For the uninitiated, Animal Crossing is a life sim that puts players in the shoes of the sole human in a village populated entirely by – you guessed it – animals. It’s intentionally directionless; there is the motivation to earn cash to pay off your house loan and expand the size of your home, but for the most part, you’re left to your own devices.
New Horizons breaks the mold by dumping players onto a desert island.
New Horizons, however, breaks the mold somewhat by dumping players onto a desert island. It’s by far the most focused entry in the franchise, with a renewed emphasis on the town’s natural resources thanks to a new crafting mechanic.
While tools and furniture are still available to purchase by the normal means, there’s something a lot more satisfying about constructing a fishing rod with tree bark or building furniture out of ore obtained from rocks. It’s a fantastically implemented feature that offers a much-needed extra dimension to a gameplay formula in danger of becoming stale.
Like its predecessors, New Horizons is definitively a slow-burn experience. New features and characters are gradually drip-fed, and it will take weeks if not months to get the entire experience. Delayed gratification is the name of Animal Crossing’s game, and nowhere is that more apparent than in this entry’s introduction: entire sections of the island are inaccessible for a couple of days, and you’re only given two fellow islanders to talk to at the beginning. Try and play for more than an hour or so, and tedium will quickly set in.
It’s a rough start for those expecting heaps of content, to begin with, but it’s well worth sticking with; once more activities, crafting recipes and customisation options open up, the world of New Horizons becomes a much more inviting way to spend hundreds of hours.
Graphically speaking, the game is easily one of Nintendo’s most gorgeous efforts in recent years. The series has made the leap to HD without sacrificing the charming aesthetic that made 2013’s New Leaf such a joy; characters are adorably expressive, and strolling around your island on a sunny day is a genuine treat on a high-definition TV screen.
Once you make it through a slightly empty couple of opening days, New Horizons becomes an idyllic paradise – somewhere to spend a few minutes a day mingling with your new furry friends, or hours upon hours customising every inch of your island with unprecedented freedom. (The terraforming tools, unlocked after a couple of weeks of play, are a particularly exciting highlight).
One thing is for certain, though, in a world that doesn’t quite make sense right now, Animal Crossing: New Horizons is the game we all need right now.
Featured image credit: IGDB