FINAL REVIEW – Animal Crossing: New Horizons


As we all know, Animal Crossing is meant to be a long term game, with players logging on every day to check things out, talk to villagers and so on. And from there, there’s plenty of little extras that allow players to do a little extra, terraforming, getting the perfect five star island, an S rank on your house, designing clothes, there’s a bunch of stuff to do. In theory. But the question soon becomes, in a game that’s designed for the long term, is all of this enough?
Let’s take a trip back to Phobos and find out.

Groundhog Day Loop

Or, at least, that’s what it’s starting to feel like. Sure, the game has received a few updates since release with new content and bug fixes, as well as a few quality of life changes, and updates are still coming (and I’m not going to complain, with *gestures widely* All This, it’s lucky we get anything), but the question soon becomes… Is it enough?
Let me run you through a basic day in Animal Crossing for me at this point in release: Load up the game, hear dialogue from Isabelle telling me which TV show she watched last night because there’s rarely any actual news, go out and dig up my four fossils for the day, do a once over of my island, buy stuff where applicable, maybe talk to a villager or two, and then I save and quit.
So, essentially, I’ve become bogged down in a sort of routine due to experiencing all the other content the game has to offer. Or, at least, the content the game has to offer me in a way that doesn’t feel tedious. What was once utterly charming, if a little slow and frustrating to do, has snowballed into an overall frustrating experience that’s offering me very little incentive to keep going.
For example, new month means new fish, right? I go to fish. I expect to fish up a few carp, or a few black bass, or a few things like that. That’s fine. I get it. But when a certain fish only appears off, say, the pier, and I have to start throwing bait out, which means I have to dig up clams and turn them into bait, painstakingly one at a time, I suddenly… Don’t really feel like fishing.

And that’s a recurring theme in regards to the late-game Animal Crossing mechanics. What was once enjoyable becomes a little more tedious as time progresses and I realise I’m basically just looping around waiting for another major update to drop. Even talking to villagers quickly reveals their limited pool of discussion topics, and even then, the need to talk to them at least three or four times to get anything other than them telling me what I did yesterday or making a comment about someone that visited my island, given that these sorts of comments seem to have the highest priority over talking points regarding more light-hearted topics, or offering small quests or games.
I suppose this is part of the package of any Animal Crossing title, it will inevitably get boring, but the thing is I want to keep playing it. I want to finish my Museum, I want to do some more terraforming, I want to make more friends with my villagers. But the game seems to actively be doing its best to make this as tedious as possible and suck the joy out of it, and what was once just a little annoying but still charming is now flat out frustrating and sucking my will to play.
As charming as it is, and as much as I still do have fun now and then or I’m surprised by something absolutely adorable, it’s just not enough to hold my attention for longer than fifteen minutes at a time. Which, I suppose is the intended daily play time to check in on things, but I assure you I have absolutely 0 desire to play beyond those 15 minutes and further beautify my island or make more friends. So all these animals have to put up with me smashing rocks and running straight past them and then returning to my home for the rest of the day. Kind of like real life I guess.

So, what can be done about it?

Which leads into my next series of bullet points, or as I like to call them, ‘things that could be done much better but I’m not a dev so take it all with a grain of salt, this would just make the game more fun’:

  • Let me craft multiple things at once: Please. I’m begging you. If you give me perishable items like bait or medicine let me just craft a stack of it and be done. I’m so tired. I don’t want to mash A through the cute little building sequence anymore. Even for furniture and the like, I’d love to select say, five or so pieces and craft them all at once in a bulk crafting batch.
  • Let me craft using my home storage: Please! I don’t want to have to keep dragging stuff out, either! All my stuff is right there! I have like, a bunch of stacks of wood and I don’t need to be carrying it around in my inventory which will just take up space for the items I want to craft! Either that or give us a dedicated materials inventory space.
  • Let me have more control over how and where I put things outside: Let me put stuff on walls or on cliffsides! Let me put rugs down to make cute picnic areas so I don’t have to keep downloading patterns instead! Or just give me more room for patterns, even! That would also be great.
  • Give the animals more varied dialogue: Listen. I don’t want to have to talk to every villager a minimum of 5 times before they start saying something new and interesting. Yes. I know I planted bells in the ground yesterday. I know I hit a bunch of rocks. I know Sahara is here. Tell me more about you.
  • Let multiple guests visit the island: As more visitors are added, and some of them are part of a mandatory rotation, it’s going to create a sort of chaos in which frustrated players see Leif for the umpteenth time and buy nothing because they already have some nice bushes, when really they want Redd or Label to come by, but that’s all up to chance. Perhaps a sort of dedicated ‘market’ area would help.
  • Let me nuke my island and start from scratch: Just remove everything I’ve put down. Take out all the rivers. Pack up all the houses. Give me a complete ‘go nuclear’ option for like, a ridiculous amount of bells or something so I can start from scratch with how I design things. Not even any ponds or rivers. Maybe some trees though. I don’t know how this would work, I just don’t want to spend hours cleaning up my entire island and spend bells multiple times to move everything around when it could all be done in one lump sum.
  • Let me see my friends islands offline: Essentially, bring back the Dream Suite, but bigger. I don’t want to have to rely on my friends just happening to be online when I feel like island hopping, and I love getting inspiration from other people.

It’s just a few things. There are probably a lot more, even, so: What kind of improvements would you like to see? What would make you more willing to sit down with the game for longer?