Farming life sims like Stardew Valley remain enduringly popular, and until Stardew dev ConcernedApe's Haunted Chocolatier arrives, there are plenty other games popping up like cute life sim mushrooms to horn in on our shared desire for a simpler, more rustic way of life. The route to this in Stardew Valley is actually quite hard, requiring mastery of several different interlocked systems that each ask a level of expertise that, on most days, I cannot be arsed to work towards. I love Stardew Valley, to be clear, but I hold no expectation of ever getting the most out of the farm space alloted to you as a result of your grandfather's death.
Fae Farm is a Stardewlike with a fantastical veneer and 3D graphics, but importantly it frontloads progress. It's slightly easier, in ways that seem small but cumulatively mean it takes up way less of your brain's runtime on bad days. For example: all activities, including watering your crops, use less energy than in Stardew Valley. This means you can run around clearing farm space and gathering resources, and have a working plot in just a couple of days. Heck, you can have a pretty full day in the mines before you've mechanised your farm. Game changer!
There are other little things, like how you will automatically use the right tool for the job when you interact with something, and will not fruitlessly tap a log with a pick axe by mistake. You have slightly wider reach so you don't have to move around as much when you're tending to crops. A big thing: you start with a coop, with space for six animals, already on site!
But the complexity lost here is moved elsewhere in Fae Farms. You can't build a farm plot by digging in the ground; it's something you have to craft, and requires sand. There are many, many, many crafting recipes for decor for your home (which can affect your stat bars, i.e. if you have a lot of "cosy" items, you get more health when you wake up), as well as food. Fae Farm tends to lean away from the actual farming lifestyle seen in Stardew and more towards the bougie cottagecore.
Whenever the idea of cottagecore comes up, I - like a build-a-bear curmudgeon who only plays one recorded line when you squeeze her tummy - go "living in an unheated country cottage sucks". Granted, I didn't live in a Cider With Rosie-esque smallholding in a closeknit community where everyone made each other jam and bacon, and the unheated cottage was my dad's (when I was with my mum it was an unheated country semi-detached redbrick). I'm just saying: in real life there's less gingham and roses and more henshit and wet socks. But. Fae Farm's version of the fantasy is pretty cute.
You can hybridise flowers! You can get a little drinks production table and make vegetable and berry juices, or iced tea! Chopping stations and proper ovens yield chowders and complex salads. And the raw cotton you get from this world's fantasy version of a sheep can go into cushions and rugs for your increasingly cute home. Fae Farm's community of vendors and citizens, many of whom will give you little quests, will buy basically anything you can catch (bees, frogs, trout, etc), so there's never a day you aren't generating some income. You go from zero to insta-ready hero in less than an in-game week. I'm sort of surprised that isn't a skill track to follow.
I'm enjoying it, though! There's some sort of curse thing to deal with, but that's on the back burner while I figure out how to make a proper bed. There are loads of lovely little details, like rain watering your crops but also watering you. If you get too wet, you'll be "soaked", and then you start shivering, and a shiver knocks off more energy than basically anything else in the game. You can also get hot, and you can get cold by visiting the snowy areas of the game. I've not seen everything under Fae Farm's hood yet, but if you bounced off the difficulty curve in Stardew Valley, you should definitely check it out.