Have you ever tried to put condensed milk into your morning coffee? I’d recommend doing it at least once, unless you’re the type of person that becomes too attached to sugar. It’s a strange process of cutting out the middle-man as the flavours of milk and sugar are wrapped up in a single, goopy concoction that’s really, really nice when combined with the bitter flavour of coffee.
Of course once you’ve tried the combination, you’ll no doubt want to try it again. Then just one more time, as a treat. Okay, just one more time, so you can show a friend! Eventually, that overpowering sweetness, the flavour combination that started out being so delightful and tasty, becomes…nothing. You become immune to it, just another piece of your daily routine that becomes so easy to glance over. The sweetness loses its flavour and you’re left with exactly what you tried to reinvent in the first place: A boring, morning coffee.
Perhaps that’s too scathing an analogy to make when talking about Ooblets, a game that’s dripping with all kinds of adorable, cute nonsense all pasted over a farming/life RPG. Yet it’s a comparison that I feel justified to make because, just like a daily cup o’ Joe spiced up with condensed milk, it starts off truly compelling before becoming…well, a little irritating.
If you’ve played anything like Ooblets you already know the basic loop of the game. Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley and Story of Seasons all use the same formula of travelling to a new location, setting up, tending to and improving your farm and making friends with all the local bumpkins. Ooblets is near identical to those other systems, choosing to add more unique elements rather than refine those long-established mechanics, which might be the best thing the game does.
Throughout your journey to become self-sufficient you’ll encounter (and grow) the titular Ooblets, little plant-based creatures that follow you around, battle other Ooblets and can even help manage and run your farm. Considering that the game is still in Early Access, I was genuinely surprised at the vast range of different Ooblets to collect and battle; some people have compared it to Pokemon in that way and while it’s a decent touchstone initially, the Ooblets have nowhere near as much depth as those beloved pocket monsters largely due to the game’s battle system which…isn’t great.
If anything, engaging in Ooblet dance battles to unlock new party members and level up my existing party was my least favourite part of Ooblets. Playing out like a card-battler akin to something like Slay the Spire, dancing to unlock more Ooblets is never rewarding nor engaging, coming across more like and o(o)bligatory chore than an fleshed out past time. There’s a decent variety of unique cards and abilities yet even your weakest critter is likely to steamroll the opposition due to how terrible the “enemy” AI is, which is fortunately one of the benefits of Early Access. Here’s hoping that aspect of the game can be reworked and improved because collecting Ooblets, the thing this game uses to set itself apart from competitors in the market, is the thing it does worst.
Yet what it does well is replicate all of those super-chill farming simulators that have come before it, offering players one of the most expansive suites of customisation options and unlockables I’ve seen in a game of this ilk. Despite starting off very slowly, the constant drip of rewards via crops sales and in-game daily quests and achievements ensures that there’s always something new to unlock. There was never an in-game day that went by where I wasn’t seeing or using something new, which does wonders for the cathartic release a game like Ooblets is designed to give players. It’s satisfying to play, without question, and a game that I can see myself checking back in with every day for a long time due to how rewarding the unlockable features are.
The only other gripe I have with Ooblets, and it’s one that I admit is highly subjective, is that the constant emphasis on cuteness in the game…well, it grated on me in a way I didn’t expect. I have nothing against cuteness, lord knows I spend enough time telling my kitten how well she fits that description, but Ooblets takes the wholesome adorable aesthetic of something like Animal Crossing and immediately ramps it up to 11.
Characters often talk nonsensically, items are named stupidly and the whole things feels like it’s trying unbelievably hard to appeal to an audience that desperately craves that kind of escapism. Just…it would be great if at least one character didn’t feel like they were ripped from the silly side of YouTube. Actually, it’s worse than that. Much of Ooblets’ presentation feels drawn from the results of someone searching “quirky” on Pinterest and drew inspiration from the first ten posts. It’s annoying, cloying and actively made me want to spend less time in the game’s world.
Yet when I was ignoring that, I found myself falling in love with Ooblets. It’s a game that feels tighter than those more sprawling farming RPGs yet still manages to provide players with all the necessary depth and customisation options that they crave. For a game that’s still in Early Access, you would never have said as much due to the vast amounts of content already inside of it. Even more stuff is coming in the future, making Ooblets an even more appealing game to invest in early. In a year where a new Animal Crossing didn’t scratch my escapism itch entirely, I’m real glad Ooblets came along to show how it should be done…even if I would prefer my town’s inhabitants to talk like actual people.
Last Updated: July 23, 2020