Phoenix Labs took an ambitious swing with their cozy farming social sim that also features some great dungeon combat, Fae Farm. At the same time, if you’ve only played the game alone, you’re not taking advantage of the ways in which the systems can be more manageable and even more fun when playing in Fae Farm co-op. A game that boasts the ability to play solo or with up to four players, it’s only necessary to look at how the game stacks up with other options in the genre.
The best part of Fae Farm’s co-op is that it encourages you to play with your friends and partners in the same world while also maintaining a level of autonomy that makes the world shared instead of entirely dependent on the action of the host—even if that’s the only way you can play. By tying together housing, crafting resources, storage, and ultimately money, Fae Farm is a co-op game that pushes you to communicate with the other player or players.
With a rather fast day cycle that rushes the pacing of the game and often makes it so that you can’t do everything in one day, especially without a partner, it’s important to learn how to delegate tasks. As your gardens grow bigger and you adopt more animals, tending to both can take up a significant amount of time. As does using the other crafting stations to either make money or resources to impact other elements, like putting bugs in their housing pin to create a byproduct that can then help you make fertilizer. With a rather complex crafting system that uses a large number of stations from smelting, cooking, and prepping to creating refined wood and, well, more, you have to decide where to put your shared resources and ultimately figure out who is in charge of what elements.
Without task delegation, it’s easy for one player to fall behind, and more importantly, with a shared bank, you have to manage how and when you spend your gold so that you don’t leave anyone else with whom you’re playing with empty pockets. But there really is nothing tying you to task delegation and no penalties other than what you can complete in a day cycle. This is an important feature because it allows a player to host a session with another player who may not be as involved, fostering a cozy ability to play intergenerationally between parents and children who may not be as aware of or concerned with the game’s many systems.
On the individuality side of things, Fae Farm co-op doesn’t force players in a shared world to complete the host’s quests. This means that you can complete each quest, relationship, or otherwise on your own or with your partner too. But if you find yourself coming into a world where the host has out-leveled the new character you create, players have access to items like the wand upon entering the game, though you will have to go to the mailbox and claim it. Additionally, if you have the materials, you can upgrade your other items too.
Ultimately, though, Fae Farm co-op is at its best when it comes to dungeons, making them faster to clear within the limited day cycle timing (the rushed pace being one of the game’s main issues) and ensuring that you can collect more resources on your runs through the levels.
Fae Farm co-op isn’t without its pitfalls, however. While games like Grounded have managed to allow players to keep building their bases and expanding their game while their co-op team is offline but still being drop-in-drop-out, Fae Farm takes its co-op in a more dated approach, tying each character created to the world in which they’re created.
But what does this mean for a player? Well, it means that Fae Farm co-op is limited to the world in which you begin your character. While you can join multiple worlds as well as host, you are required to make a new character for each world you join, losing any and all progress you may have had from your own world if you played alone first—or alternatively, lose all of your progress if you played in co-op first and didn’t host the world.
While it does seem standard for co-op games of the past, and it is something that I understand is necessary for a small team that can’t maintain larger servers, it is still a frustrating aspect that hurts playability from an individual standpoint, and the imbalance between you and your partner can be overwhelming depending on when you enter their world. And truly, if you’re okay with managing multiple characters, then this may not be a deal breaker for you, and you’ll feel little impact.
That said, the game does try to make up for this limitation by facilitating multiple games, though I’m not a player who can manage two homesteads, by offering crossplay between PC and the Nintendo Switch, which doesn’t limit who and when you can play with others. It’s something that shows that Phoenix Labs clearly designed the game to be a group activity from the start instead of just tacking it on, the latter of which is too often the case with cozy games.
Ultimately, though, for those looking for more narrative than you find in a cozy multiplayer game that you’ll find in Palia or more cooperative play elements that you find in Animal Crossing, Fae Farm co-op is a pretty stellar alternative. With nothing barred to you in your partner’s space, there is never a time when co-op feels like an afterthought. Additionally, with the elements of independence baked into the game’s quest system, Fae Farm co-op achieves the focus of letting the player have agency while playing games together, which is something to aim for in any take on co-op. Despite the limitations of its drop-in-drop-out system, Fae Farm co-op is the kind of multiplayer experience that anyone would want from a cozy game.