When I think about farming games over the years, my first thought is always Harvest Moon, but my second thought is immediately Stardew Valley. Yes, there are numerous others, and versions that focus on being realistic sims, but there’s something truly captivating about building up your own farm. Harvesting crops, taking care of livestock, maybe even building a life of your own?
It’s relaxing and addicting in equal measure, when done correctly. You can imagine my excitement, then, when I heard about a farming VR title for PSVR 2. Across the Valley is here, but does it deliver the farming dream in VR, or would gardening in my backyard be more fun? Let’s find out.
The Foundation of a Great Farming Sim
I’m honestly surprised I haven’t done more farming in VR. The various responsibilities offer plenty of interaction for a virtual reality experience. Planting seeds, watering crops, tilling the fields, caring for livestock, it’s all there.
Across the Valley does bring all of these things to the table, and more, but it does so without much fanfare. The game starts with a simple menu that offers several interactions, but there’s no context for how you came across this farm, or other people to interact with.
Settings are pretty barebones as well, only allowing for transportation. This type of movement is helpful for those new to VR, but as a veteran I always look for the option to move freely as I find it far more immersive. That’s not an option here.
Even after a few patches, Across the Valley has some bugs that are hard to ignore. The most recent patch fixed an issue where teleportation and snap turning could result in your ending up in a different place than the developers intended when you move around.
The solution here was to disable snap turning for the time being. I sampled this prior to publishing the review, and it does fix the aforementioned issue, but the trade-off is that you need to physically turn around in place when leaving an area like the fields. It’s not difficult, but I still am of the mind that free movement would allow for more immersion.
Putting that aside for a moment though, let’s talk about those first couple days and weeks of farm life.
The game issues tutorials via books placed at teleportation points around the farm. For example, when you head over to your fields, there’s a book near the tools that you can open and read to learn how they work.
The same goes for the building that houses livestock like sheep, chickens, and cows. You’ll find a book inside your house too that explains how the upgrade table works, the job board, and the bed. It’s not a bad setup, but the first night on the farm can be a little confusing since you won’t have a grasp of what’s going on.
In fact, you spend that first night fumbling around until you fall asleep and then wake up to find a character (not a person mind you) talking about how you were daydreaming again. It’s funny, sure, but it’s a weird first impression.
Things get easier from here though, as I found the tutorial books a nice way to quickly get a rundown on the mechanics. Despite the bugs with the teleportation, I actually really liked the foundation of Across the Valley. It has some great tactile gameplay that made me feel like I was really working on a farm.
That being said, they are all quite surface-level, which means the novelty fades rather quickly. Especially in the beginning, your days won’t last more than a few minutes as you tend to your first chicken, plant seeds, water crops, harvest anything that’s ready, maybe turn in a job, sell or buy something, and then head to bed.
That’s not to say there isn’t fun to be had in these things. Heading in to check on my livestock was fun, I liked balancing what I could sell versus what I should keep for feeding. Filling up the water bowl and giving them a pat on the head to bolster their happiness is fun to be sure.
More complex minigames come up for shearing sheep or milking cows, but that’s about as far as these engagements go. The real interactivity comes from the crops. When you teleport to this area, you can access a shovel, a hoe, a watering can, and baskets for various seeds. Signs posted on each section of land and floating icons let you see what’s needed.
I had trouble with the watering mechanic as it would tell me the plot was about 80% watered or so and suddenly several crops would die as if I had overwatered them. I’m not sure if this was a bug or not, but planting seeds and harvesting worked great. I loved being able to scatter the seeds by hand, and place finished crops in a basket to collect them.
Cleaning weeds out from plots of land is also fun, but a little awkward. You’ll need to grip the hoe with two hands and carve straight lines through the weeds to get them out, and it works well enough, but the detection was sometimes a little off. I did enjoy the haptic feedback here though, there’s a satisfying feeling of impact when you dig into the dirt. This applies to the shovel as well, which you use to clean around the farm.
The game guides you forward with jobs that you tear off a pad in your house, and orders come in from townsfolk you never see to give you a sense of purpose and flow. An upgrade table lets you add new things to the farm, and a cart lets you sell excess crops or buy seeds and feed. It all works, but it feels somewhat empty without any social elements or deeper systems to encourage long play sessions.
Across the Valley has the ingredients for a great farming sim in VR, but it struggles to deliver when you realize that, beyond some novel elements and interactions, it doesn’t hold a candle to its flatscreen counterparts. Some free updates and additions to the gameplay would go a long way here, along with more mobility and some polish.
Crisp and Colorful Presentation
One thing I can’t fault Across the Valley for is its visuals. The game is crisp and clear in VR, something that’s especially helpful when you’re reading the many tutorial books scattered around the various parts of the farm. Colors pop incredibly well in the new PSVR 2 screen as well, making the whole world look vibrant and lush.
Other small touches, like the way the headset vibrates when you blink your eyes three times at bedtime are a nice touch. It’s a game that certainly has the fundamentals in place, and even the small amount of patches since launch have helped push it towards what it could be.
With more polish, some additional content updates, and maybe the ability to visit and interact with townsfolk, I could see Across the Valley really offering a compelling experience. For the asking price of $19.99 USD, it can certainly scratch some of that farming itch, but as it currently stands, the game doesn’t have enough longevity for me to fully recommend it.
Final Score: 6.0/10
Article by – Bradley Ramsey
Insert date – 4/06/2023