Research Story (Sneak-Peek)
Research Story is a pixel-cute life sim that is oriented towards researching plants and creatures and providing them with the necessary conditions to grow. At the moment of writing this review, the game just entered early access yet it has all the basic mechanics of the genre already working bug-free: you can harvest resources, tend to your own gardening corner, engage in fishing, mining, or crafting decorations for your house.
On the scale of life-sims, Research Story has a rather slow progression. This is due to the fact that researching an item takes a lot of time, and you can simultaneously have a maximum of 3 research projects (obviously, this amount increases as you progress with the game, but to acquire another slot will take you several hours of gameplay).
The process of researching a plant or a creature has 3 main steps: interacting to it several times to unlock a list of preferences (for animals this is their preferred diet and habitat, for plants it’s a list of growth requirements), then taming the animal / planting the seeds, and lastly waiting several days until they mature. The latter stage takes the most time, since you have to tend to your animals / plants daily and fulfill all their necessities in terms of diet, fertilizer / weather / season. Unfortunately this is easier said than done, because not all the materials needed to support this research process are available from the beginning.
In that regard, I think Research Story is in dire need of better balancing the progress. The game spawns new plants to collect every day, but these are rather sparse and have to be used both as crafting materials for the meals, and also as a way to acquire money to buy the meals that you can’t craft yet. It’s quite weird that you can tame creatures that you cannot feed just because you don’t have the required ingredients to craft their meals. Also, these aren’t sold by any vendor, and the game doesn’t teach you or guide you towards acquiring them yourself. The inventory is extremely small for the amount of items you can gather, considering that these also have quality tiers (you can have one egg in 3 or 4 variants depending on its value tier, and each of them consumes one inventory spot of the 22 available. For now there doesn’t seem to be an option to expand it.
Compared to other life sims, I find Research Story to be much more repetitive. The game map is very small, consisting of around 10 screens that you have to visit daily in order to pick up the 2-3 plants that spawn randomly in each of them. This wouldn’t be a problem if the day wasn’t so short – the energy pool being very small (enough only to cut down max 3 trees per day for example) makes the game loop very redundant. Even if you can restore some of this energy by consuming mushrooms that you can gather pretty much from every corner of the map, having to replenish it this way every day is too tedious. The quests are also rather few and there’s not much novelty from day to day apart from maybe finding a new animal or a new type of plant, sadly one that you probably won’t be able to research immediately because your 3 research slots are already occupied. You will also need to time your plant research projects to fit into the corresponding season, since transitioning to a new season will make your already planted items wither if they don’t grow in that season.
On the positive side, the game seems to have a good variety of creature and plant types, and they’re all very adorably animated. They’re not only seasonal, but also depend on a day / night cycle (some spawn only after the sun sets down) or weather. The produce of some animals can be used to feed others, and that implies that there’s an optimal order of taming and researching the animals – but sadly, this is not indicated anywhere. Also nice is that you can craft pretty much everything on the go (there aren’t really any crafting stations in the game, apart from those that are specialized to craft a certain type of item, like the fertilizer station).
Research Story is an *ok* life sim, yet one that needs more content to keep the player interested long-term, plus a better balancing of resources and of other game parameters related to progression. The developers are very active both in regards to the development process but also to giving friendly advice in the forums. A demo is also available, if you want to give the game a try.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a press preview copy of the game, kindly provided by PetalCatGames via The Indie Game Collective.