Take a deep breath – you've earned it. Stardew Valley is owed a lot of credit for the way it quietly renovated the peaceful farming adventure beyond the confines of Harvest Moon, and Lightyear Frontier feels like a natural expansion of those core ideals. It's you, up to three friends, a planet on the far edge of the galaxy, and a mech suit equipped with all the tools you could ever need to build a homestead worth splashing across social media.
There's something undeniably relaxing about Lightyear Frontier. I don't know whether it's the brushstrokes of bright color, the space you're granted to carefully farm alien crops, the miles of untamed wilderness to wander, or the cosmic country soundtrack playing behind it all, but Lightyear Frontier is the sort of experience where it's okay to just sit and spend a while. There are no survival systems to manage, no hunger or stamina restrictions to track, nor any combat challenges to mitigate. Lightyear Frontier reigns its focus down to the essentials: farming, exploration, and discovery.
You'll complete all of these activities from the pilot's seat of your very own customizable mech-suit. Admittedly, the thing itself is pretty sticky to control in its current incarnation, but the utility offered by the suit is certainly fun to wield even if core movement isn't. You're able to switch out the arm attachments as you slowly wheel around the environment, using something like the resource drill to grind down rocks and trees and then a hoover to scoop up the components at a distance. Harvesting materials is rarely enjoyable in these sorts of games, but Lightyear Frontier has tried its best to have some fun with it, which I appreciate.
I was only able to sample a little of the building and farming aspects of Lightyear Frontier, but there's a playful charm to the presentation. I was able to pull up a Build menu at any time and pour resources into structures like storage boxes, merchant platforms, and plots to grow crops. The system is fast and intuitive – exactly as it should be. I have to say, I'm also a big fan of the way you fire seeds directly into the soil, before then using an equippable water-cannon to bring them to life. It's a little silly, but then who said farming alien crops has to be serious?
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It's difficult to judge an experience like Lightyear Frontier from a short playtest – its real hooks and jagged edges will only be revealed when total hours played clicks into double (if not triple) digits – but I like what I have played of it so far. And I'm eager to see how some of the more challenging systems are introduced, such as changing weather conditions impacting your farms and hungry wildlife eating your harvest should you totally exhaust local resources. The idea of needing to balance your relationship with the surrounding ecosystem and living sustainably is a nice touch, one that I'm keen to see whether the development teams at Frame Break and Amplifier Game Invest can deliver on.
That's true of other elements too, such as the diversity of harvest that can be sowed, the expansive retro-futuristic farms that can be constructed, and the interplanetary neighborhoods you can become a part of. There's even the option to pivot from farming crops entirely, domesticating different species of alien wildlife to create intergalactic ranches. The bones of it are present in Lightyear Frontier, what remains now is the question of how well it can execute on its ambitions. Thankfully, it handles well enough for a game that's currently moving through early access, with intuitive controls and a clear user interface on Xbox Series X – often the make or break with these sorts of 3D farming simulators. But for right now, just existing in this strange, colorful world is enough for me.
Lightyear Frontier is one of our most anticipated new games for 2023. It's one of the key upcoming PC games launching into early access this spring, and it'll land day one on Game Pass for Xbox Series X later this year.