forager grants the player the opportunity to become a titan of industry by creating power plants, factories, offshore drills and other buildings that can streamline and automate resource gathering, item production, and defense. There are many, many buildings that enable the player to produce lots of technologically advanced items for use.
In Stardew Valley players could build things like mills and slime hutches, but electricity was never a useable resource and you could hardly create things like Droids that’ll harvest items for the player and attack enemies or grenades to create massive explosions like you can in Forager.
Some might see this as a bad thing when compared to Stardew Valley given that some players like the more leisurely, casual pace of games similar to Stardew Valley. But for those with limited play time or who like to see immediate results, Forager is by far a better game.
Buildings process and produce items quickly, movement speed is fast, resources grow back overnight, enemies respawn quickly and progress happens swiftly. You’ll rarely be waiting for something to happen in Forager and many players are grateful for that.
Money is an integral part of any management game. In Stardew Valley, money allowed the player to upgrade their farm, buy needed crops, and obtain needed gear. Making money was a steady process of raising crops and selling the harvest, crafting items for sale, and selling loot dropped by monsters.
Forager takes the money making game several steps further. Players can build banks that spit out a steady stream of income, a marketplace to buy and sell products for profit, and there’s even a gambling mechanic with slot machines to make money. Given how fast-paced the game is, it makes sense that wealth creation would also be fast paced.
Stardew Valley had a number of dungeons the player could raid for interesting loot or to fight various monsters. Places like the Mutant Bug Lair, while it did contain frightening enemies, wasn’t all that big or exciting and the loot made it feel more like a chore than an adventure.
In Forager, the dungeons feel much more vibrant with lots of enemies to face and lots of loot to be had. They even contained a number of useful resources like coal or iron that were beneficial to the player’s progress. More importantly, each dungeon has a powerful boss that made it feel like you had a purpose for venturing into each dungeon, rather than finding a simple quest item to continue forward.
Stardew Valley did a great job in giving you a living farm that you could expand and upgrade with the creation of various buildings. But the lot you were given was as far as you could expand, and eventually, your farm hits a max size.
Forager blows Stardew Valley out of the water by making the base expandable via island expansion. As the player progresses in the game they are able to expand the size of the island allowing them to explore different areas. It also has the nice benefit of allowing you to expand your base as the island around it grows until you have a sprawling base of operations.
Perhaps the greatest thing Forager does over Stardew Valley is give the players a sense that they live in a dangerous world and could risk losing everything (having to load an old save file). Stardew Valley had some things you needed to watch out for, but if you never left your farm you were never in any danger, even collapsing from exhaustion simply sends you to bed minus 10% of your money
Forager has many threats hounding the player and the base can come under attack from enemies at any time. This sense of danger gives the player a greater incentive to plan out their base construction and play strategically to ensure the enemy doesn’t ruin their progress. This risk helps give a greater sense of achievement when finishing the game as you knew there were obstacles and setbacks to your progress that had to be dealt with.