Lightyear Frontier offers stress-free building and crafting with a sci-fi flavour | Early access review

by on March 15, 2024

At some point while playing through the early access version of Lightyear Frontier, I hit upon a bit of a personal revelation. It turns out that what may attract me to survival-crafting-farming games is the sense of omnipresent danger. Call me weird but I think being in a state of almost constant starvation, exhaustion, and peril while also being more lost than an influencer in a job centre is appealing. And so Lightyear Frontier‘s frictionless atmosphere initially left me floundering outside my comfort zone. My comfort zone apparently being the shark-infested waters surrounding the five-star holiday island.

Because Lightyear Frontier really is frictionless. There are very few failstates beyond shutting the game down, no giant rats or alien bugs to fight, no lethal weather. And I’m playing this coming off Nightingale, a game where the hailstones kill you in seconds. This being early access, though, Lightyear is a little rough around the edges in places, and I played some on Steam Deck, which didn’t help. But what’s impressive is that it’s still one of the nicest games I’ve played in a while.

Lightyear Frontier

It begins with you on an alien world in need of a damn good farming. It’s a very pretty alien world, too, with rolling hills, trees blowing softly in the breeze, blue skies on the horizon, colourful wildlife leaping gayly about the place that you’re never required to “harvest” to make a new pair of trousers. The unique selling point here is that you don’t have to run around axing trees or mining rocks, because you have a bloody great mech to do it for you. Well, not for you. You still have to pilot it, so don’t get too comfortable.

The mech comes with just under half a dozen tools that you’ll need to locate in your immediate vicinity and attach. There’s a tool for storing water and one for spraying it; there’s a saw for breaking trees and rocks; there’s a “seed shooter” (chuckle) which literally shoots seeds into mounds of soil. Once you have everything, your first job is to build a shelter, then a seed box, then gather parts for a tent and an oil presser, and so on.

Light Front

In all honesty, the crafting-farming elements are fairly straightforward. Lightyear Frontier doesn’t revolutionise much in terms of the mechanics. If you’ve been keeping up with the frankly insane number of crafting and survivable games that have released over the last few months or so, then very little here is going to take you by surprise. You gather materials to build more stations, storage, and equipment, which makes you strong enough to gather rarer materials and upgrade further, and so on and so forth.

The major difference here is that the endgame goal isn’t to dominate an ancient dungeon, create the fanciest new trousers, or reach some mythical mecca; it is simply to exist in this world, to build and farm, explore and create, without worrying you’ll be woken up one night by a tentacled horror from beyond the void trying to get in your sleeping bag with you.

Instead, you’ll build and gather, run and rocket boost, and you can even get out of your mech if you want to – though you’ll be unable to gather with your puny arms. Sometimes you’ve no choice but to get out, by the way, as if you take a tumble into water or off a ledge you can end up stuck upside down. Luckily those puny human arms are able to “flip” the mech over if it gets stuck, so I don’t know who’s fooling who here.

Lightyear Frontier review

While Lightyear Frontier may not have the same “striding boldly into the unknown” appeal of something like Valheim, Nightingale, or Enshrouded, it’s more about being at one with your own little planet. There are “missions” that task you with clearing up gunk or pulling weeds, and you can feed animals with specific types of food that you’ll need to find or process. If anything, Lightyear Frontier isn’t always super clear on what you need to do next or where you can find certain ingredients, but with huge open areas, dark caves that often contain a hint of sci-fi mystery, and dense woodland, there are plenty of places to explore for materials.

If you need a hand, you can also invite a friend in to co-op with you, and work together to build your farmstead. It speeds up gathering and processing, as you can imagine, and is just a really wholesome experience. I’m sure there are ways to grief one another, but why would you? Lightyear Frontier is a lovely, chilled, stress-free experience and one of the rare ones that isn’t ruined by the presence of another player.

Lightyear Frontier

There are some cool quality of life features right out of the box, too. As in Nightingale, for instance, Lightyear allows you to lay the ghost of what you’re planning to build and fill up the materials as you gather them, making it super easy to plan your next move and stay focused on a project. The build menu and placement feels a little clunky with a controller, but these things are usually tweaked throughout the early access period.

As with any survival-crafting-farming game in early access, Lightyear Frontier will only grown and evolve – but unlike many of its contemporaries, it already feels like a complete experience. How long it can sustain my interest with so few possibilities of sudden death or unannounced explosions of violent fury when the wildlife is careless enough to wander through my domain remains to be seen, but if you want a relaxing, good-looking, steady little farming sim with a touch of sci-fi and lots of scope to build and grow, Lightyear Frontier’s early access offering is worth checking out.


Lightyear Frontier comes to early access on PC via Steam and Xbox preview program on Xbox Series S|X on March 19th.