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Backlog Review | No Place Like Home

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When we were kids we couldn’t imagine any place better than our own comfortable, familiar home. Just a few years later however, once we became teenagers, literally any place seemed better than that stuffy old house. The second we were able to move out, we did, and we never looked back. Well, until we became adults, that is. Because it took becoming an adult to realize that maybe our memories of that place we thought to be overbearing, or even tyrannical at times were a little over dramatic, and maybe it was actually pretty awesome after all.  If we are lucky enough we can even go back and visit, wearing a full set of rose colored glasses to boot.

In the aptly named game No Place Like Home, we find our protagonist Ellen, on her way home to visit her grandfather one last time before she leaves Earth for good. You see in this story the world has been overtaken by a sudden “trash wave”, leaving just about every square inch of land buried under piles upon piles of refuse. So, most people are moving on to Mars and leaving their garbage riddled homes behind. Ellen finds her grandfather’s farm destroyed and he is nowhere in sight. This is not the place she remembers so fondly anymore, but maybe it could be once again with a little hard work, at least while she unravels the mystery of her missing grandfather.

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Farming simulators are kinda my thing. I’ve played many over the years and enjoy nothing more than seeing how developers choose to innovate on this much beloved genre. No Place Like Home definitely seemed to have some interesting ideas based on what I’d seen before I was actually able to play it, so naturally it was on my Steam wishlist for quite some time. It’s also been in early access up until now so that’s mostly why I waited. I knew it was coming out soon and was happy to wait for the (mostly) full release. We were given a pre-release copy to review and fortunately/unfortunately there were some updates during my playthrough that abruptly altered my experience at times. Thankfully for the better in a lot of cases, but in others not so much.

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You can expect to see plenty of the old standby mechanics that have become mainstays for a farming sim game. Things like growing crops, tending to animals, crafting buildings and devices, all used to make your life easier as you go are the sum and substance of the gameplay. No Place Like Home’s claim to fame however, lies in the fact that absolutely everything is covered in these piles of trash. Trash you need to get rid of via your handy drill/vacuum pack. You explore the world by clearing away these seemingly endless piles and then putting everything you’ve collected into recycler machines. Sometimes these piles will also contain seeds or other helpful materials, and other times they will be covering abandoned luggage filled with blueprints and recipes, or even covering up a caged animal. If you can befriend that animal once you’ve freed them they will happily live on your farm and provide you with some tasty offerings.

As I mentioned earlier, the game has been in early access for quite some time. Apparently it’s gotten some heavy updates in the past, but I can’t really speak to those since I have only played it recently. During my own playthrough though it had some patches released that as far as I can tell broke as many things as it fixed. There were reports of people losing progress, having their farm animals or buildings disappear, or even losing the ability to play the game altogether. Fortunately I never encountered anything quite that harsh, but I can’t say I walked away completely unscathed.

Sometimes produce would glitch and become infinitely collectable, which doesn’t sound terrible, but it could potentially throw off the game’s pacing if you have infinite money at your disposal. Those glitches would fix themselves upon restart but one that still persists as of the writing of this review, is a glitch where I open the cage of an animal and the animal will pop out only to be replaced by another caged animal – endlessly. Having an endless supply of pigs may not seem like a big deal either, but it meant I was unable to clear an area of caged animals. I’ve also fallen through the world a few times or gotten stuck on nothing and had to use the fast travel (thankfully added in with an update) to escape. There is also a disappointing amount of text and UI errors I encountered, that while not game breaking of course, still really add to the very unpolished feel of the current state of the game. Of course, these are all things that can be patched up eventually, but they are the types of things I’ve run across that I felt still needed to be mentioned in my review. Especially with its full release being so imminent.

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Glitches and errors aside there were certainly more enjoyable aspects to the game overall than not. The story is well paced and the progress you make is satisfying. All the NPCs have unique quests that will usually require you to do a lot of exploring to complete. Honestly, one of the things I appreciated the most was that my tools were all mapped to their own hotkey. Instead of having to shuffle through an inventory of tools each time I needed to do something I just needed to push the right button.

The only complaint I have with the base gameplay would be that the piles of trash can get overwhelming, and tedious after a while. Each area, big and small, is filled from edge to edge with piles for you to drill and suck up. And while it was fun in the beginning, after putting any amount of time in the game it becomes more of an annoying chore. It feels unnecessarily grindy and repetitive in that sense and I’m not sure what the fix would be. That said,  it is something that eventually detracts from the fun of the game unfortunately.

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I enjoyed my time with No Place Like Home even though the dire need for polish definitely affected my experience. With that in mind, the devs are clearly still putting in the work  to fix what they can, but those infinite trash piles… I just don’t know about those. I think if you are interested in giving this game a try then you need to prepare yourself for a game that’s not 100% there just yet, despite coming out of early access. The asking price of $20 is fantastic considering there is an endless amount of gameplay, but if you aren’t ready for the potential glitches then it might be worth waiting for another update of two.

You can find No Place Like Home on Steam, fresh from Early Access March 17th.