I have never played Animal Crossing. I had heard of it, especially after playing Stardew Valley (SV), but I never understood what it was all about or if it is hype worthy. Our family did have a Nintendo DS, but I was completely unaware with this franchise existing. Now that I’ve played New Horizons (AC:NH) for a few months, I have… mixed feelings about the experience.
The gist of the game is that you start off in a plot of land and slowly work your way up from tree branches and tents to different variety of trees growing fruit (and money - if you know how), houses, and shops/museums. Almost like taking a bit of plot of land and turning it into a mini village. In a way, it’s great and satisfying to put effort into the land and see it growing into a thriving little area with friends that have their own personalities and mini conflicts. Nothing serious outside of “what dress should I wear?”, “can I call you this nickname?”, “I want item X, can you get it for me”, and at the most harrowing AC:NH can get, “Should I leave this island?” which admittedly is a great way to remove people who you have little interest in or find annoying. Sadly, when I arrived at the island, I was greeted with a fitness fanatic bear who keeps talking about gains - I want him to go, but I think I’m stuck with the guy. On the plus side, he is awfully nice when he isn’t comparing everything to exercise every 2 seconds.
In a previous draft of this blog post, I compared it to SV, saying how AC:NH is the far superior game. However, after playing it for over a month, the tedium is starting to settle in. With SV, a day lasts 20 mins, so getting stuff done feels somewhat frenetic and at times stressful. In my original draft, I lauded AC:NH’s time management which the clock in the game ticks in real time. At the time, it felt immensely less stressful and easy enough to understand - log in at certain times during the day, get stuff done, log out.
The issue is that AC:NH has a similar issue with SV in that the stuff that should be done piles and piles on top of you gradually, so what was once a quick 5 min session a week later turns into half an hour of cleaning up the land, collecting money, selling off sea shore stuff, collecting Nook points, and so on. Admittedly, there is little penalty for just not caring about certain things and skipping things. I think for someone like me, this game appeals to my inner perfectionist, so I want to get all the stuff done. But at the same time I have the curse of being an adult with responsibilities, like a job, a family, and personal aspirations and hobbies outside of gaming.
As a point, I have a few blog post topics lined up to write about, but they all have been hogged up by AC:NH and my fear that if I so much miss a day on that island, then I’ve squandered serious potential to improve my little land in some way. I know it’s a video game and life takes priority, but AC:NH has the same addictive gameplay loop as SV but with the problematic (at least to me, a busy adult) design that everything is in real time.
Which is a shame to say all this, because I’ve genuinely enjoyed the time I’ve “invested” into the game, making my little virtual island better, improving friendships with friendly and charming anthropomorphic animals on my island and on other islands. I’ve had a blast unlocking more abilities to mould my land the way I want with bridges and stairs to higher ground land. I’ve chilled out to watering the many virtual plants on my land as a distraction from other tasks on the land. I’ve greatly enjoyed capturing all the insects, fishes, and fossils and seeing Blathers react accordingly (especially to insects, it always cracks me up!). It’s all been great fun in small doses. Altogether and I start to wonder where half of my day went.
As of now a lot of people around the world are facing the problem of the deadly coronavirus, and I know a lot of people in the UK have been furloughed (which means they have to stop working, but they will be paid - under the UK government, this will be up to 80% of their wage). If you are one of the unfortunate people who have been furloughed and now have the prospect of remaining at home with little to do, AC:NH is perhaps a sensible choice - assuming you have the money for the game. If AC:NH is a bit expensive, then SV will do the job just fine with the added benefit that you can get SV cheaper on other platforms, like Android and iOS. However, if you are an adult with actual responsibilities, I think it’s probably best to choose another game that isn’t so demanding with your time.