And that is something of a disappointment. As seems to be the case with Switch exclusives — it wasn’t really one on my personal gaming radar. I had no intent to pick it up prior to the day I actually did so. This was the pattern with Fire Emblem: Three Houses, too. Then, like now, there was an incredible blog and twitter presence in the lead up to release and immediately following. If you look at the blogosphere now for example — you’ll find absolutely no shortage of people who love this ‘Animal Crossing’ thing to death.

Twitter paints a similar picture. It was in fact the revelation on Twitter of the inclusion of the design tools (for shirts, flags, hats, pictures, etc) that finally tipped me over the edge to purchasing.

I liked Stardew Valley afterall, what could go wrong?

My hapless li’l guy, still not quite sure what is going on.

Well, as it turns out — a fair bit.

Before I begin though; if it isn’t already abundantly clear there are plenty out there who love this game to bits. My opinion is just that, and also it would appear to be a minority held opinion. So take everything I say with a giant grain of salt and the understanding that my experience wouldn’t necessarily be your experience if Animal Crossing: New Horizons otherwise sounds like your kind of things.

The Problem with Comparison

I thought because Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing both shared themes of ‘getting away to a quieter life’ and involving crafting and a slow unlocking of additional areas or things to do that they would play very similarly.

Or at least, similarly enough that enjoyment of one should safely ensure the enjoyment of the other.

This isn’t really true though.

I think the biggest issue I’ve faced is one of pacing. Animal Crossing: New Horizons (after a brief introductory sequence) aligns itself to real time. And I’m not going to lie — I find this concept to be cool as fark. Understandably those who can’t play at anything beyond a single time of day may feel differently as it would block access to certain fish and insects.

That’s not the issue I have, more it is how this time system is used. Essentially any action along the lines of building your house, placing an extension, building a museum is going to take at least a real time day from the time you trigger the action until the time it completes.

It feels a lot like a Mobile game time-gate to me — even though the icky pay-to-progress mechanics are of course absent.

Yes. The idea of the game at some level is to take it casually. Not to rush through things.

That’s all good and well. But for the style of player that I am it feels very much like the game is saying, ‘Alright, that’s enough fun for today’ every time one of these roadblocks come up.

In Stardew Valley, the days are more or less under your control. When you’re done with a day — or heaven forbid, you drain yourself of energy — the day ends and you commence a new one. Projects that take multiple days in Stardew Valley are therefore still under your control as to what pace they are completed.

There are other differences too — the focus in farm building vs. one of town and community, for one. But these are not deal breakers for me. It’s the pacing issue that so dramatically shifts the direction and my ability to enjoy them.

Pacing in the Early Game

Look, I realise the irony in complaining about pacing and then 600-odd words later still talking about the early game… But it’s just to give you a taste of the experience, OK? ;)

The Museum, it’s finally built!

More seriously — I could even have withstood this early game pacing without issue for the most part. I’m actually pretty OK with taking a game like this in small chunks of progression, despite my complaints above. It’s not my favourite but it wouldn’t on its own be a death knell either.

Where issue compounds with issue is in part the execution. Specifically, the order in which things unlock.

Main example of this being when you’re going through the process of building the museum. There are two days where you’re locked out of one of the main aspects of the game — collecting and donating critters and fish. On the day you complete the initial five donations to Tom Nook — your raccoon overlord — you must wait a day for Blathers to arrive and setup a tent in the location you set. While this is going on, you cannot donate any further creatures.

Then for a short period you’re able to donate again once Blathers arrives, until he deems that you have enough to open a museum proper rather than just the tent he’s in.

While this is under construction, for another day, you once more can no longer donate any finds.

*sigh*

It Gets Worse!

Now, to build a shop — it wants 30 wood, 30 hardwood, 30 softwood and 30 iron.

The various woods? Not actually a problem.

But 30 iron? 30 iron… is… It’s very difficult. No- that’s not right. It’s rather tedious though. You can bang on rocks for perhaps 3-4 item drops per day. Those drops can be iron. Or stone. Or clay. Or an insect. (Actually, they usually come alongside one of the others.)

Or?

With the current event going on… It can be a *beep* *beep* *beep* Easter egg.

Cram it up your @#$%…! No. No. I am calm. I am collected. Besides; this shot is of the ‘fish egg’, not the ‘stone egg’. Equally annoying though and incredibly common at the moment.

There’s another 10 days of these things to go. I’m sorely tempted to just put the whole thing aside until it’s over, because every time I hit a stone and get an egg instead of a piece of iron I am subjected to the sort of rage on display under the picture above.

So much for calm and casual!

But… I’m Kinda Committed; So Hopefully It Will Get Better

By which I mean — my user on the Switch is the ‘Resident Representative’ meaning that I have to be the one to continue with the major progression items such as building the museum or shop.

If it was just me?

I think I’d put this down already and just move on.

But… My youngest son is in love with the game. And it’s one of the few things we can even do in co-op!

There is a value in this that surpasses any of the issues outlined. By a long shot.

So I’ll continue my evening and morning sessions with the game. I won’t push any harder than that to get the store up and running. But I will keep pushing forward for my son’s sake and the gaming time together it gives us; especially during this lockdown period where he can’t see his friends at school or head out to play as much as he’d like.

So far as sacrifices for your family go — playing a game not up your alley is a pretty mild one.

And speaking honestly; Rakuno and others who told me the game opens up more after you have your house built (and the storage that comes along with it) and the museum properly placed were absolutely right.

Just the storage alone makes a significant difference to how the game can be played.

And I know it has far more in store yet. So perhaps; despite how I feel about it right now — it’ll yet surprise me and show me a different side.


This was a post for Blapril 2020, the annual blogging event (albeit usually as Blaugust), brought forward to help bring a sense of community during the challenging time of COVID-19. Blaugust is an event aiming to welcome new blogger blood into the fold and revitalise those who’ve been at it a little longer.

The Blaugust Discord is still available to join in, year round!



Naithin

Gamer, reader, writer, husband and father of two boys. Former WoW and Gaming blogger, making a return to the fold to share my love of all things looty.

16 Comments

Bhagpuss · April 2, 2020 at 11:35 pm

Here’s a question: given that we normally think of young children as lacking patience and the abilty to defer gratification, something that is generally considered to be acquired over time and perfected with maturity, why do you think it is that your son loves the game and you find it so frustratiing? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Also it was interesting to see you and Tobold both post essentially the same observations on the game on the same day but come to somewhat different conclusions. If I had a Switch I’d probably buy Animal Crossing. I love the look of it and, with no irony whatsoever, that gameplay is very, very similar to what I’m doing every day in GW2, EQII and EQ nowadays: set tasks that take a set time to complete and refresh in real time measured in days. Some of the EQ Overseer missions take 36 hours now.

    Naithin · April 3, 2020 at 12:09 am

    A half dozen possible answers ran through my head — but I think the truest ones are:
    1) For a start — he doesn’t have to do the ‘work’ to progress the story. Animal Crossing: New Horizon very much adhere’s to Nintendo’s desire to make 1 Switch = 1 Person. You can only have one island per switch and only one player account that owns/manages the progression of said island.

    Everyone else is just kind of there, and along for the ride. Of course the trade off being that they have no say over where anything is placed. So on those things I try to bring him in on the decision and help me decide where to place things.

    But! Even if he did have to do the work?

    2) I think he would still enjoy the game regardless… and I think that’s at least in part because the novelty factor is still strong. And I don’t mean just this particular game — but gaming in general. He is having his first experiences now, with the likes of Spyro (remake), Minecraft on the PS4 and now Animal Crossing.

    I am thinking about recruiting him to collect some of the things we need (in particular that blasted iron), as he can get in there, hit up a few more mystery islands etc when I can’t. Plus I think it would help further that sense of investment in the island’s development. I think.

    Or maybe it will backfire when there is less available to spend on the frivolous house decorations and items that he’s been avidly collecting so far. ;)

    I guess we’ll see!

    Naithin · April 3, 2020 at 12:13 am

    Oh, I forgot to mention after all that!

    You made me think, ‘I really have to go read that post of Tobold’s’. Hah. 😛

    I did, and you’re right. It was uncanny some of the things in common, but interesting to see where we diverged.

    Also; since writing this post — I’ve paid off my first home loan (yes, it’s a thing) and immediately signed up for an even bigger one for a house extension. Keeping up with the Jones’! 😉

Frostilyte · April 3, 2020 at 1:07 am

Honestly, from what I’ve heard about the starting of New Horizons I don’t think your frustration and annoyance is unwarranted. In all of the previous games the museum was available from the word go, so you always had something to do. The 2 day delay in New Horizons feels wholly unnecessary and isn’t the only instance of the game holding you back with real world time restrictions to gate off content (there are more). It’s all a bit pants.

    Naithin · April 3, 2020 at 8:39 am

    It seems that essentially every upgrade/build project at the island scale is time gated. In some instances, time AND resource gated ala the Shop.

    Reading a lot of the other comments here and elsewhere such as the Discord in response to this; I think the root of my problem comes from misidentifying what exactly ACNH set out to be. This one, as you likely gathered, is my first ever AC experience. I had no idea that crafting wasn’t a feature of the earlier titles; I just assumed it was always there and a part of the game structure’s flow.

    Still… It is good to know I may not be entirely alone in having some issues with the order/flow of mechanic unlocks even with the context of what sort of game ACNH actually is. :)

Rakuno · April 3, 2020 at 1:24 am

You know, it is kinda funny because I sort of felt like that with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. To me New Leaf was worse because it didn’t have crafting, mystery islands, visiting friends’ towns felt like a pain and every project required bells to be built and I was pretty much the only one who paid for it. Oh, if you don’t have any artistic talent (like me) getting a custom pattern is a lot harder. So in a lot of ways it felt more limited and grindy to me.

The conclusion I came to right now, after reading your post, and sort of having been doing it unconsciously is that the game not only lead itself to short doses of playing but also to not focus on just one thing. So, while you wait until something is getting built, go do something else. Examples of things you could do is trying to get creatures/fossils to fill the museum and your critterpedia. The fishs and bugs are also tied to the real time and some will disappear for a few months depending on the season. Although maybe fish and digging holes may not be a good idea for you right now due to the eggs being everywhere…

Another thing you could do is to to look for floor patterns online and start to build some roads in your town or some other kind of decoration. Or even patterns to change the walls of your house. If you want to I can link some sites with patterns with QR codes on Discord later.

You can also try to decorate your house to make it look cooler. Or try to get more bells to pay those loans to Tom Nook.

You could visit other’s people’s islands just to hang around, exchange fruits or see what their shops have to sell. This might not be such a good idea though since your son also plays and he might end up visiting their islands by accident.

There are also some animals that appear from time to time that give quests, like Gulliver and Wisp. Then once you complete their quests they will disappear again for a while. It shouldn’t be hard to find them as they hang around the beach. Gulliver should appear during the day while Wisp appears at night.

Also there are other events that aren’t as bad as Easter. Or at least there were in New Leaf, like fishing tournaments and so on. I have no idea if they will happen in New Horizons as it is doing a number of different things differently (Easter is just one day, on the real Easter day too, in New Leaf for example). But I could see them having it to fill in times of the year where there aren’t many holidays.

Lastly you can do the time skip which is to change your systems date to somewhere in the future. This should help to complete projects faster. Although it wouldn’t help you much with getting iron nuggets fast unless you set it to a date after Easter. I have no idea what happens if you set the date back to normal though. So if you do this, do it your own risk.

Also, I think your idea to delegate the iron nuggets search to your son is a good idea. Specially considering how the eggs seems to enrage you.

    Naithin · April 3, 2020 at 8:48 am

    I’ve done both Gulliver and Wisps thingos now. Just found Wisp last night in fact. :) One NPC related issue I seem to be having though is that I’ve invited two NPCs from Mystery islands to move back to my island. They both accepted and said they would be in touch with Tom Nook to sort it out… But there seems to be no game recognition of this fact?

    Does it take several days for that to go through, or does it require a specific milestone within my own stuff? If so there was no indication of this in the conversations, but I’m curious now.

    The first mystery island invite would’ve been at least a couple of days ago now, I think today will be day 3.

    On roads: I don’t think I can do those yet… Can I? Entirely possible I’m missing something though!

    On time shifting: I’d heard this was possible. But despite not liking how the game unfolds naturally, I still have a bit of a reluctance to ‘cheat’ it.

    Still… That reluctance may wear down with time. Hah.

    The one thing I’d want to know though is what would happen after setting the time BACK to the real time after getting the build/unlock completed or whathaveyou.

    I assume you can… But if you couldn’t that would be a reasonably significant deal breaker for me in considering it.

    In terms of how I approach the game more generally… I’ll add that in a reply to Nim below to avoid repeating it. :)

      Rakuno · April 3, 2020 at 9:09 am

      Yes, you have to reach a specific milestone before they will move in to your island. It is part of the game’s “story” and it also confused me.

      Well, they won’t be real roads, more likely some paint you did on the floor. But it can be a way to “prettify” the island, plan ahead and keep yourself busy until you unlock the Terraforming tool, which I assume will allow you to make real roads. It can also be used to guide visitors if you ever decide to let your friends come to check your island like “To get to the Nook’s Cranny, follow the road to the right as you leave the airport”.

      One of my friends has used the pattern tool extensively in to build roads on her island and it looks more like a proper town than an island where people randomly built some houses in. I’ve started using it in my island too but didn’t want to go too far as I don’t have much built in my island yet and I haven’t found a pattern I am really happy with either.

      Oh, if you don’t like any pattern on the floor that you don’t like you can just erase it with the “Y” button. Also the terraforming tool is another thing that is new to the series (I think, anyway, I never “finished” New Leaf, that was the first Animal Crossing for me. But since New Leaf is for the 3DS I rather doubt it has a tool like that)

      Yeah, that is the thing I don’t know what would happen if you set the time BACK. That is why I said to use it at your own risk as it may damage your save file. Myself I am ok just going with the flow of the game.

      I will wait to see your reply to Nimgimli to see if I have anything further to add to the discussion.

Nimgimli · April 3, 2020 at 2:12 am

I happen to live with an Animal Crossing superfan. I bought ACNH just to putter around with it, but we bought her an Animal Crossing-themed Switch of her own so she could play. I play for maybe an hour, total, every day. A little before work, a little after work, a little before bed (I find it puts me to sleep really quickly.) She can, somehow, spend hours playing. Arranging flowers, talking to pretend animal-people. I don’t see how she does it.

IMO ACNH isn’t a game you try to win. It’s a game to wander around in. If you’re trying real hard to find that iron and getting frustrated, you’re (again, IMO) doing it wrong. Not that you would know that from watching Twitter et al. When you get that shop built…it isn’t a radical change. There’s more junk for you to buy to decorate your house and in theory there is a “stalk market” where you buy turnips at a set price Sunday mornings and then check the price twice a day every week to see if you can sell them for a profit. WAY too much of a chore for me, to be honest.

The game is designed to be played for years. Angela has been playing AC New Leaf for something like 7-8 years? I won’t say she’s still discovering new things because she’s maxed everything out. But she still finds it amusing to walk around and talk with her villagers and to keep things tidy and neat.

I think adding the gathering/crafting elements here might have worked against the design of the game. On the one hand it is a mechanic that Gamers can grab onto. PROGRESSION! On the other hand, the rest of the game isn’t really set up to be a progression-based game, so folks like you hit this wall where as a Gamer you want to move towards a Win state but you’re playing a game that is, at its core, really about ‘socializing’ with pretend animal-beings.

BTW a few tips if you haven’t figured them out yet. If you’re waiting for the museum to open or whatever, you can put fish/bugs/fossils in your house storage or even just set them on the ground. They’ll be there waiting when the place opens.

Second, a lot of people “time travel” to force ACNH to be more of a game. They change the time settings on their Switch to make time advance in game. You can get things built instantly like that. In the old games there was apparently a danger of messing things up by doing that but it seems so prevalent in the Switch version that it must be safe.

    Naithin · April 3, 2020 at 9:16 am

    “IMO ACNH isn’t a game you try to win. It’s a game to wander around in. If you’re trying real hard to find that iron and getting frustrated, you’re (again, IMO) doing it wrong.”

    I think you might have given me another post with that. Thank-you. ;)

    Sort of a matter of authorial intent vs. reader response. Except more like… Developer’s intent vs. gamer’s interpretation.

    But issues around that aside, you’re very likely right. It is unlikely how I’m approaching the game was intended when the Animal Crossing formula was constructed.

    My ‘goal’ as it were is to reach the end of the ‘progression’ elements. By which I mean the building out of the town and unlocking of new ways to play. I’ve always been a fairly achievement driven player, so it is hitting these milestones that provides me with the primary source of satisfaction with the game. And also holds the most potential for DISsatisfaction.

    My home is sparse. It has very few items beyond what my tent started with, simply because I’m investing much more into paying down the loans (and getting the next one) and hoarding my iron for the next town project.

    There is an intent in the back of my mind to one day prettify my house, but that is very much a far, far, faaaar distant source of satisfaction (for me) than actually progressing the town as a whole.

    If I didn’t feel so bad, I’d probably be selling fossil’s right now in order to keep the Bells flowing for loan payments! With the thinking that I could work on collecting them later, after the ‘important’ things were completed.

    But… Blathers is always so disappointed when you don’t donate, so I only sell my duplicates. xD

    Also; I’ve received some nice tips for Bell income overnight since posting this too; so I’ll investigate some of those.

    From all this, and the commentary around the place? It seems pretty clear that yes — my preferred style of play is… If not wholly incompatible with ACNH, then at least not, as you identified, the intended way of doing things.

      Nimgimli · April 3, 2020 at 4:09 pm

      My comment was just based on my own history with the franchise. I kind of felt uncomfortable saying, basically “You’re having fun wrong” but it didn’t sound like you WERE having fun so I stuck my oar in.

      My gaming style is very similar to yours and I’ve been through an experience similar to what you’re feeling in earlier Animal Crossing games. Eventually I kind of threw up my hands and said “I don’t understand the point of this game!?” and Angela would say “The point is to have fun” and I’d be like “I need goals to have fun!”

      I mean I guess there are goals. “Completing” the museum, for example. But to do that you need to catch species of bugs and fish from all seasons of the year, so unless you want to time travel you’re time-gated with that, too. For instance on April 1st, some of the fish you need for the museum went away. I don’t know exactly when they come back but possibly not until March 2021.

      Paying off your house loan is a goal, but it just leads to another, bigger loan and a slightly larger house. Maybe decorating your house is a goal… I’ve never been too interested in doing that. Heck maybe it’s ME who is having fun wrong!! LOL

      The whole franchise has seemed to be focused on trickling things out over time so you can’t speed through the content, which can feel pretty frustrating for gamers like you and I. It’s kind of the advent calendar school of game design.

        Naithin · April 3, 2020 at 4:19 pm

        Oh I’m glad you had your say. And I didn’t take it badly by any stretch, in case that wasn’t clear — your commentary was very welcome (and has now spawned an entirely new post)!

        Goals and achievements are very much my things too. And it isn’t like AC is missing these things… Just the dual gating of resources AND hard passage of time is a little grating to me. Mostly the latter. If it was just resources at least I would feel a little more in control of it all.

        But even if we assumed that the passage of time was a required element so far as the developer’s design vision is concerned — I could be OK with that. Just a slightly better execution in terms of the order of things to provide a better flow might’ve alleviated some of my problems.

Proven · April 7, 2020 at 5:03 am

Just saw this on Reddit. Thought of this post.
https://reddit.com/r/NintendoSwitch/comments/fvtf28/animal_crossing_new_horizons_ver_114_now/

    Naithin · April 7, 2020 at 7:47 am

    Thanks for stopping by and linking that Proven. :)

    My commentary is mostly from post 1.1.4 though; so I can only imagine how it was on 1.1.3!!

    Edit: Turns out I had this wrong, and the update I would’ve received a few days ago was, in fact, just for 1.1.3. I think where I became confused was that, that update asked me to download/install.

    1.1.4a didn’t, but still somehow/sometime was installed!

      Rakuno · April 7, 2020 at 11:14 am

      Uh… Patch 1.1.4 released today. Personally I am already seeing way less Bunny Day balloons which is great. Still getting too many eggs while fishing to my tastes though and haven’t hit that many rocks to get a good feel for that…. On the other hand I was breaking rocks until recently so I am probably not the best person to compare those. XD

        Naithin · April 7, 2020 at 1:11 pm

        I was asked to update a few days ago, and I could’ve sworn it was to 1.1.4a. It is *definitely* on 1.1.4a now but it hasn’t requested to be updated again since. But yeah — your comment prompted me to look up release dates of the patches, and 1.1.3 would line up to when I thought I updated!

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