Lightyear Frontier Co-op Group
Image via Frame Break.

Lightyear Frontier Early Access Impressions | Titanfarm

Protocol one: link to pilot. Protocol two: uphold the mission. Protocol three: Protect the crops.

Anyone who knows me knows that farming games are generally not my forte. Even when I do find one intriguing, it’s usually because it’s something for me and my friends to sink our teeth into. I like games with a lot more depth like RPGs and colony sims, or games that are much more fast-paced like FPS titles. However, the odd title in another genre manages to catch my attention, and Lightyear Frontier’s combination of mech-based movement and farming felt unique enough to give it a go. While I have my issues with this early iteration, Lightyear Frontier’s early access launch sets a solid foundation that could thrive with a little time to grow and evolve.

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Up the Creek With a Mechanized Paddle

Lightyear Frontier Radio Tower
Image via Prima Games.

I can’t go any further without first focusing on Lightyear’s key feature, its mech-based gameplay. This large vehicle does just about everything you want it to. It can break minerals and foliage, plant and water crops, help you farm trees, and sprinkle some light movement tech for those who like to get fancy with traversal. It’s surprisingly versatile and can serve a lot of key roles, meaning regular traversal is often very situational or downright unnecessary.

However, developer Frame Break is careful not to deal their hand too early. While the mech offers plenty of toys to play and experiment with, it’s the upgrades that you slowly unlock as you find new resources that truly make the mech shine. From severely speeding up farming (more on that later) to letting you restore more of the map to even plowing fields of soil using just the mech, it covers just about every base you could conjure up in your head. While I didn’t get every upgrade in my time with the game, what I did get felt impactful to my journey and rarely felt like a waste of time.

That being said, there are a few kinks that could be worked out. Namely, the fact that the mech doesn’t take too kindly to inclines or slopes of any form. I couldn’t count the number of times stubbing my toe on a rock decided the cockpit would be kissing the grass occurred, and while it’s a simple fix to get out of the mech, it did get annoying after some time. Trying to turn with the mech while running was also unnaturally slow, forcing you to get out of run mode, turn, then go back to running. Still, these issues are minor compared to how good the mech can truly feel at times. It’s an extension of you as the player, rather than a vehicle to get from point A to B.

Farming, Exploration, and Waiting…Lots of Waiting

Lightyear Frontier Farming With Bird
Image via Frame Break.

The farming side of this mech-based adventure starts uniformly for fans of the genre, having you kick off a small farm before quickly expanding to accommodate more crops of varying types. The bigger your farm, the more chores you have to handle each morning and the more rewards you get toward the end of the day. However, progression also leads to much faster ways to handle these chores in ways not often seen in the genre.

Chief among these is how the game uses the mech’s tools to severely speed up daily chores. Upgrades you acquire can let you plant multiple of a specific seed type at once, water an area of crops instead of one at a time, and even harvest a group of crops instantly. These come gradually and help a ton to let you focus on other aspects of the experience instead of spending half of each day staring at your massive farm. Occasional rain adds to this efficiency.

Farming isn’t the only feature that sees a welcome bit of quality-of-life too. Storage is based entirely on weight values instead of a grid-based system for example. This means you could store 40 different items in a chest provided it doesn’t meet the weight cap. There’s also the ability to get a seed for each crop you harvest, meaning you don’t have to find or purchase seeds constantly.

It’s a gorgeous game at all points, whether you’re observing the longer vistas during the day or appreciating planets in the sky at night.

However, this quality of life seems to have come at the (hopefully temporary) cost of development around various game systems. Those storage changes I mentioned earlier are great, but the lack of increased storage space makes this a chest spam fiesta as you constantly run out of storage space for heavier items. Other major mechanics, such as wildlife and the economy systems also offer very niche applications, meaning only those who want to min-max the adventure will find value in either.

The game also currently suffers from a major time-gating issue, something a lot of other entries in the genre tend to suffer from. While all games like Lightyear Frontier need to have time-gating to some extent, it’s the immense use of it here that makes it a problem. Almost everything is time-gated, meaning waiting is something you’ll do a lot if you don’t care to do every possible thing you can in a day as quickly as possible. It doesn’t need to be tuned too heavily, but cutting down on crafting or resource respawn times could be a huge help.

On the bright side, Lightyear Frontier makes a strong statement where it matters. Its gameplay flow of waking up, handling chores, exploring & gathering resources, and heading back to bed is a fun gameplay loop that feels rife with intrigue as you unlock new things and discover varied locations constantly. While these don’t have the depth quite yet to hold the weight of a longer experience, it’s clear from the passion that the team wants to realize that potential. They just need more time to push its mechanics further.

A Stellar Final Frontier, Mostly

Lightyear Frontier Forest Vista
Image via Frame Break.

If you’ve seen any store page for the game, you don’t need me to tell you that Lightyear Frontier is stunning in its cartoony art style. It’s a gorgeous game at all points, whether you’re observing the longer vistas during the day or appreciating planets in the sky at night. It won’t be winning any awards for detail as some closer textures will show, but its art direction is commendable.

The sound design further accentuates this, with some wonderfully serene melodies playing in between your chores and exploration. Even the mech sounds as weighty as ever, with the solid punches of your Spike Saw being a standout in terms of satisfying sounds. While I did turn the music off after some time to listen to my usual playlist, I’d attribute that less to the soundscape and more to my music tastes.

But what I can fault is the singular companion in PIP-3R. I have two playthroughs of this game with my multiplayer playthrough only just started, and in that first hour, I recall my friend wishing they could put a mute button on the robot. Having played the main story content through on my solo run, I couldn’t agree more. It’s not so much that she’s a poorly written character since there are some deeper moments hidden for you to discover, but her attitude of being cheerful 24/7 gets grating after a while. There are only so many times I can wake up with a robot’s overly positive voice in my head without wanting to turn off the in-game comms.

Like a Seed Sprouting its First Leaf

Lightyear Frontier Copper
Screenshot by Prima Games

If I had to give an analogy for the launch state of Lightyear Frontier, it’d be like a beautiful flower sprouting its first leaf as it pops out of the ground. The foundation for an excellent farming game is there, one that can make for a serene way to kill a few hours or wind down from a long day. However, it’s got a lot of work before it becomes that beautiful flower shown on the seed packet. Given the passion of the gardeners tending to it though, I truly believe Lightyear Frontier has the potential to see its way to stardom upon its full release.


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Author
Shawn Robinson
Shawn is a freelance gaming journalist who's been with Prima Games for a year and a half, writing mainly about FPS games and RPGs. He even brings several years of experience at other sites like The Nerd Stash to the table. While he doesn't bring a fancy degree to the table, he brings immense attention to detail with his guides, reviews, and news, leveraging his decade and a half of gaming knowledge. If he isn't writing about games, he's likely getting zero kills in his favorite FPS or yelling at the game when it was 100% his fault that he died.
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