Deiland: Pocket Planet Edition (Switch) Review
I hit go on Deiland: Pocket Planet with low expectations. It seemed a cutesy, simple farming sim that I might play for a few days to review and then happily archive in my library. And I have to say that it met that bar perfectly, which is fine – not every game needs to be something that we play for six months.
The main thing Deiland has going for it is that your farm is a planetoid. This adds a layer of spatial adjustment to the gameplay. The way the camera tends to spin in orientation as you play had me a bit confused for a good few hours. All sense of things being in a certain direction from your main farm become meaningless when the camera is not fixed, and this creates the need to press X to zoom out to a full-planet view, where you can rotate your small planet around to check for relative directions and any new resources or enemies that need to be collected or dealt with.
Attached to this novelty are a a handful of interacting systems that are fun to play around with. For instance, early on, with only a few crops growing and empty wells, I received a notification that there was rainfall. When I went into the zoomed-out view and turned the planetoid around, the clouds stayed in place, allowing me to situate my crops and dry wells beneath the precipitation, which hastened growth and filled water supplies. These small, logical interactions provide some pleasure in an experience that is otherwise focused on busy work and production chains that always feel just out of reach.
I was not a fan of the combat or the need to eat food. The combat never gives you the chance to avoid or block incoming damage, and if you die the creatures take a percentage of your items, which can feel incredibly unfair early on. Having to eat to avoid losing health is a survival element that I just have no interest in and, frankly, feels like another ball to juggle rather than providing any kind of pleasure in obtaining food in the first place. It mostly needs to be bought from visiting merchants in the early game, prior to growing your own bushes or crops and working towards recipes.
Occasionally, random visitors will drop by and you’ll need to pause what you are doing to indicate where they can land. They will give you quests to fulfill as well as offer outlets for buying and selling. The randomness can be frustrating when you have no wood, metal, seeds or food and need to wait for a visitor in order to acquire what you need.
The general flow from simple structures to more complex chains build at an expected pace, but there are some design decisions that frustrate. For example, the fishing mini game requires you to move a baited hook near a fish and then quickly hit a required (random) button to catch it. The problem is that I don’t know the button layout of the Switch like I do the Xbox or PlayStation – the Switch still confuses my brain if I’m forced to react to a button prompt under pressure. I therefore wasted my entire supply of bait with failures. Why couldn’t this just be a fixed button to press?
The resource economy also feels strange. For instance, you might need 30 wood, 80 stone and 5 metal to build a kitchen expansion, yet for each tree you have grown from a seed, you only get 4 wood in total for chopping it down and losing that resource completely. Thus follows the grind to plant more trees and wait for them to grow. Meanwhile, you might have no metal and not enough money to buy more, so you must put it at the back of your mind and find something else to do and hope you remember what you needed an hour down the track. You can only grow trees near a well, which requires stone and wood to build, so you’re on the backfoot there, spending resources you were saving for a kitchen. In the end, the deliberate hampering of goal achievements starts to feel too much like actual work.
All that said, the act of farming, chopping, bashing, collecting and so on is still perfectly enjoyable in small spurts. It is wrapped up in colourful graphics and accompanied by pleasant music and inoffensive dialogue that makes Deiland: Pocket Planet a serviceable itch-scratcher if you want to try something situated between the unfettered freedom of Littlewood and more addictive loops of Stardew Valley.
Deiland: Pocket Planet is a perfectly fine farming sim with the novelty of eking out existence on little planets. However, the lean towards busy work means that only fans of the survival genre will get the most out of it.
+ Looks and sounds nice
+ Some pleasing interactive systems
+ Farming on a planet is cool
- Feedback loops quickly blow out
- May frustrate younger players or those not familiar with survival gameplay