The cutest cruelty around: You should be playing Slime Rancher

What is it?

An FPS style farm sim where you raise slimes for profit via care, captivity and ruthless cullings. Also, you sell the poop for money.

Play it if you like...

A more direct style of management sim thanks to its first-person presentation, and making money by any means. 

  • Format: PC / Xbox One
  • Price: $19.99 / £14.99
  • Release date: Out now

Yes, I know it looks cute. Like sugar injected into your teeth levels of saccharin overkill. But don’t dismiss this yet - behind those slimes’ cute, loving eyes is a game of dark, murderous capitalism that will make you a monster. A despicable, money driven profiteer ready to incinerate a pen full of harmless adorable creatures the second they stop earning their keep. 

How can such a sweet looking game do such a thing? You’re a good person. You’d never stoop so low. Let’s look at how it works: you start off on an empty farm, in a cowboy-esque frontier. All you have are a number of plots to fill with cages, vegetable patches and other agricultural style stuff, and a kind of hoover gun. Using that, you strike out into the plains and suck up slimes to start your business.

Slimes do three things: eat, poop and stare at you adoringly. Only one of these is worth money, as for reasons never entirely explained, their crap can be cashed in. Catch ‘em, feed ‘em and then collect the droppings, called ‘plorts’, to sell. This money can then be used to upgrade your gun, improve the cages so it’s harder for slimes to escape, and so on.  

It’s a simple loop and it doesn’t take long before you’re learning the ins and outs of what kind of slimes eat what. There are multiple types of creatures, eating different kinds of veggies, meat like chickens, and with bonuses for giving them exactly the right food. There various slimes are scattered around new areas you unlock as you progress and explore. The plots around your farm can then be used to grow fruit, or veg, or raise chickens, hold slimes, or keep an incinerator handy. I’ll get to that in a moment.

It is an idyllic loop - care for your creatures, turn the plorts into cash and build your homestead - but things get dark quickly for two reasons. Firstly, there are only a limited number of plots on your farm, so you can’t have everything. Which wouldn’t be too bad if it wasn’t for the fluctuating value of plorts. 

You see, plorts don’t command a fixed price; they fluctuate like a poop-based financial market. And, as you buy more gear, it gets more expensive so you always need to be farming the most profitable crap. It means you have to make some harsh decisions. You might have spent hours working the heart beet-eating rock slimes for dollars, only to have the bottom fall out of the market.

This is where that incinerator comes in. You don’t have enough space on the farm to add new more profitable slimes. No, instead you have to get rid of the old ones. And you can’t just let them go because if slimes eat the wrong food they turn into largos - mutant troublemaking giant slimes. So you incinerate them: looking into their trusting eyes as they fly into the flames with a happy little noise.

You’ll feel awful. 

The first time. 

After a while you won’t even think about it. You’ll just check the latest plort prices and start collecting for ol’ burny without a second thought. It’s incredible how quickly you become a cold, heartless slime murderer because the game gives you no other option. It’s ruthless. If you want to progress you have to repeatedly cull pen-fulls of bright cheery little faces. This might look like a kids game but only grown ups will truly grasp it’s dark heart making it an interesting and conflicted experience. But that’s not to say this isn’t fun. I might have focused on its secret hidden darkness but, while your conscience withers to tiny calcified and forgotten nodule, you are having fun. There’s something lovely about wandering the bright sunny planes farming slimes and caring for them. That basic loop of collecting, feeding and lovely, lovely profit never lets you down. It’s just when you go to sleep… The nightmares. The screaming.

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In former lives Leon's been a scientist, a musician and teacher, stints that included a shoe full of liquid nitrogen, a small tour of Germany and oh GOD so much marking.
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