In the last seven years, no farming simulation has escaped comparison to Stardew Valley. The question always arose, “How close is the title to the fan favorite of 2016?” With many more generic farming games, a sympathetic smile was a sufficient response.
Meanwhile, titles are emerging that not only understand the successful concept of the now established “genre leader cow”, but actually improve upon it – and Coral Island is definitely one of these types of farm simulation. access, version 1.0 is now on PC, Xbox Series X and PS5 have appeared and landed directly in Game Pass.
Picturesque island setting with great attention to detail
Why it is easy to get lost in the world of tropical islands becomes clear at first glance; at least if we take a look at the game itself and leave aside the uninspired Steam screenshots that don’t do the title justice at all.
Coral Island features really beautiful 3D graphics and carefully designed locations. Lighting and weather effects create a pleasant atmosphere, for example when restaurant lights reflect in puddles or rain forms rivulets at the edges of the pitch.
We also really enjoy peeking into locals’ homes, as the interiors are wonderfully detailed. Dirty laundry lying around, a pile of papers, photography equipment – it’s a bit messy there, as if someone actually lived there.
The characters that inhabit it seem as lively as the interiors. The 28 singles and all other locales seem much more real than is the case with Stardew Valley or especially the Story of Seasons series.
The characters are a diverse group with different skin colors, Doctor Yuri is pierced and tattooed, 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 curvy shapes, but at least there’s more variation here than in other farm simulators.
If we get to know the characters better, we often unexpectedly come across authentic scenes of their normal daily lives. When three people try to drag a couch to the first floor and struggle to turn the corner, Starlet Town and its residents are more believable.
Since we initially didn’t have any console buttons available, we tested Coral Island mainly on the Steam Deck. It ran very well at 60 fps. We also only noticed very small bugs, such as occasional music dropouts.
However, in the version made available in advance, there are major problems with the German text language (the game has no voice output). Sometimes the text would switch to English for a few lines and then back again, which can hopefully be fixed quickly with a patch
How does it look on Xbox Series X/S and PS5? Even a quick look at the consoles reveals major problems. The game keeps crashing briefly in the city when we move from one area to another or open the map and close it again.
We also noticed severe music dropouts, missing noises, 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 how severe the issues become over time, but we don’t recommend them (yet).
Coral Island – Launch trailer introduces version 1.0 after Early Access ends
Enhance, embellish, expand – above and below the water
If you want typical farm simulation activities like growing crops, taking care of your cute round creatures, crafting, decorating, exploring nature, and smashing monsters in the mine, then you shouldn’t get bored so quickly in Coral Island.
The game has a huge wealth of activities and mechanics. Before we get into action, let’s create our character in a large editor. We are therefore on a large above-ground map with unlockable areas – and there is also an equally large underwater map.
Sometimes, in our opinion, the game overdoes it a bit and makes us work too long to progress, especially when we have to dump tons of rubbish 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:
- Color vision deficiency modes (including intensity settings)
- Font for dyslexia and font size adjustment
- Size settings for HUD, mouse cursor, and Quick Access Toolbar
Cleaning the ocean floor of waste and oil is one of our most important tasks. Not only do we meet jellyfish and colorful corals, but we also get to know the people of the sea – and can even advance up to three members. But even apart from the exciting fantasy component, the eco-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 away tourists, among other things.
At the animal shelter, some fluffy friends are waiting for their forever home.
As in every farm simulation, you build your farm according to your ideas.
That’s why in films and festivals everyone works together to clean up, 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 out of the city.
Details and features that we have learned to love
In addition to our efforts to protect the sea (which are in no way fueled by seafarers’ novels), we are also trying to make Starlet Town more attractive in many other ways. For example, we are looking for exhibits for the museum.
It is a great advantage for our brain to be able to check the menu at any time to see which crawlers and fish we have already donated. This is just one of the many quality of life features that will be missing from many farming simulators in the future; just like the ability to use the character profile on the map to show us where an NPC is currently located. No more annoying searches!
A few days before the spooky festival, every corner of the city is decorated fantastically, as you can see here. The festival itself is even more impressive.
If we interact with the residents’ pets, we will get a whole series of cute lines of text commenting on this.
Of course, these are just little things, just like the detailed setup or the fact that we get a whole bunch of cute lines of text when interacting with local pets: “Do you wonder how candy is so cute?” AND it can be so soft. But it’s these details that make a life simulation live up to its name and make it feel alive.