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Lightyear Frontier is a cozy farming sim where you can deforest half the map with a fury that would make the Lorax weep

If there’s one thing I love in videogames, it’s completing little tasks—it may not seem like much, but it’s honest work. So when it came to Lightyear Frontier, I couldn’t wait to roll up my mech’s metaphorical sleeves and get to work on fixing up a deserted alien planet with nothing but time on my hands and a rigorous checklist.

After catapulting a couple of stones into the woods and mending a broken mech, I got to work building my base camp. Furnished with all the latest luxuries like a clothesline, tent, a few planting plots, and even a garden shed, everything was looking livable and I was ready to finally explore the strange world in which I found myself. But as I started to make my way through the green meadows, more and more tasks began to litter the upper left corner of my screen—harvest polyberrys, build a merchant dock, feed animals, make an oil presser—it was at this point that I realised even my love of checklists has limits.

What started out as building a couple of bits of machinery that would help me craft important resources ended with me racing through Lightyear Frontier, harvesting every tree, rock, mineral, or shiny-looking item that may be of use later down the line. With a growing list of fetch quests on my mind, I ignored most of the gorgeous amber sunsets and adorable little critters which ran around at my feet in favour of a head-down harvesting approach—it took me two nights to notice the gigantic florescent planet in the sky above me.

My farm came first, then upgrading my mech, and then finally, what I think the crux of the game is, the ecological restoration of this alien planet. It took quite a long time to get everything in working order, upgrading my mech with better boosters and storage capacity so I could traverse the landscape easily, as well as building advanced machinery like grinders and flower presses so my farm could generate a steady output of resources.

A budding metropolis, sort of

The start of Lightyear Frontier is slow. It’s not like other cosy farming sims like Stardew Valley or Slime Rancher 2, where you can dive headfirst into the world and start doing whatever you want. In Stardew Valley, the world is your oyster; I’m used to running off into the mines or fishing to my heart’s content, but Lightyear Frontier introduces you to skills with the guardrails on, holding your hand every step of the way. I’m not exactly the most patient person, so jumping through hoops and doing everything by the book when I have an entire alien planet to explore was frustrating to begin with.

Despite my instincts pushing me to abandon everything and run off into the horizon with only a stick and a rock, I stuck with Lightyear Frontier and methodically checked every task off my list, building everything that the game told me I would need. It took me around four hours in all, and in other circumstances I’m not sure I would have kept pushing forward with the endless checklists

Eventually, Lightyear Frontier does finally open up a bit. Mining the copper deposits at Edge Cliffs or looking out over the dense forests from Stepstone Peak were some of the first times in which I truly appreciated that oddly beautiful scenery of this alien planet. For a few short minutes every day, sunset covers the landscape in a gorgeous golden glow—somehow it even manages to make my rusty farm equipment look pretty.

Slowly, my settlement transformed into a functioning farm which I can be pretty proud of. I’m now growing Rabbages, caroots, enough polyberry’s to feed a small city, and even some wheat thanks to a helpful trader, Lola, who visits me every now and then to offer new seeds, equipment, and decorative items like benches or birdboxes.

Out here acting like the Once-ler

The process of transforming my Lightyear Frontier farm from a quaint homestead into a well-oiled machine is great fun, but I can’t help but feel like I’m missing the point. Right now, the only main tasks that are left for me to complete are cleaning up the various areas of the planet that are covered in noxious slime or poisonous weeds, which are sapping the local wildlife of its vibrant beauty and health.

Honestly, if noxious pods, which drop from the poisonous slime or plants, aren’t on my list of required materials for upgrades, then cleaning up the mess in the lowland planes or Stepstone Peak isn’t on my radar. There’s too much to do, build, and explore to get hung up on ecological pursuits right away, plus the outer regions are covered in poisonous debris that requires some hefty mech upgrades, which inevitably means more days in the mines harvesting resources.

But the most humbling realisation came to me after I’d effectively deforested half of The Meadows—am I the bad guy? Trees don’t drop tons of seeds, and if they do I certainly don’t bother picking them up, which means that I’m currently in a bit of a deficit. I’m not sure how my lack of respect for the local wildlife will affect the local ecosystems, but sapping every region of all its resources can’t be healthy. Alas, even if I wanted to I cannot stop this Lorax reinactment, there’s just too many structures to build and new tasks to tick off.

I played Lightyear Frontier on my lonesome and did rush through a lot of the areas and quests to try and see everything that’s on offer, which honestly did sap some of the joy in what looks like a calm and cozy farming sim. But I get the feeling that if you took your time, slowly building everything up, this would be a great sim to dip in and out of every now and then, especially if you have friends who are ready to help maintain your farm. More hands on deck may give you extra time to properly look after this beautiful alien planet in the way it deserves.

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