Slime Rancher 2 opens as Beatrix LeBeau makes the strange life decision of getting onto an abandoned boat that turned up with a letter addressed to her, and following its invitation to a mystery island – 99.9% of the time this would be from an eccentric billionaire looking for a life partner/heir or horror film baddy looking for fresh prey. Luckily for her, she finds the bright and colourful lands of Rainbow Island and discovers an ideal conservatory that’s equipped with everything she needs to build up a new home base.
Slime ranching genuinely seems like one of the most pleasant professions out there, though video games strip back a lot of the less undesirable aspects, like the constant gunge residue that they leave as they bounce around the world, and who knows what these preternaturally happy and carefree creatures smell like. At the most basic level, taking care of slimes is as simple as setting up some enclosures for a particular type of slime, giving them the food type that they eat and then collecting the valuable “plorts” that they make, which can be redeemed for Newbucks that let you buy upgrades.
To get those slimes and to grow the foods that they’ll eat, you’ll need to go exploring, heading out from your conservatory and roaming the maze-like wilderness of this island. It’s quite delightful seeing the slimes bounce around and interact, and there’s open areas that are absolutely filled with activity as veritable hordes of slimes come out to eat food, and chow down on each other’s plorts, which evolves them into larger forms.
With Beatrix’s trusty Vacpack, you can suck in pretty much whatever you want (outside of the oversized largo slimes), and take it back to camp either to use as a resource or as a root for crop growing and slime tending. Really the only point of friction here is that you’re limited to an inventory of four slots, each allowing a stack of 20 of a particular item to start with. There’s plenty of upgrades to earn though, from increased energy for sprinting around, to jet packs and teleporters to get you back home quickly.
For the second-time Slime Rancher player, little of the sequel will really feel all that new. There’s the familiar early-game pink, tabby and phosphor slimes, the same style of gameplay for corralling them into pens and farming for their plorts. There are some immediate additions though, including the rabbit-like cotton slime and angler slime with its dangling angler fish light.
While this initial version of the game is in Early Access, Slime Rancher 2 feels pleasingly refined and polished. The main caveat is that there’s only a few slivers of the overarching story, and there’s plenty of elements that won’t be built into the game until later updates on the path to the full release. Simply having a new environment to play in and a handful of new slimes will be a major part of the appeal for people who’ve already made it through the first game a few times over, and there’s some streamlining of the core gameplay loop already in place, but anyone wanting a full and complete game with all of the features (like automation drones0 should wait for later updates or the full release of the game before diving in.
There’s a good bit of buzz surrounding Slime Rancher 2’s Early Access release, not least because it’s also a part of Xbox Game Pass, but for first time players, it’s almost certainly better to step back to the original. Sure, you’ll lose some of the gameplay tweaks and improvements, the graphics will lose a little of their lustre, but it’s a complete experience. It’s this point that makes it strange seeing the original Slime Rancher cycling out of the Xbox Game Pass library to be replaced by something still in development.
There’s a reason why the original Slime Rancher was so popular, and it’s clear even from the opening couple hours that Slime Rancher 2 is building on the exact same relaxed farming gameplay. The Early Access release shows a gentle evolution of the formula, giving a few morsels of what’s to come as the game grows, and we hope there’s bigger surprises down the road.