No Place Like Home Review

Farming Sim Spotlight: No Place Like Home Review

For the longest time, Harvest Moon was the only farming game on the block. It was the only series in which players could experience a laid-back farming lifestyle, marry the person of their dreams, and start a family. That all changed in 2016.

2016 saw the release of Stardew Valley, an indie title developed by a single developer that expanded and improved upon many of the concepts introduced by the Harvest Moon series. It greatly expanded the number of crops, the types of farms, and the kinds of enemies we could fight. In short, it changed what we expect from a farming sim, and all entries into the genre will be measured between it and Harvest Moon.

No Place Like Home is a game that has been in Early Access on Steam but is being fully released on March 17, 2022. Its Indie developers, Chicken Launcher, are seeking to make a name for themselves in the fantasy farming simulation genre by bringing a few novel twists to the concept of fixing up a farm and making it prosperous.

If you’re ready to get started, make sure to bring your cleaning shoes, as that’s how we’ll be spending most of our time. Let’s jump into the world of No Place Like Home.

Bottom Line Up Front

  • No Place Like Home is an indie farming simulator for PC set in the future when most humans have left Earth.
  • They left behind a trashed world, filled with garbage to clean up and animals to rescue.
  • You play as Ellen Newland, a girl who is looking for her grandfather and cleaning up the world in the process.
  • No Place Like Home can be purchased for PC on Steam for $19.99.

Story

Ellen Newland is a girl who is about to leave Earth for good. She’ll be going to Mars to join the rest of humanity, which has left Earth for metaphorical greener pastures. That makes you wonder one thing – what’s happened to Earth to make everyone want to leave?

The answer is simple: it’s become a dump. Earth is covered in trash, with plastic bags, glass bottles, tin cans, and cardboard boxes resting in piles on land and floating in the waters.

Before Ellen leaves, she wants to find her grandfather. There’s only one problem – her grandfather is nowhere to be found, and his farm has become a wreck in his absence. An unkempt farm is a farming-sim trope by now, but the missing grandfather is an interesting and new aspect.

After arriving on the farm and speaking to Cornelius, a talking chicken filled with gameplay wisdom, you find a letter in your living quarters. It discloses that Grandpa is on a mission, but he wants you to leave for Mars without him if he isn’t back in two weeks. That just isn’t feasible for Ellen, so she decides to dig in, fix the farm, and save her grandfather in the process.

I like the refreshing mission-oriented story that No Place Like Home presents. While it still has the laid-back farming experience of other games in the farming sim family, there’s a small sense of urgency to the events of this game. It’s not enough to ruin what I believe to ultimately be a relaxing game, but it does make it different, and that’s a good thing.

Gameplay

When No Place Like Home begins, you’re immediately thrown into a tutorial to show you some gameplay basics. You can choose from either Creative or Adventure mode. The main difference between the two is that Creative mode provides all upgrades and tools to you for free from the beginning of the game, while Adventure mode makes you do a little more work for it.

For the purposes of this No Place Like Home review, I chose Adventure mode. After you watch a cutscene that sets up the story and you wrap up the tutorial, you soon arrive on your grandfather’s farm. Like the rest of the world, it’s filled with trash.

Working on the Farm

If anything, all that trash serves as a way to get used to one of the core mechanics of the game: breaking down solid blocks of trash and then sucking everything up with the contraption on your back, the Vac Pal. For the next few moments, I became obsessed with using the laser on my drill to break blocks, sucking up the resulting trash, and building things to fulfill quests for Cornelius, a traveling, talking chicken. He shows you the basics of clearing land, planting crops, and raising animals.

Carrying out your tasks is pretty easy, but Ellen is a little stiff. Her running animation looks fine, but when you come to a stop, she’ll snap back into place. Other than that, she controls perfectly fine. Lasering through trash blocks and sucking up debris is a breeze and quite addictive. Placing crafting tools and farming buildings is as simple as snapping them into place. Farming, however, takes a little getting used to.

Your drill/laser/vacuum/hose is the only tool you have in No Place Like Home, so there’s no switching from an ax to a hoe and back again just moments later. That means for farming, there has to be a workaround for some aspects. Instead of tilling dirt with a hoe, you’ll get an item that is just a plot of dirt that you can place. It isn’t the most elegant of solutions, but it works. Once planted, you water your crops with the built-in hose and water tank of your drill pack. You’ll have to refill your water tank, but this is as easy as sucking up water using your vacuum.

Beyond the Farm

After you finish the initial quests that Cornelius gives you, you’ll be forced to venture further out into the world to look for clues to your grandpa’s whereabouts. There are other humans still on Earth, and most of them sell upgrades for your tools and buildings or blueprints for farm buildings and equipment, or recipes.

You’ll spend most of your time out in the wild doing pretty much the same thing you were doing on your farm: destroying trash blocks and sucking up trash. You’d think that it would get repetitive, but somehow, this game manages to make it a relaxing and peaceful experience.

While you’re out and about, you’re also sure to encounter robot enemies. These enemies have different abilities, from charging at you to spitting acid. None of them are particularly difficult to beat – simply get close enough to them and click until they’re dead. Combat is a bit boring, to be honest, and found it just to be a nuisance when doing the more enjoyable cleaning tasks, as strange as that sounds.

In the areas outside your farm, you’ll find random treasures and animals as you clear the land. These animals can be befriended and sent to your farm, provided you have the right item, the right building, and enough room in that building. I felt there was a little disconnect here when recruiting animals since the item didn’t always make sense. For example, chickens want potatoes before they’ll go to your farm, while pigs want honey before they’ll consider you a friend. Nothing major, but it’s a strange choice.

Customization Galore

Where No Place Like Home truly excels is its ability to let the player customize nearly everything about your farm. Your farmhouse can be filled with decorations and furniture of your choosing, so you can let your inner interior designer loose. Your animals can be customized, too, with custom names and special hats, like bunny ears and frog heads.

The customization aspect of No Place Like Home isn’t as important as its core gameplay, but it doesn’t hurt that it brings so much fun to the game. It helped to make me feel like I was reshaping the dirty landscape for the better by cleaning it up and planting trees, building new structures, and removing waste.

Lack of Polish

All in all, the farming, trash clearing, and exploring aspects of No Place Like Home’s gameplay all control nicely and work well together. That said, I did notice some areas of the game that simply lacked the expected polish.

The typos in dialogue came way too often for a game that presents itself as well as No Place Like Home. There were also some strange design choices, like allowing the player to return home, save their game, and start a new day from the pause menu, but not restoring the player’s health as sleeping would normally do.

As for questing, the beginning quests didn’t seem to be teaching skills in a linear fashion. They had you finding and freeing chickens for information about your grandfather one minute, then dressing those same chickens up in funny hats the next. The quick tone switch was jarring at times.

The most important thing is that the small problems I had with No Place Like Home never added up to anything that serious. Most of them could be solved with just a little more attention to detail from the developer, as they already have a solid game here. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of playing this game and the new elements it brings to the farming sim genre.

Visuals

Beautiful Landscapes

No Place Like Home offers a look at Earth if everyone decided to trash it and then immediately leave. Despite the piles and piles of garbage, the game manages to wow with its visuals. While it’s not cutting edge by any means, No Place Like Home’s quirky mix of bright, multicolored landscapes and the dull, grimy browns of the trash blocks and trash piles manages to look great whether you’re in the greens of a forested area or whites of a snow-covered mountainous area. What the game lacks up for in seasonal diversity, it makes up for in sheer variety of landscapes to play around in and explore.

On that point, No Place Like Home introduces enough variety in its locations that it continues to remain fresh throughout the game. The enemies in said locations might be very similar, but I loved getting to see which place I would be revitalizing next. My favorite was the first area, as it set the tone for the work you would have to do and the skills you would need for the rest of the game.

Interesting Character Designs

I’m a bit torn on the characters of No Place Like Home. On the one hand, they’re largely forgettable in terms of story, as they only serve to give you information about Ellen’s grandfather and sell you blueprints, upgrades, or resources. On the other hand, Ellen’s design and the design of every NPC in the game has a certain flair to it that I love.

It feels like a grimy version of steampunk, as Ellen wears goggles as she goes about her work and all of the machines look patched together. It’s an enjoyable aesthetic and it makes up for any shortcomings the characters may have story-wise.

Sound

Indie games are hit-or-miss when it comes to music and sound in general. No Place Like Home can be marked down as a hit. Every track in the game is fun to listen to, whether it be the farm’s theme or the song that plays when you enter any one of the game’s many underground areas.

Sound effects are everything in a farming game, and No Place Like Home does great here, too. The clucks of chickens and oinks of pigs are all there, as well as the sounds of running water and tweeting birds as we explore new areas. Even the robot enemies have unique sounds as they kick into gear, ready to attack Ellen. Sound is, without a doubt, one of the best parts of No Place Like Home, and it helps to make up for mistakes that the game makes elsewhere.

Replay Value

Farming simulations inherently have a lot of replay value to them. You can always make different choices about your farm’s layout, the crops you grow, and the animals you raise. No Place Like Home is no different in this regard.

Outside of that, No Place Like Home has a devoted development team that has a history of transparency and has done a great job of supporting the game as it moves from early access to full release.

Final Verdict

No Place Like Home is a good, but not great, game. It’s worth playing if you’re a fan of farming simulations and want a new take on the genre that plays by its own rules. One more coat of polish would make this game truly great.

Score: 7/10

FAQs

Question: How do I water my plants and refill my water tank in No Place Like Home?

Answer: To water your plants, click the right mouse button. If you click and let go, it will do a quick spray, but if you hold it, it will make a stream. To refill the water tank of your Vac Pal, simply vacuum water from any open water source in the game.

Question: Where do foxes go after I give them strawberries to befriend them?

Answer: If you befriend a fox, it will go to an available grotto. The first available grotto is in the first area next to the farm

Question: How do I break trash bricks of different kinds?

Answer: After the initial trash bricks, you’ll come across different bricks made of construction rubble, rubber, glass, and electronic materials. They can all be broken down by bashing on them with your drill or using your drill laser, but you’ll have to purchase an upgrade, first. Drill upgrades can be purchased from Rudy, who lives on your farm in the area with the run-down llama barn. You can purchase the following upgrades:

Rubble – 50 Prepared Meals, 1 Egg
Rubber Waste – 375 Prepared Meals, 1 Truffle
Glass Waste – 500 Prepared Meals
Electronic Waste – 750 Prepared Meals, 1 Milk

Conclusion

I enjoyed playing No Place Like Home, but its easily fixable mistakes were too much for me to give it a higher score. That said, I highly recommend it to any Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon fan. It’s a fun game that does a lot to try to shake up fantasy-driven farming simulation games.

I didn’t know what to expect when I started No Place Like Home, but I left with the notion that I want future farming simulation games to do more to experiment with the genre, like No Place Like Home. It’s definitely worth the price, so give it a try when you can.

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