Over the past seven years, no farming simulator has escaped comparison to Stardew Valley. The question kept coming up: “How close is this title to the 2016 fan favorite?” With many other generic farming games, a friendly smile was answer enough.
Meanwhile, titles are being established that not only understand the successful concept of the former “leading cow of the genre”, but also improve on it – and Coral Island is definitely one of this type of farm simulator. access, version 1.0 is already on PC, Xbox Series X and PS5 appeared and landed directly on Game Pass.
Picturesque island setting with great attention to detail
Why it’s easy to get lost in the world of tropical islands is clear at first glance; at least if we look around the game itself and set aside the uninspired Steam screenshots that don’t do the title justice.
Coral Island comes with great 3D graphics and carefully designed locations. Light and weather effects create a pleasant atmosphere, for example when restaurant lights reflect on puddles or rain causes droplets at the edge of the field.
We also really enjoyed peeking into the locals’ homes, as the interiors are beautifully detailed. Scattered dirty clothes, a pile of papers, photographic equipment: there is a certain disorder there, as if someone actually lived there.
The characters that live there seem as lively as the interiors. The 28 bachelors and all the other locations feel much more real than they do in Stardew Valley or especially the Story of Seasons series.
The characters are diverse and have different skin colors, the doctor Yuri has piercings and tattoos, the mother Suki has stretch marks, the local teacher has a prosthetic arm. There would definitely be more in terms of body types, especially in the direction of turns, but at least there’s more variation here than in other farming sims.
If we get to know the characters better, we often unexpectedly stumble upon authentic scenes from their normal everyday lives. When three people try to drag a couch onto the first floor and struggle to turn the corner, it makes Starlet Town and its residents more believable.
Since we initially didn’t have any console keys available, we tested Coral Island primarily on the Steam Deck. It worked very well at 60 fps. We also only noticed minor bugs, like occasional interruptions in music.
However, there are major problems with the German text language (the game has no voice output) in the version made available in advance. Sometimes text would switch to English for a few lines and then switch back, which we hope can be quickly fixed with a patch
What does it look like on Xbox Series X/S and PS5? Even a quick look at the consoles reveals major problems. The game briefly freezes in the city when we move from one area to another or open the map and close it again.
We also noticed severe interruptions in the music, lack of noise, and graphical errors such as flickering. We can’t give a specific rating for the console versions because we haven’t played them enough to see the severity of the issues over time, but we wouldn’t (yet) recommend them to you.
Coral Island – Launch trailer introduces version 1.0 after the end of early access
Enhance, beautify, expand – above and below the water
If you want typical farm simulation activities like farming, taking care of your cute round creatures, crafting, decorating, exploring nature and cutting monsters in the mine, then you shouldn’t get bored in Coral Island so quickly.
The game has a huge amount of activities and mechanics. Before we jump into action, we create our character in an extensive editor. We then find ourselves on a large above-ground map with unlockable areas – and there is also an equally extensive dive map.
Sometimes, in our opinion, the game goes a little overboard and makes us work too hard to progress, especially when we have to throw tons of trash into the sea and would like to call a container company to do it.
Coral Island offers a tab for different accessibility settings in the menu, where you will find, among other things:
- Modes for color vision deficiency (including strength settings)
- Dyslexia Font and Font Size Adjustment
- Size settings for HUD, mouse cursor and hotbar
Cleaning the ocean floor of trash and oil is one of our most important tasks. Not only do we meet jellyfish and colorful corals, but we also meet the sea people – and we can even advance to three members. But even beyond the exciting fantasy component, the ecological message fits harmoniously into the gameplay.
For example, we adopt an animal from an animal shelter instead of buying a dog from a store. The whole story is about the pollution that gave Starlet Town a dismal rating and is now scaring tourists, among other things.
At the animal shelter, some fluffy friends await their forever homes.
As in every farming simulator, you build your own farm according to your ideas.
That’s why in scenes and festivals everyone works together to clean, reforest and create new things; and not without pressure, because a greedy oil company wants to take advantage of the financial situation to squeeze every last drop from the city.
Details and features we love
In addition to our efforts to protect the sea (which are in no way fueled by folk romances of the sea), we are also trying to make Starlet Town more attractive in many other ways. For example, we look for exhibits for the museum.
It’s a huge benefit to our brains that we can check the menu at any time to see what creepy crawlies and fish we’ve already donated. This is just one of the many quality of life features that we will miss in many farming simulators in the future; as well as the ability to use the character’s profile on the map to show us where an NPC is currently located. No more annoying searches!
Days before the spooky festival, every corner of the city is fantastically decorated, as you can see here. The festival itself is even more impressive.
If we interact with the villagers’ pets, we’ll get a series of cute lines of text commenting on it.
Of course, these are just little things, like the detailed setup or the fact that we get a series of cute lines of text when interacting with local pets: “You wonder how candy is so cute? It is it can be so cute. But it’s precisely these details that make a life simulation live up to its name and feel alive.