Farthest Frontier crop rotation is an unexpected joy

Play settlement building survival game farthest border It has me planning a lot. I’m planning outposts to mine distant resources. I am planning road and neighborhood layouts to optimize movement and happiness. I’m planning defenses to defend against bandits. But most of my thinking is focused on farming, planning my crop rotations to optimize fertility and yields. Finally, I have a use for everything school taught me about the three-field system and the nitrogen cycle.

Made by Crate Entertainment, the studio behind the action-RPG Grim Dawn, Farthest Frontier released in early access on August 9. You know the story: Setting out on your own with a wagon and a handful of settlers, you found a new town with a handful of shacks on the wild frontier, and then set out to tame it with hunters, gatherers, tanners, miners, cobblers, soldiers. , and so on down the tech tree. It’s a pretty splendid virtual ant farm.


BEAR DON’T STEAL MY FISH

Every item in Farthest Frontier exists as an object in the world. Every apple, every stone, every smoked fish, every bucket of water, every basket, every bushel of wheat, every sword, every arrow must at some point be carried by someone, not to mention, of course, the wood you need to make that arrow. , and… it’s a lot of logistics. At first, you will see your little people running around and doing all the work themselves. Even building a hunting lodge is a complicated process. Once you find a good spot in the forest with abundant prey, the workers will need to cut down trees and remove rocks to make room, then bring the materials needed to build the lodge, then take the time to build it, then the newly hired hunter will go out to stock their new home with food and water, and they will search for weapons, and I won’t even begin to explain the chain for preserving, storing, and distributing the hunted meat.

So dig roads to speed up movement, pave them to speed it up even more, build storage depots to store and distribute supplies, and build wagons to handle bulk traffic. The larger your settlement, the more helping hands you have and the more you can semi-automate.

I enjoy when my city progresses far enough that I can sit back and watch my little ant farm bursting with life. Everyone has animations for whatever they’re doing, and I enjoy the tilt-shift camera effect that kicks in when I zoom in to see lumberjacks chopping wood, workers chopping and digging, the dirt collector pushing his wagon, wagon drivers lumbering along. , people running to collect food and deliver goods, and everything else, even the slow-growing crops.


Crop rotation planning on a Farthest Frontier screenshot.
This field is tired, but I hesitate to spend several years improving it. Hmm. probably a mistake

Farming is my favorite aspect of the Farthest Frontier to focus intensely on. Hunting and foraging can only feed a limited number of people, and keeping animals requires a large initial investment, so crops are vital. What delights me is that you don’t just drag a farm onto the landscape and watch the food arrive, you have to carefully plan your crops for yield and sustainability.

You can plant several different crops in a field throughout the year, each with different growing periods. Certain crops are vulnerable to frost or heat damage, so choose your seasons carefully. And different crops do better in different soils, so plant carefully or consider adjusting the soil by adding more clay or sand (once you have mines for those resources, of course). Monoculture will also leave you vulnerable to the pest. But you’re not just planning for one year, you’re set up for three-year cycles. Farthest Frontier farming is all about rotation.


A field suffering from turnip leaf spot disease on a Farthest Frontier screenshot.
spoiled

Cultivate intensively and soon you will have barren soil that will produce meager crops. Remember your schooling: the soil needs time and care to recover. Along with planting crops, you can set up farmers to maintain the soil, reducing weeds and stoniness. The biggest help comes from planting clover, which cannot be eaten but greatly increases fertility. Nitrogen-fixing bean and pea crops help fertility a bit while also providing food. And a big fertility boost can come from spreading compost from the, ah, offerings collected as soil at night.

Since the soil needs time to recover, you’ll want to plan not only for a crop rotation, but also a field rotation system to keep the food coming. As one field recovers, others grow, staggering their years of recovery. It’s unreasonably nice to have a well-configured field system.

Usually my focus in city builders is on the perfect building layouts, but here I’m thinking more and more about my crop rotations. I trust the city will be fine, but what about my linen? I know I messed up the field layouts of my last settlement a bit and suffered from some crippling blights.


A happy city in a screenshot of Farthest Frontier.
See if you can spot the point where I started planning my residential district.

In Farthest Frontier, I lose interest past a certain point. I enjoy struggling to survive early on, desperately trying to accumulate resources while carefully managing growth. I like to see my handful of shacks turn into a village, then a town, and the beginnings of an industrialized town. I like the initial thrill of unlocking new buildings and expanding into distant valuable resources, but I’m more interested in the early game of settlement construction than the city management game that Farthest Frontier grows into. The growing hordes of raiders aren’t an interesting challenge either, just a punishment, and the solutions aren’t fun either. Everything starts to creep.

I should make it clear that I feel that way about much of the survival or build genre; I suspect serious builders might feel otherwise. But I’ve been happy playing the parts I enjoy until I don’t, and then I start over with the benefit of the new knowledge. I think my next settlement will be magnificent. My fields will be perfect.

Farthest Frontier is still in early access. Crate Entertainment had said that they expected the release after 8-12 months, so they still have years to expand and tweak things. They have said that expanding the late game is one of their main early access goals. I look forward to seeing the game it becomes.

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