It goes without saying that two games hugely influenced the simulation genre in the past years. One was Stardew Valley, the farming sim that took the gaming world by storm. Taking inspiration from older Harvest Moon games it had us reverting back to pixelated farming, and combined farming, socialising and mining with fighting as well. The other one is Animal Crossing, a series that had a fierce fan base but got even more popular by accidentally releasing New Horizons during Covid lockdowns.
Enter Pixelshire, which is a sort of mix between the two. Made by Kappa Bit and published by Merge Games, it will be coming to Steam in 2023 but now has an extensive demo out. It looks a lot like Stardew Valley with its pixelated scenes, but it includes terraforming as well, although I didn’t get to try that out in the demo yet. As I love both games, I decided to give Pixelshire a spin on a PC and my Steam Deck.
The Town of Pixelshire
You wake up in a strange land called Pixelshire, having wrecked your boat and being rescued by captain Farrel and his parrot. You will find the guidebook, which is very handy, detailing everything you need to know and delivered to you in bite-sized portions. Prepare for a lot of reading, but you’ll find it very handy for tips, guiding you on what to do next and even accepting quests and getting the rewards.
There is no customisation option for your character, but this might still be added later during development. Your first quest is to find the mayor of the town, Eva, who explains they are refugees from Elbiret, which is a faraway continent past the Cinora Ocean. There aren’t a lot of citizens in the town, and of course, it’ll be up to you to get more people to move into Pixelshire.
The next step is to meet Margaritha, who is an agronomist. Through her quest, you learn how to farm, and she also sells all you need to do that. Progressing that’s how you learn everything in the game: follow the quests, meet new characters, help them out and learn about the gameplay at the same time. It’s the standard way to get to grips on how to move along in this sandbox game. And like in every simulation title, Pixelshire has its own specific way on how to equip farming tools, fishing etc.
Trial on Steam Deck
To my surprise, the game worked on the Steam Deck. It reacts to the touch screen, and you can walk with the left stick, which is much easier than with the arrows on a PC. What was a pity is that some of the screens is missing on the left and right sides, making it hard to use the guidebook. Otherwise, this would be the perfect game to play on handheld!
Still Needs Some Work
I liked my time in Pixelshire, but there are some bugs to iron out. If you don’t know how to replenish your stamina at first, you can’t shut off the game as you need to sleep to save. To sleep, you will first need to build your own tent. As you have to use a workbench for that and need some materials that can only be mined, this won’t happen until a bit further in the demo, which can be a problem. However, you can sleep in the guest house attached to the town hall and save the game that way.
There are occasional frame rate issues, and it’s like the game doesn’t register some things so you can’t progress. I’m pretty sure I did what Margarita asked me to and sowed and watered my own tomato plant. Still, the dog wouldn’t move and let me get on with the next part of my quest, which was harvesting hers. I had to restart to try again, and this time, it worked. But that’s okay. It’s still early days, and I’m sure the developers will do lots of tweaking.
No Release Date Yet
No release date other than 2023 yet, which is fine because there are still some things that need more development. Meanwhile, the first of a series of videos is released showing us that Pixelshire isn’t just a Stardew Valley clone. Because seeing the game, that is exactly what I thought at first. You will have to judge for yourself. Meanwhile, here’s the Steam page for Pixelshire if you want to try the demo!