Video Games

Lightyear Frontier Preview: Unconventional Mech-anics

After the waning popularity of Harvest Moon and Story of Season, and Stardew Valley’s revival of the genre, I’ve been enjoying the rush of new farming sim games that explore familiar mechanics in new ways. Rice and Ruin focused on one crop in particular while weaving 2D action combat. Slime Rancher focused on collecting, caring for, and breeding adorable little critters. And now, Lightyear Frontier prepares to revisit familiar farming gameplay from behind the scenes controlling war mechs, a highly unusual farming tool.

We were able to explore a small portion of Lightyear Frontier’s first area for a hands-on preview. I was able to get a feel for basic farming, build basic structures such as nurseries and silos, plant seeds, water them, and harvest them. This is a familiar loop for farming sim fans of all stripes. Collect resources, use resources to build things that help you get more resources, and repeat. The main difference is that instead of playing as a little guy in overalls, you pilot a repurposed combat mech to do all the farm work. What’s there is complemented by very large and efficient farming guns, eliminating the tedium of typical early-game farming simulations of carrying, watering, and moving cans of water to each square. to the next. Easy to do with just one spray.

One thing that didn’t click too much for me (although it still might) is the inherent stupidity of being in a mech. I understand the purpose is thematic in that it uses war mechs and their weapons of war as tools to build a peaceful existence. But in my limited demos, the mecha felt like goofy appliances rather than repurposed Gundams. Blowing up a bed is fundamentally stupid. It’s kind of silly, but Lightyear Frontier seems blissfully oblivious to its own stupidity, leading to a cacophony of strange themes in the early stages of interstellar farming. Given how little we’ve seen, this could be resolved over time, either by leaning into increasingly ridiculous upgrades for these farm guns, or by finding more ways to bring the theme home. There’s a good chance it will.

The Lightyear Frontier is so nice that I don’t want to spoil it even a little with farming.


If you’re coming to Lightyear Frontier from more social farming sims like Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon, the thing that jumps out the most besides mecha bits is the lack of other characters to interact with. As far as the developers of Lightyear Frontier are ever willing to say, you’re pretty much alone on this planet, save for the merchants who regularly come to trade. You can communicate without necessarily looking. It all gives Lightyear Frontier an air of lonesomeness, as you feel distant even from your own characters behind the cold metal control panels of the mechs they pilot.

But I think loneliness has to be on purpose, because it works so well with my favorite bit of Lightyear Frontier so far: planetary exploration. With no neighbors to hang out with, your time at the Lightyear Frontier is completely yours. After tending the farm every morning, you don’t even have to go home at night if you have the day off and don’t want to go home. Mecha when it gets dark. It’s nice to have plenty of time to get lost, but I think later in the game, more fussy farming facilities could change the time balance somewhat.

More important and influential to me was the general atmosphere of the Lightyear Frontier planet. I don’t mean to mislead you by strictly comparing Lightyear Frontier to No Man’s Sky. After all, Lightyear Frontier is her one planet purposely created, not a seemingly endless supply of infinite procedurally generated worlds. But the moment my mech left the farmland and stepped into the field, I had the same amazement as when I climbed the grassy fuchsia hills for the first time in No Man’s Sky and saw a rainbow-hued alien world unfold. Evoked a sense of adventure…under me.

Lightyear Frontier – Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase 2022

Lightyear Frontier is that nice brand. It has vibrant greenery, smooth-flowing grass and sparkling water, and wild, winding trees. Its hills are dotted with strange plants that I can harvest and replant on my own farm, slowly replacing the Terran seeds I brought with me to make them better suited to the existing ecosystem. I’m turning it into a garden. The developers have ensured Lightyear Frontier avoids the usual colonialist destruction that interplanetary exploration games like to exploit, but I’d like to do a little bit of that with my farming. It’s so beautiful that you don’t want to spoil it.

I feel like I just scratched the surface of the Lightyear Frontier. I’m still a little unsure as to how well it will play in the long run with the majority of mech, as I’ve only had a small taste of the farming elements, but I haven’t put off the idea just yet. I am interested in the elements that were not included. For example, suppose you have a story that unfolds as you explore the planet. Lightyear Frontier can also be played in full co-op with up to four players. Both of these prospects are very interesting, and one or the other alone could completely change the overall feel of Lightyear Frontier. I want to see the new species, creatures, and mysteries that await me on the shimmering hills.

Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. you can find her on her twitter @duck valentine.

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