Da I was always wary of getting into Animal Crossing, because I knew just how hard I would fall into it. I know what I’m like and I knew Animal Crossing would become all consuming for weeks or months after picking it up. Which is exactly how it turned out when it came out back in March. Now though, just four months removed, the burning hot intensity with which I played that game is been reduced to ash, scattered to the wind.
Before you get all up in arms about this, I’m not saying Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a bad game or anything. Perish the thought, It’s still going to be in the upper chunks of my Game of the Year list at the end of the year. If we last long enough for me to write a game of the year list. What I’m talking about it more of how Animal Crossing has handled its end game.
It’s weird, an “endgame” is a concept that never really seemed like an important factor in previous generations. But with so many games coming out now that stretch our their lifespan, there is some major thought put into what developers can do to retain that player base on a more perpetual basis, when all the content in the game has been seen, flattened up and tossed aside.
In this regard, Animal Crossing is a bit of an odd bird. Because it’s always been a game you play for a long time, before the concept of an endgame was something people judged a game on. Thus it predates the concept, although Nintendo are great at ignoring the room and just doing what they’ve always done anyway, for better or for worse.
Rather than having any real distinction between the “main” game and the “end” game in New Horizons, the game just hits a point where things kinda just stop happening. Or they only continue happening at a severely reduced pace. Which is just the nature of Animal Crossing; you’re given a big open space and a limited selection of tool with which to play with it.
Through a little and often type approach to introducing new content the weirdo game brain is tricked into thinking the trickle of new stuff is amazing, until that trickle eventually turns into an occasional drip. While you’re not doing anything different on your decreasing daily visits to the island, the carrot on the stick feels less appealing by the day.
Which typifies my major problem with trying to go back to the game this summer and try the new diving features added. Although this is more my problem than the game’s. Y’see, Animal Crossing is a game of routine and of busying yourself with a ton if little jobs all at the same time. You’re on your way to pick fruit and spot a fish or a bug along the way, before plucking a few roots and watering a few flowers.
Which really sums up my issue with diving as a new feature in the game, an issue which is kind of twofold. First off, I’m burnt out on most aspects of this game already. I’ve fished the fish, burgled the bugs and turned in all but that last damned fossil to Blathers. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still bells to be made, collecting all those items up and selling them to the lesser Nooks.
But here in lies the problem; when you’re diving, you can’t do anything else. Moving around that wide open, featureless expanse, all you can do is make a beeline for the next stream of bubbles and your next sea creature for the expanded museum. There are no bug, no fruit and any fish you see are out of your reach as you’re neck deep in water. Which leads me right into the second problem.
Because swimming and diving is all you’re doing, there is nothing to distract your ADD brain from just how monotonous the action is. Like I said, the sea is a large, featureless expanse and thus there is nothing there to grab your attention as you slowly paddle from diving point to diving point.
Which ends up giving me real mixed feeling about the new trickle of content Nintendo are putting out for Animal Crossing over the months. I am still very burned out on the game, I have customised as much of the island as I can, and have accumulated a set of villagers I like enough that I can’t stand to see any of them go (except maybe Friga), so coming back to the game at this point is purely to play the new content.
But as I’ve just painstakingly explained, going that and that alone is a dreadfully dull use of my time when loading the game. Which bums me out all the more when we eventually get to winter and my island becomes a white wonderland. I wonder if my time with Animal Crossing is just up at this point, or if I’ll find my second wind in a few more months time.
With no major goals to work towards over a longer period of time, the reality of what Animal Crossing actually is has come crashing down around my ears and no amount of forcing is is going to get me to spend the hours with the game I was spending the month or so after it came out.