Game Pass: Homestead Arcana

Continuing my run of negativity… the next recent Game Pass title I tried was Homestead Arcana.

What I expected: A farming game where your farm is surrounded by something called miasma. When not tending crops you’ll venture into the miasma, fight enemies in there and gather materials. You’ll eventually push back the miasma to extend the amount of farming land you have.

What I got was close but the differences were significant enough to disappoint. Plus…bugs.

Homestead Arcana is a crafting/exploration game with some light farming aspects. Your Homestead is surrounded by miasma and you will venture into it, but you don’t fight the monsters that call the miasma home. Instead you try to avoid them and failing that, you run from them. There are traps to be avoided too. You do gather materials in there and  you do push back the miasma but it is not an ‘organic’ process. Instead you find pre-determined places where you have to dump a crafted item which then opens up some new terrain to explore.

Homestead Arcana made a bad first impression on me as I couldn’t create a custom character that I was happy with. Then I found the interface was pretty clunky at times, and the art style wasn’t my cup of tea. Not saying it is bad (the art style I mean), but just not a personal favorite. There’s a tutorial of sorts but it is pretty vague. One of the first things you have to do is plant a stalk of corn. It must be planted in the garden. Where is the garden, though? It turned out to be the one place you WOULD NOT plant corn in real life: in the dirt right near the trunk of a giant tree. I know it’s just a game and all, and I wouldn’t have minded if the tutorial said “Plant the corn in the garden” and then the garden area was highlighted or something, but it wasn’t, and the ‘correct’ spot was literally the last placed I tried since it made no sense.

I was convinced this was the garden based on all the other gardening games I’d played. I assumed I’d be clearing this debris out to prepare the field and such:

This is NOT the garden. I’m not sure what this is, to be honest

Instead, this is the garden. By the way if this is gardening than I’m a gardener based on the fact I have a pepper plant in a pot on my balcony:

The actual garden because growing veggies in the shade of a giant tree makes perfect sense

So your garden consists of individual plants that you tend. It’s a unique system and probably the thing I found most interesting about the game. You can do the basic stuff like water or fertilize plants, but you can also do things like trim branches or even train them to grow in specific directions. You can also ‘channel’ mana into them to get them to grow faster and you probably will need to do that since you have so few plants and need so many crops.

This is the gardening UI. You can do some interesting things to the plants you grow

At the same time, having to harvest each ear of corn or each tomato individually loses its appeal pretty quickly.

If you use channeling too often on a plant you’ll damage it. The game does warn you about this, but not in specific terms (if the mana you gather turns purple you’re about to damage the plant). I learned this lesson on my only cotton plant. Damaged plants are supposed to recover on their own but I have no idea how long it takes. There’s also a potion that you can make to cure them. I made one but couldn’t use it on my damaged plant; this appears to be a bug since I’m not the only one struggling with the issue. If I can’t find another cotton plant or recover from this bug, my save is basically ruined.

I was considering restarting, but then I went a little deeper into the miasma and had an experience that just turned me off the game: encountering critters. These little mouse-like creatures live in holes in the ground and if you get too near one, they’ll jump out and chase you. If they catch you they kill you pretty quick. I found this more frustrating than anything, having to run away from a mouse.

There’s a potion you can drink to let you see how close you can get to their holes without triggering them but it lasts a very short time so you need a ton of them. Which means growing (in the case of this potion) a lot of corn, ear by ear.

Once you grow the corn you have to craft the potions, and that takes time. All crafting takes time. Generally not a lot, but long enough to make me impatient while I wait for the timer to count down. You also need to eat, and you are eating the same produce you’re crafting potions from. Maybe later in the game you get tools to automate some of this but I’m not going to stick around long enough to find out.

While I seethed over the killer mouse experience and hoped for my blighted cotton bug to resolve itself, I did some ‘side quests’ for the folks back home. There’re a ton of these, mainly around crafting something. You get these quests via letters…so many letters arrive. You craft what is requested and send it via UPS (or the game’s equivalent) and a couple days later you’ll get some currency and plans for (cosmetic, as far as I can tell) clothing items. At least that’s what I’ve gotten so far.

So yeah, this one is not for me. Even without the game-breaking bug I wasn’t enjoying it very much but I’m CERTAINLY not going to restart. But maybe I’m just a crank. What does the rest of the world think? Well there’s not a lot of buzz about it. It has Mixed reviews on Steam based on only 31 reviews. On the Xbox it has about 2.5/5 stars based on 137 reviews. So maybe it’s not just me.