Now before I jump into this I feel I need to explain one thing; despite the title, I love Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Like many others, I grabbed myself a copy of New Horizons during the initial lockdown in early 2020. My better half Ellie bought herself a Switch Lite, after wanting one for many months, and a copy of the game. After a week or so of watching her play, I caved and bought my copy. I’m even on my second island now. The game got me through a rough patch of the year. But now that things have somewhat improved I have been looking back at the rollercoaster that was 2020. And it pains me to realise that the game just isn’t as good as some people make it out to be.
If you’re somehow unfamiliar with Animal Crossing New Horizons, the game centres around crafting items and decorating your island to look exactly how you wish. Eventually, villagers will move in, and you essentially just make the island your utopia. New Horizons added a new mechanic in the form of terraforming; allowing the player to create/delete cliffs and water. The game was very well received and sold 13 million units as of early May 2020. Much of that may be due to the pandemic, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that the game was a cultural phenomenon. KFC had their own island, amongst many others. Even President-Elect Joe Biden had his own island! So why do I feel that it is overrated?
Eventually Your “Dailies” Become Chores
Tasks. Chores. Dailies. Whatever you know them as I am referring to the tasks that many players agree should be done on a daily basis. Hitting your rocks will yield materials for crafting, and one holds Bells (the game’s currency). Watering flowers increases the chance of cross-breeding, and obtaining rare colours. Nook’s Cranny, the game’s general store, rotates it’s stock every day and so missing out a day means missing out on those items (until next time, whenever that may be). Fossils need to be dug up, your island may have visitors. There is a range of tasks that you need to complete daily in order to get the most from the game, in terms of materials, for you to make your island look the way that you want.
One thing I will note is that the community behind New Horizons is extremely supportive. I was part of two different Facebook groups and a subreddit all dedicated to helping players achieve their dream island. Be it obtaining recipes, have things crafted, getting villagers or making money on the Turnip market, there was always someone willing to help. But as the months flew past, I began to see more and more posts discussing something that I was beginning to feel myself. Eventually, this blissful island utopia becomes a monotonous routine of tedious tasks.
The spark dies out and eventually, I began to feel that I was doing these tasks just for the sake of it. I needed Bells and materials, and wanted to complete my museum and catalogue every item so I had no choice but to be on the game every day. It was a strange feeling. I knew I didn’t want to be doing it, yet I felt compelled to in the name of completion. Alas, this never happened, and I stopped playing the game for close to five months.
My island had achieved 5* status, it looked the way I wanted. There was no longer a reason for me to play. I could no longer justify begrudgingly hitting rocks with my shovel, as I didn’t need to. It felt almost predatory, much like how some games encourage daily playing with in-game items. I don’t believe that it was predatory, I didn’t have to part with any of my money. Yet I did feel compelled to be on every day, doing my dailies.
Crafting Is Unnecessarily Tedious
As I said earlier crafting makes up a significant chunk of New Horizons. After all, it is a core mechanic to the game. Players craft items that they want to display around their island, or in their home. To do so though, you must obtain the DIY recipe for that particular item. While other games have somewhat of a progression system, in which you gradually craft more complex items, New Horizons went for a different option.
There are multiple ways in which you can obtain DIYs. Early on DIYs for things such as tools can be bought in Nook’s Cranny. But that is all they sell, so DIYs for things that are not tools are a tad more difficult to get. In the sense that it is entirely down to luck. Other DIYs are received from your villagers, who craft recipes daily. Every day a villager will be at a table in their house, and speaking to them will result in them gifting you the recipe. However, it is possible to be gifted doubles. When this happens, they will gift you the recipe and suggest passing it on to someone.
This is something that did happen in the groups and was nice to see. But as a core mechanic of the game, you would hope that it would not be a luck-based process. There are also balloons that came across your island, which you can shoot down with a slingshot. These, and the daily messages in a bottle that wash up on your beach, all provide DIYs. Yet again though these are luck based and you can find yourself obtaining doubles. Getting those DIYs you need to make your island look exactly the way you want is an extremely difficult task. Even with the help of other players in the community, it is an immense task.
On top of this, crafting items take an unnecessary amount of time. Every time you craft an item, the character performs an animation. You see them hitting stuff with a hammer, before turning to the camera and presenting their newly crafted item. While in the beginning, this is charming, the charm very quickly wears off. As you find yourself crafting more and more, you start to notice that the process is just annoying. It wouldn’t be as bad if you could craft multiples of each item and then watch one animation. But no. For some reason, you can only craft one item at a time, so if you want six sets of fences, you best be prepared to watch that animation six times. This could be updated in a future patch, but as of writing this, it has not.
In-game Events Have Been Extremely Lackluster
Utter the words “Bunny Day” to any New Horizons player and they will more than likely shudder. Bunny Day was the game’s Easter event, and it was (in all honesty) fucking abysmal. It involved collecting different eggs from different sources and then giving them to Zipper (the bunny mascot). Overall it was tedious, the items you crafted weren’t great or useful, and it just kind of fell flat to be honest.
The Halloween event was not much better. The items were cooler, and the premise was better. Players were gifted reactions and could be hexed by villagers for refusing to give them candy. Yet it still fell flat for some reason. The event took all of 15 minutes to complete, and I received doubles of the DIYs and the items in that time. Weeks of build-up, to a big event on Halloween night, that was over in the blink of an eye. It just seems that Nintendo cannot host a good event for New Horizons, and it doesn’t give me an incentive to participate.
Where Is Brewster?!
The Facebook groups I mentioned earlier comprised of both new players and returning players. When people weren’t attempting to get DIYs or sell their turnips, people were comparing New Horizons to New Leaf. New Leaf is a much-loved game in the community, and every time an update was due for New Horizons the same posts would appear in the group. So much so that admins had to request people stop posting about it, and even began deleting posts talking about Brewster.
Brewster is a blue pigeon who runs a coffee shop called The Roost. The Roost offers a space for the player to interact with villagers from their own town, as well as villagers from towns they have visited. The player could even get a job working at The Roost, allowing them to serve the villagers coffee. Each villager will have their own preference, and the cafe seemingly allowed for a bit of a deeper connection with the villagers. Special guests such as DJ KK, Kicks and Tom Nook would even visit sometimes. Which begs the question; Where is Brewster?
There is obviously a demand for him, and given that New Horizons has been out for a while now it seems strange to leave Brewster out. Every update is accompanied by buzz in the community, as well as articles reporting on Brewster dialogue lines found in the next update. Yet, we have yet to see him. Personally, I love the idea of The Roost. I think it would inject a new breath of life into a game that is becoming increasingly stale, yet it seems that it is not meant to be.
And there we have it. Despite all of the reasons listed above, as I said in the beginning I do love New Horizons. And I will likely buy the next instalment in the series, whatever that should be and whenever it should release. But, the hard truth, in my opinion, is that Animal Crossing: New Horizons just isn’t as good as everyone makes it out to be.