‘Lightyear Frontier’ hands-off preview: colourful interstellar irrigation

'Lightyear Frontier' is shaping up to be a breath of extra-terrestrial fresh air

Lightyear Frontier makes the argument that if a genre feels saturated, you can just blend in a couple more until things feel fresh again. Part farming simulator and part adventure, Lightyear Frontier tasks players with exploring a new land, raising crops, and building up their base. Oh, and it’s set in space. With mechs.

During a hands-off preview, developer Frame Break shows that Lightyear Frontier looks as bold as it sounds. The game’s alien setting is vividly colourful, though deliberately starts off looking remarkably terrestrial: your first steps will cover verdant fields, moted forests, and turquoise oceans. Frame Break explains that it wants to ground players in the recognisable before sending them into the planet’s more exotic environments, but the stray pink tree and strange vegetable still creeps its way into Frame Break’s earthier zone. All of this scenery looks gorgeous: even if you threw away the rest of Lightyear Frontier‘s mechanics, it feels like the game’s photo mode would have no problem pulling weight.

Lightyear Frontier. Credit: Frame Break.
Lightyear Frontier. Credit: Frame Break.

However, the preview suggests that players might be too busy to snap pictures. Making life find a way is no easy feat, and once you exit your landing pod there’s plenty to get on with. With a few caveats, Lightyear Frontier looks fairly familiar: players will need to plant and harvest their crops, unlock new crafting recipes by building new facilities, and explore the world around them. All of this needs to be done from the comfort of a fully-customisable mech, which trades in the homeliness of watering cans and seed dibbers for a fully-automatic planting gun and a scarily high-powered irrigation hose.

There are other tools available (including a satisfying a vacuum harvester for collecting resources) and amusingly, players will be able to dual-wield these tools – perfect for anyone looking to get their DPS (dibs per second) up. Combining mechs and meadows paints a strangely charming industrial-cottagecore aesthetic – two opposites that shouldn’t work together, yet seem to pair perfectly in this instance.

Lightyear Frontier. Credit: Frame Break.
Lightyear Frontier. Credit: Frame Break.

The rest of the preview showcases many things that players may have come to expect from the survival genre – but sticking to just one genre would be too simple for Lightyear Frontier, and the result is a much more casual spin on things.

You can build garages to upgrade and decorate your mech, but Frame Break’s pacifist approach to Lightyear Frontier means there are no weapons to make – the most dangerous thing this garage is capable of is an ugly paint job. It’s a relaxing approach, which serves up plenty of the best bits from survival games (in-depth customisation, base-building, crafting) with less pressure – think Valheim without the trolls, or Rust without the…people. Frame Break says that although players can face setbacks, there’s no fail state here – and while the low-stakes vibes are relaxing, it remains to be seen if things like exploration can remain engaging.

Lightyear Frontier looks gorgeous, and is a creative spin on some of the gaming world’s favourite trends right now. However, not too much of Lightyear Frontier was displayed during this preview and while it all seems very promising, it remains to be seen whether Frame Break can pull off this impressive sci-fi juggling act.

Players can expect to get their hands on Lightyear Frontier in spring 2023, when it will be available for Xbox Series X|S and PC

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