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REVIEW IN PROGRESS – Animal Crossing: New Horizons

What does Animal Crossing look like after playing it for a while?

So. It’s been over a month since Animal Crossing: New Horizons has come out. In my last review, there wasn’t a lot to talk about other than the basics of starting an island and what that looked like. Especially given I don’t time travel. Not that I’m judging you if you do, but, you know. I am. A little.

But, in a month, what’s changed in the world of Animal Crossing? What does my island and my play style look like now? Let’s take a trip back to Phobos and see how things have changed.

Welcome to Phobos, in Caco we trust.

A world of industry

The biggest thing to take note of is that this is not a deserted island anymore. There’s a lot going on now. I have a fully completed house. Everyone has houses, actually, I have a full island, all kinds of villagers have moved in, and yet, Isabelle consistently only gives me three stars to rate it, saying something about decorating or whatever. I’ve been decorating this whole time! I’m not mad at you Isabelle, just disappointed!

Anyway, the ‘deserted island’ feel really doesn’t last long in the grand scheme of things. The game seems to actively encourage avoiding it, with buildings such as the museum and the Able Sisters shop being very modern in design, as well as the new town hall. So once players start moving forward in the game, there’s no way to say ‘actually, no, I want everyone to stay in tents’.

Crafting also continues to prove integral, with it being the only way to replenish essential items such as shovels, nets, etc. as there’s no unbreakable versions of these items, as of yet. Which can quickly become a pain in the butt for people like me who are pretty lazy with resource gathering and prefer to spend those resources on making new furniture and items. It’s especially insulting once the Nooklings shop starts upgrading and offering really fancy, pretty shovels and the like, only to discover those also break.

Players also have an unprecedented amount of control over how they shape their island, especially once the terraforming feature is unlocked. Not only does it allow players to lay down pathways, but it also gives players the ability to make lakes, rivers, waterfalls, mountains, whatever their heart desires. Within reason. Though at first this can be extremely intimidating and it took me a solid week of thinking, planning and looking at other peoples islands to figure out what I wanted for my own. I’m still not entirely sure.

What else is there?

Once all debts are paid off and things have been unlocked, upgraded, etc., there becomes less and less clear goals to work toward. Though how long it takes for these goals to be hit will depend on the player, for example, I only got lucky in the turnip market getting those big stonks, otherwise I’d still be paying off my debt, probably.

But the game has no shortage of things to do. The first event, Bunny Day, was… Interesting, to say the least. Eggs were placed all throughout the island, new recipes were offered, and eventually the yellow horrific sibling of the Silent Hill Rabbit came to your town to judge your soul. And offer you more recipes.

But don’t worry, the subject has been apprehended and safely contained.

Though the Bunny Day event did show one crucial feature in the new Animal Crossing quality of life and design philosophy: The team behind the game is closely monitoring player feedback, and updates are being very regularly rolled out. It wasn’t long after complaints about the abundance of eggs started that a patch was released to at least lessen the issue.

Similarly, another update was released featuring new plants and everyone’s favourite art smuggling fox, Redd. And as a result, the museum was once again upgraded to allow for art. This bodes well for the future of the game, with the possibility of all kinds of additions, from villagers through to new fish or bugs, ensuring that no matter your style of play, an update for you will eventually come along.

Though I have to admit, I am starting to hit a wall in that I spend roughly fifteen minutes to a half hour on the game every day, doing the rounds, seeing what’s new, and then not touching it. And I suppose, really, this is the way the game is intended to be played for a lot of people. Just dribs and drabs to see what’s new, alter ones house a little, interact with the villagers and then take a break.

It’s not a bad way to play, but it does mean that, until the next event, I’m finding less and less reasons to play for long amounts of time. Though I still have goals, such as decorating my home and my island, and I still eagerly load up my game every morning to see what’s new.

There’s also the ever changing nature of the island as the months roll on, with new bugs and fish, leaves changing colour as the weather gets colder, and even today I’ve noticed mushrooms starting to pop up. There’s always some kind of whimsy and wonder, something new to discover, and so long as there’s new things, I will keep writing these.

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