Slime Rancher – Ranching Slimes all The Times

I remember talking very briefly about this in a months old podcast when we mentioned new releases and thinking 'Man that game sounds boring'. I was wrong.One afternoon I was killing time on YouTube when I ran across a Jim Sterling video about what looked to be some adorable bouncy little fellows that he had put in a cage. I thought then that Slime Rancher looked more interesting than I was giving it credit for. I did a quick search for it on the ol' Steam and found out that it was also on sale for a pretty reasonable price at around $14.00 so I shrugged and clicked "purchase for myself". A quick 800 megabyte download later and I was faced with a wonderful color filled world where I could find some cute bouncy fellows and put them in cages of my own to exploit later for money. Stick with me and I'll tell you some thoughts about Slime Rancher in a sort of mini review.

So About These Slimes...

Taking place on an extra solar planet known as the 'Far, Far Range' players will take on the role of Beatrix LeBeau. She was formerly a small shop owner on Earth who decided she wanted more out of life and signed up to be a rancher for a corporation called 7Zee.

I got the idea that the business of ranching adorable little gelatinous balls of slime has been around a while. Slimes produce 'Plorts' which are in simple terms a type of gem stone. These Plorts are specific to the breed of slime and are sold to the open market via a sort of transaction station next to the ranch house. Companies use pink Plorts for instance for everything from floor cleaner to spice additives in food. Gold Plorts are nothing more than decoration but of a higher quality than any Earth metal, as such are exceedingly rare and have the potential to bring in lots of the game currency 'Newbucks'. Market values change from day to day so that you'll find ups and downs and may decide to sit on your Plort stock until demand is higher.

Newbucks will add up and that's how ranchers are able to buy things like upgrades for slime corrals and fruit and veggie crops to feed them with. More money also means affording buying expanded ranch territories that add more space for slimes and crops. There's also the 7Zee Rewards club which is expensive in newbucks terms but allows customization along with the highest level player upgrades that can be attained.

The slimes themselves are plentiful and prodigious creatures of varying types that are found throughout the Far, Far Range. Pink are the most common and Gold and Luck slimes are the most rare. Find a type that needs a good ranching and just suck it up into your 'Vacpack' and bring it home to it's corral. Make sure it gets the food it likes and doesn't come into contact with more than one other type of slime in the same corral and you're in business. It's worth noting that Gold and Luck slimes cannot be vacuumed up to keep on the ranch. They can only be hit or fed by whatever item may be in Beatrix' inventory already on the off chance of producing a Plort to take home.

Breeding slimes is easy as slipping on a super snotty banana peel. Just toss two in the same place and soon you'll have a 'Largo' that combines the types of both slimes that produce both Plort types. A Crystal slime and a Dervish slime for instance will become a Crystal Dervish. Alternatively one can breed slimes on the go or just make it happen faster by feeding one type Plort from another type of slime for the same results. If a Largo is allowed to eat any other type of Plort it will turn into a 'Tarr' slime. Tarrs are bad. They will consume and infect any slimes they come into contact with, eat all the chickens on the ranch and try to take a bite out of ranchers. They can be destroyed by splashing them with water from Vacpack, by sucking them onto the Vacpack nozzle and shooting them into an incinerator, or by shooting them off a cliff into the Slime Sea. There are also 'Gordo' slimes of each type which are always blocking access to something useful. They will eat until they explode into lots of smaller slimes and will usually leave behind a slime key.

The Story

As Beatrix progresses in her career as a rancher she'll get mail from home and other ranchers. She regularly gets mail from a person called Casey who she has a history with and that's pretty much the story of the game. There's a second underlying story of the previous ranch owner; a guy named Hobson that plays out as Beatrix explores the world. To say anything other than both are bittersweet would be spoiling the whole thing. It's nothing super incredible, just life being life.

The Far Far Range

The range itself is not that huge, at least not where Beatrix is stationed. It's implied that the world itself is larger yet perhaps a bit smaller than Earth because gravity seems slightly less and there is no fall damage present. It's familiar and alien at the same time with trees and plants and islands poking through the ocean. Except that the trees are made of sponge or they happen to exist in several dimensions at once. The Slime Sea is very dangerous, a mix of slime and water that is not fit for drinking, or swimming. It's even speculated that slimes are born of the sea and come and go regularly.

Environments change regularly and keep things feeling pretty fresh with lots of paths to take and explore. Beatrix will locate fast travel locations in order to get home quickly once she's done exploring. Finding Gordo slimes and obtaining keys will allow access to locked off areas of the Range. There's even a fair amount of treasure hunting to be had. The Range is an open world so if you see it you can go there as long as you've got enough upgrades to Beatrix' jet pack. Taking risks is worth doing.

Short Lived?

Slime Rancher is loads of fun with very little downtime. It's not an action game, it's not a shooter, it's sort of an adventure game -- but it's got elements of all the above. Very little downtime is to be had, feed slimes, check crops, sell Plorts, explore, come home and sleep until the next day, start over. This works great for quite a while, I've got 54 hours into my game but the problem is that I've also got every upgrade and spent all the newbucks I can spend. So the only thing I have left to do is get the last version of a treasure cracker that will allow me to open the highest level chests. What then? There's literally nothing else to do. The world is fully explored, the slimes have all been enthusiastically ranched and Beatrix is just following a routine. So unless there's something super special in those high level treasure pods I think my personal Beatrix will just retire in luxury.

Technicals

The world of the Far, Far Range is a very colorful place. The texture design is pretty simple but also impressive and I think it comes together to keep things from looking flat and muddy. It's a very "early childhood" feeling place, so cute and blocky, like a formative program toddlers would watch on TV. However that design is coupled with some nice feeling first person mechanics. Slime Rancher isn't a shooter per se. It uses a "gun" if you will --but it's not a gun, it's a vacuum. Beatrix even has a jet pack she can use to fly around and explore her environment. In fact the whole player controller scheme is very similar to No Man's Sky, but without the truly terrible inventory problems.

Optimization seems to be pretty fair but once you have enough slimes bouncing around with enough particle effects, animations from trees and decorations placed around the ranch it's possible to see some frame drops. Normally I see frame rates in the 150+ range but on the ranch I can see them drop to around 45 at times.

I have to say unfortunately that I'm not a big fan of the music. It's fitting enough for the theme of the game but it all sounds a bit generic and is less pleasing that it is something to just listen to while exploring. However if you are a fan of the tunes on the Far, Far Range there is a soundtrack edition for $26.98 or the soundtrack itself is $10.00.

Sounds are equally cute as the animations but some of them are borrowed from other titles. The vocalizations the slimes make are the same as the goo balls in World of Goo. There's nothing wrong with that, in fact it's possible that those sounds are totally open sourced. Nothing feels ripped off mind you, but I noticed it right away.

Conclusion

Alright, so Slime Rancher is an adorable fun way to kill time. It's got a couple of stories to play out. Lots of colorful, smile inducing environments with some customization options. Maybe not loads of replay value but for the price tag it's worth a buy. I'd recommend Slime Rancher if you're a fan of things like Stardew Valley and oddly enough No Man's Sky. Or if you're just in a bad mood these cute little buggers are likely to cheer you up. A good smile is worth $20.00.

System Requirements for Slime Rancher are as follows

Windows:

MINIMUM:

    • OS: Windows XP(SP3)+
    • Processor: 2.2GHz Dual Core
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 512MB VRAM
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Storage: 1 GB available space

Mac:

MINIMUM:

    • OS: Windows XP(SP3)+
    • Processor: 2.2GHz Dual Core
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: 512MB VRAM
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Storage: 1 GB available space

Steam OS / Linux:

MINIMUM:

    • OS: Ubuntu 12.04+ or equivalent
    • Processor: 2.2GHz Dual Core
    • Memory: 4 GB RAM
    • Graphics: OpenGL 3.2 compatible, 512 MB VRAM
    • Storage: 1 GB available space
    • Sound Card: ALSA compatible