Lightyear Frontier Early Access Review
8 mins read

Lightyear Frontier Early Access Review


Who wouldn’t want their own frontier world with just your friends, an agricultural mech, and a chatty satellite AI for company, setting out to build yourself a life on a planet untouched by human activity — but possessed of a deeper mystery? That’s the pitch on Lightyear Frontier, a cozy crafting exploration game with a unique mech-based twist to its farming. I mean, mechs for civilian use are hardly a new concept, but I can’t actually remember a game giving it a proper shot like this. Lightyear Frontier does its best at its Early Access launch, delivering a fun romp around an alien world that’s a bit short on story but goes long on customization and decoration.

Unsurprisingly, the mech itself provides a lot of the fun here. It takes what would otherwise be a pretty predictable crafting and exploration game and gives it a new point of view — quite literally! You can get used to the scale, but jumping out of your mech immediately reminds you that the trees you tower over are still properly sized, or that the alien chicken creatures you enjoy feeding are as tall as a person. The mech driving is well done, too — this is a big, stompy piece of equipment, and if you’ve ever driven an older diesel tractor you’ll recognize the clattering sound of that engine in Lightyear Frontier’s Farmech. However, I am always sad to see a static, non-functional control panel in a digital cockpit.

Lightyear Frontier’s biggest conceit is that it’s a purely peaceful game. There’s absolutely no combat here, and no real time pressure either — it’s designed from the ground up as a chill experience. There are in-game days that tick by, but you’re not required to sleep in a bed at night or anything, and there are no time limits to run up against. It delivers well on that angle as I found its relaxed pace to be pretty soothing. In fact, if you try to rush or optimize your way through it you’ll probably stress yourself out for no reason. Lightyear Frontier is at its best when I realized it just wanted me to explore, find stuff, and enjoy myself. It’s a game as much about taking in its nicely handcrafted, open alien world, building cool stuff and decorating it as you go, as it is about farming and crafting.

The beginning is a little slow though, even with the intended pace in mind. Your starting, no-upgrades mech feels a bit sluggish when it’s not sprinting, and you can’t sprint if you’re over your inventory limit… and the starting inventory limit is pretty low, which kinda hurts the giant super-strong robot vibe for me. That, and the storage boxes are a pain to manage, since Lightyear Frontier lacks that now-quite-mandatory feature where crafting stations pull from nearby storage for you. Nonetheless, once I got a few upgrades and unlocked some larger storage I forgot all about those first slightly frustrating hours.

It’s just really fun to stomp around and break stuff.

Frankly, that’s because it’s just really fun to stomp around and break stuff. The details in the mech’s tools and equipment are delightful twists on the themes of giant robot stuff. I loved shattering rocks and trashing trees with the giant chainsaw-slash-stake-driver, which only gets stronger and more destructive as you get more upgrades. Trees are planted with a huge sapling cannon to plunge seeds into the earth, while crops are sown by a scattershot seed machine gun that later gets a lock-on function. There’s also the two tread-based modes: One’s a path-breaking modification that lets you satisfyingly roll out dirt or stone paths, which then actually make you travel faster, while the other is a plow that lets you place freeform planting spaces for your crops across the surface of the world.

My favorites, though, were the two most dual-function tools. The first, a giant vacuum, lets you pull up weeds and mature crops with remarkable speed. The second, a water spraying cannon, is initially a fairly weak blast hose that later becomes a long-distance stream that can charge up spheres of water and hurl them as soil-moistening explosions. And when you run out of water? Just go vacuum up more.

Those two tools are also vital because they’re used to clean up the world around you. Your satellite buddy PIP-3R (that’s Piper) narrates as you explore, but the world you’re on had some previous inhabitants that left behind a huge mess of ground pollution. That wells up in the form of gooey gunk piles and a breed of mutant weeds that not only kill off surrounding vegetation but spread on the wind — occasionally even threatening your own farm. It’s a fun little twist on weeding to catch them out of the air before they choke out your crops.

Cleaning up the world unlocks more regions to explore, like thicker forests, twisty mountain paths, and coastal plains. You’ll get new resources from each one that are then used to build additional equipment and buildings, as well as unlock more mech upgrades — like a stronger hose to wash down bigger goo piles and clean up even more new regions. It’ll also attract attention from neighbors who are full for character, like a traveling trader who visits for a few hours each day to buy your stuff. There’s another character — a plant science enthusiast who needs regular deliveries of produce and supplies — but I wasn’t able to interact with him due to a bug that developer Frame Break tells us is getting fixed in an upcoming patch.

This Early Access story is the weakest part of Lightyear Frontier.

As for those ancient inhabitants that left all the ruins and mess? Well, I’m not saying it was aliens, but…

You can explore the old ruins around the map, all of which send you on a kind of prop hunt in old buildings or caves that unlock new alien-themed stuff to build. Cleaning up the world also gets you bits of lore about what the ruins might have been for and commentary from Piper. This Early Access story is the weakest part of Lightyear Frontier, and quite disappointing in relation to the rest of the experience — not because it’s outright bad or anything, but because it’s very short and very sparse right now. It took me about 15 hours to clean up the world and get to the rather abrupt, pretty unfulfilling end, which is quite literally a popup screen saying the campaign is over as of its Early Access launch. I can clearly see where this will be expanded and improved over time, but right now that ending comes when things are just getting going.

A short or open-ended story isn’t a sin in a game like Lightyear Frontier, it just has to be paced in such a way as to deliver a real arc or end that feels like it’s feeding into the post-story activity of building a larger farm and unlocking all the decoratable stuff. After all, I “finished” in 15 hours but spent another five excitedly exploring the new areas I had just unlocked, getting more mech upgrades and making the new buildings and decorations I now had access to.

Speaking of decorations, there are a lot of them, and I was happy to do all kinds of customizing. You can get different parts for your mech, and even mix-and-match them or paint them to create custom looks. You can also build all kinds of neat little doodads to place around, decorating the world with outposts and campsites. It’s hard to feel too disappointed by a game where you can make a garden of odd rock sculptures and then decorate it with even odder alien rock-plants.



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