Coral Island early access review – the farming sim we’ve been waiting for

Coral Island Early Access gameplay RevealStairway Games

Coral Island has finally released into early access, revealing a rich and exciting world filled with mysteries. Despite still having a long road ahead to full launch, it is definitely the game fans have been waiting for.

Coral Island has garnered a good deal of attention in the past few years following its exceedingly successful Kickstarter campaign. The slice-of-life, farming simulation departs from the pixelated designs of Stardew Valley and Littlewood, instead utilizing 3D and 2D illustrations to create a vibrant island with unique characters.

The game offers the standard array of farming simulation mechanics. Players obtain their own farmstead, learning to grow crops, care for animals, and build useful buildings. Along the way, they gain access to mining dungeons filled with monsters, and can befriend local townsfolk.

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However, Coral Island has put a much-needed spin on the well-loved basics of the cozy genre, implementing a diving system to explore the oceans, as well as adding an emotional narrative about environmental damage seen around coral reefs. The combination of the familiar and the inventive draws players in, creating the addictive desire to dig deep into the island’s mysteries.

Coral Island key details

  • Price: $24.99 USD
  • Developer: Stairway Games
  • Early Access release date: October 11, 2022
  • Platforms: PC via Steam

Coral Island official trailer

Coral Island makes the early game fun

One of the most daunting struggles of farming sims is the first few in-game months of gameplay. Players are often left with few things to do, and limited funds to purchase seeds, tools, animals, or buildings. This creates a miserable grind of catching bugs and fish to earn money.

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Coral Island does away with this outdated “earn your way” ideology. Instead, players immediately have access to a range of different ways to fill their days. Seeds are affordable, and the first batch of Turnip seeds come free. A wide array of forgeable goods from the island have good resell value, helping to get things started.

Coral Island FarmStairway Games
Coral Island offers a large farming area

Additionally, a steady stream of in-game quests help players get to know the island, as well as its inhabitants. These quests mix narrative with tutorial, removing the need for the week-long explanation that is seen in many Story of Seasons games.

Players will also notice that the tools work seamlessly, with no lag or excess animations drawing out planting and watering. This makes crop-tending a breeze, and ensures there is time for the many other exciting mechanics that make up the game.

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Early on, players will notice the amount of garbage that seems to litter every aspect of Coral Island. Unlike Stardew Valley, which is weirdly pristine for its dark tone surrounding big corporations, Coral Island calls out the ecological effects these companies have on the environment, and players will waste no time diving in.

Coral Island DivingStairway Games
Dive under the waves to heal damaged coral

While using a scythe to clear beaches and farmland of mounds of trash, players will also need to explore the ocean. After obtaining the Wet Suit, hours can be spent scrubbing the ocean floor of trash while helping to restore the oil-spill damaged coral.

Coral Island’s cast of characters make the story amazing

Coral Island also has taken a turn with the NPCs players can meet. The story includes 28 romanceable characters, each sporting a beautiful 2D portrait and outfits for each season. The characters are full of life and are fleshed out with real struggles. This includes Noah’s anxious fear of heights to Suki’s post-divorce drive to run the Coral Inn.

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Developer Stairway Games has managed to do what many AAA titles in recent years seem to have missed, making each character important to the story. This careful development makes the game more than just a farming simulation, pushing players to explore and learn about town residents that make each aspect of gameplay more fulfilling.

Coral Islands early access cracks come in the player character

Despite the game’s absolutely beautiful early access state, it does fall a bit flat when it comes to the player’s character. While the character creation process is diverse -offering different body shapes, inclusive pronouns, and a variety of skin tones – hairstyles are limited and detailed customization is difficult.

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To add to this, the player character feels almost hollow compared to the vibrant NPCs wandering the town, beaches, and forest. Improvements to customization and player dialogue options would be a huge benefit in future updates, and would likely help players connect with their character during gameplay.

Is Coral island worth it in early access during 2022?

This game is worth investing in while in during early access. The current build is more fleshed out than many farming sims that are fully released and has a solid roadmap for upcoming content. Those who want to fall in love with the world they are farming in will find no shortage of delightful details hidden in character dialogue and secret map locations.

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The game is an absolute delight to play, and easy to lose hours in. It has all the heart of early farming simulations while taking outdated gameplay and revolutionizing it for the future of the slice-of-life genre.

Dexerto was provided with a PC Steam code of Coral Island for the purpose of this preview.