If you are a fan of gentle, non-threatening farming and crafting, then there is a chance that Staxel will be right up your alley. For those who expect a bit more oomph and suspension of disbelief in their gaming, instead it’ll be a dull and mediocre experience.
You begin your time in the charmingly constructed Minecraft-like world by learning the basics of growing stuff. Once you have mastered this and harvested a bounty of crops, you can sell them and use your hard-earned agricultural dough to start building, making improvements to your own home and eventually taking jobs building bespoke structures of your own design out in the wider community. The problem is, the crafting and obtaining your raw materials in Staxel is an absolute pain.
It takes forever to craft things, you regularly run into situations where you cannot actually obtain a specific item, and the rewards for making things can be meager at best. There is little in the way of a tutorial or direction in place hinting at where you may be able to find certain things, which can lead to a lot of trial and error and frustration.
The way things are set up almost encourages you to spend money on things like the furniture and structures you are aiming to build rather than earn the money to make the blighters yourself. It feels like such a grind, particularly when selling crops comes with diminishing returns as the sale price plummets the more you sell each item, with a cooldown period for the value to creep back up to an acceptable level.
Some of the side hustles here are fun – I am very fond of collecting bugs both in real life and in videogames and there is a plethora of critters to find – and then sell – in this. Likewise, the cookery aspect has a surprising amount of depth and some fun recipes to learn and cook up. There is a great sense of freedom in being able to build your own buildings – when you eventually have the tools to do the job.
Staxel demands very little of the player, to the point where it does become tedious. There is no time limit, no threat, no urgency of any kind. There is no characterisation to speak of other than the opinions the townsfolk have of you, and there is not a whiff of story underpinning everything. You just do things at your own pace, ad infinitum. While this will suit those who came for the laid back feel, it lacks the compulsive elements of other titles that influenced it like Stardew Valley and Mojang’s finest.
Cooking and bugs are cool
A real grind