Too Long; Didn't Play: Blacksmith Simulator

Sponsored By: Me

Time Smithed: 53 minutes

It’s a Sn Review

Well, I could forge ahead.

Ore, I could slag this one and go play something that isn’t a hot, broken mess.

Cu Later Review

As a fan of the mundane simulator genre, you have to accept, and maybe even love, a little jank. It comes with the territory. Game development is hard, after all, and the people making mundane simulators are usually small teams with big ideas. Not everybody has the passion of Giant Software or the budget of Dovetail.

Even with games like Train Simulator World or Farming Simulator you get a large amount of jank. Sometimes things don’t move quite right, or you drive through a pedestrian like they were a holographic projection. Maybe the physics is a little finicky, or the menus don’t quite work how you’d expect them to. It’s part of the charm, in a way, and you learn your way around them. There is, however, a line where the jank stops being endearing and starts just being bad.

And, oh, would you look at that! I’ve segued right into Blacksmith Simulator! How did that happen?

Blacksmith Simulator is, as the title so subtly implies, a simulation of blacksmithing. It’s also just broken enough to be frustrating without being broken enough to be featured on popular streaming sites where the coin of the realm is hilarious bug hunting.

I want to give the developers credit for that. It’s not a bad game at its core, and I wish the little idiosyncrasies didn’t bother me as much as they do. It’s got a subtly cel-shaded graphical style that is pleasing to look at without being distracting. The sound design, spartan though it may be, is competent and adds to the experience. It’s really just a lot of little things that conspire to make the game frustrating to play.

Like the controls, for example. I’ve played some Unity-based first-person shooters, and none of them have been as floaty as this one. In your better class of fantasy novels, you will occasionally read a description of a blacksmith’s forge where the heat was so palpable you could cut it with a knife. The developer of Blacksmith Simulator seems to have internalized that on some level, because walking around the forge feels like wading through warm molasses. Just turning your head has this bizarre acceleration to it that makes me feel as though the main character must be wearing a lead helmet that’s several fathoms wide, and suspended from the ceiling by a block and tackle system.

Also, there’s no option to invert the Y axis. I know you don’t care, but I do, and this is my review.

The rest of the physics engine seems to be doing its job, but it does suffer from the “This platform only exists every fourth frame” problem that you used to see crop up in pre-Source first-person-shooters. I’ve never fallen through the floor, but I have lost several hundred coins' worth of materials because the workbench decided to jerk its hands back and yell “PSYCHE” when I dropped an iron axe head onto it. Not only did I lose the axe head, but I lost the handle I’d purchased for the axe head.

After that happens a few times, you start to sour on the game a little – especially since the core loop of the game isn’t actually all that much fun. You buy ore from the shop, which you then drop manually into the smelter using a manipulation system that is similar to the one you use in Skyrim when you press the Z key.

Which is a long-winded way of saying “not in a fun way.”

After you drop three golf-ball sized blobs of ore into the smelter, you’re rewarded with an ingot, which you then maneuver to the forge to heat it by pressing “F” at the bellows. Then, using your bare hands, you take the hot ingot to the anvil and click on it until the button for the object you want to craft lights up. Then you pick the hot metal object up and drop it into a bucket of water with an admittedly satisfying hiss of steam, before walking the item to the workbench to fraghle fropulous gramajama ...

I’m sorry, I nodded off. I am a fan of boring mundane simulators (I apologize if I just broke your understatement detector) but I am struggling to maintain my interest in this gameplay loop.

Will I keep smithing?

The bones of an interesting simulator are present in Blacksmith Simulator, but the controls are too loose, and the gameplay loop is simultaneously too fiddly and not detailed enough. The developer seems to be engaging the fans, so it might be the case that Blacksmith Simulator could be a very different game in a year’s time. Right now, though, I’d give it a wistful pass.

Is it the Dark Souls of Renaissance Faire Job Simulators?

The controls are clunky, but there’s nothing in Blacksmith Simulator that is interesting enough to be difficult. Losing crafted items that fall through level geometry doesn’t count. Also, there are no goals. You just craft things, make money, buy more materials and craft more things.

If you want the Dark Souls of shopkeeper games with crafting, maybe check out Recettear (Which is pronounced RECK -eh -TEER – which seems unlikely, except that’s the only way a joke in the opening dialog of the game works). There’s a lot more to do in Recettear that could be more reasonably called soulsish. Blacksmith Simulator, not so much.

Comments

Sounds great!

As an avid fan of Forged In Fire, I REALLY wanted there to be more depth in this title. There are so many more fiddly details to the process that they could add: choosing the right metal for the task, making sure the ingot is heated to the right temperature, grinding the edges to the proper angle (based on what it will be used for), selecting handle material/shape/etc. As you said, maybe this will be a different game a year from now. Until then, it will remain on my wish list...

My Little Blacksmith Shop for something else from the the blacksmithing genre. Looks like a hobby project which is on its way to steam.