Eastward Octopia Review
Back in 2021, we were graced with a beautiful 2D Zelda-like action RPG featuring stunning pixel art and loveable characters in Eastward. Now close to three years later, pixpil has decided to jump on the cozy farming sim train and give us an alternate take on their world. Sam and John have come to the country to start a new life running a farm with no worries of a major threat or monsters. Eastward Octopia is standalone in the sense that it isn't tied to your progress in the main game, but you can’t play Octopia without owning Eastward. While I initially thought that was a bit cheap to block it behind the wall of the original game, I later found that Octopia spoils a fair few things about its base game, so I don’t recommend playing this until after beating Eastward.
The farming is pretty standard, as you make measly returns to better your equipment and expand your farmland to eventually generate such great returns you barely bother to farm in the late game. There is quite a variety of crops, including fruit trees, maker machines, the usual chickens, pigs that grow mushrooms on their back, and heli-cows. However there aren’t any seasons to worry about, which feels a bit disappointing because it would allow for more stunning visuals for the surrounding areas to change, but I suppose it would result in the story progress getting blocked if a certain request couldn’t be fulfilled at the time.
Answering people’s cries for a helping is how you’ll progress in the game. As John is quite the master chef, many people will come to the dinky abandoned theme park of Octopia just to get a taste of his food. Most requests are for dishes, tying into your need to farm (and sometimes fish). New recipes can be learned by having the ingredients in hand and letting John think, others are taught upon request. Even if you fail a request it will usually pop up again over time for you to try.
Honestly, the waiting game can be the worst part of playing Octopia, as I’d have to wait an entire week for a character to show up again, or for new faces to show. Of course, this is important to not only advance the story but also to gain access to more areas and mechanics. Another important trick that sped up my waiting was inviting guests over for dinner, as inviting the Construction bros over will speed up any jobs they’re working on and so on. I found that I did a lot more cooking in this game than any other farming sim and regularly ate dinner to boost my stamina for the next day (since it is your only meal).
New facilities will require the usual findings of stone, wood, and later ore. The mining game in this is pretty fun as you send out Sonic Punk into the depths with a limited number of explosives to mine with, eventually discovering pathways to the lower floors with better resources. Thankfully his capacity can be expanded other than with the reward you get for a good haul. One of Alva’s inventions is super useful the Rock Shaker can be used to automatically drop bombs (not using your own) for quite a while and I used it to try to get to the lower floors for the special ore I needed. One letdown was that I ran out of construction jobs to do early on and rest of the town was getting fixed up without any of my input.
Alva has several inventions that will unlock over time, some I thought were pretty useless but others such as ones for mining and the special fertilizer that makes everything that was already planted fully grow after one watering were incredibly useful. Of course, those items can’t be held so you have to pre-plan for activating them for the day. The resource needed to buy these inventions, Energy Gems, were pretty common as you’ll be rewarded with one while doing general farming tasks, so I was never really out of them at any time (sometimes it got annoying how much I was interrupted by the pop-up).
The fishing mini-game is quite fun, once I got the hang of not scaring the fish immediately. It's played by dropping a bobber around a circle and waiting for the bait to be taken, then you chase your prey inside the edge of the circle hitting it when your bobber passes over the fish, enough times to whittle it down to catch. Rarer fish might require bait to show, and some will even double back or slow down to stop you from hitting them. Once I got the bobber that could take them out in one hit I stuck with that.
There are other little oddities here and there like a statue that you can make three offerings to on a foggy morning, that was good as an early special ore source, but later I felt like I was wasting my items trying to experiment with it.
One of the major appeals of the base game is the stunning visual quality, not only in the well-coloured and detailed pixel art but the complementary lighting and shading. While Eastward Octopia keeps the same look and style (coming with a CRT filter on by default), I feel that the small number of areas means it doesn’t get to shine quite as well, though the lighting is still phenomenal. Nonetheless, the tiny world does feel alive with constant detail and movement such as lanterns flowing with the wind while a bug flies around. I ultimately ended up skipping the cute cooking animation every time due to the sheer time it would take up. One area has a very lovely painterly background that distracted me enough that I would still visit it even when I got the fast travel point to avoid it. Eastward Octopia is likely the prettiest farming sim I’ve played.?
In comparison to the main game’s soundtrack, Octopia's is a lot more relaxed, meaning there are not quite as many fun tunes, except the mini-games. Your farm theme seems somewhat standard but develops nicely into its own thing as the song continues, and other tracks share some familiar sounds with ones from regular Eastward. The sound design is lovely with many ambient nature sounds in different areas. Performance on both my personal computer and the Steam Deck was perfectly fine. I do wish it didn’t take over half a minute of logos, menus and so on to get into the Octopia content.
The story overall is pretty fluff, but a plot-important character from the original game makes an appearance and over time starts lore-dumping what happened in that game. Players of the original might be delighted to know that the experience isn’t nearly as wordy. At least in my playthrough, I didn’t come across a particular character I would’ve thought deserved to be in the “everyone is relatively happier” alternate world Octopia takes place in which is a bit sad. There is some minor character development with these more shallow versions but it takes so long to get barely a fraction of the depth.
Eastward Octopia is a fun little distraction, that doesn't stray too far from the usual farming sim formula. Changes to certain important side jobs like fishing and mining help to elevate it, but the lack of constant progress mid-way really drags the experience down. I’d really not rather wait around for a game to let me play it, and in my sixteen-hour playthrough (which you can continue after the credits roll), at least a couple hours were spent heading straight to bed each day until something changed.?On its own as a farming game Octopia isn’t really comparable to the major hitters, even if it does get most systems right, it’s still not competing with them on the same level. If you’re a fan of Eastward who also happens to enjoy farming games, this is a light recommendation. For anyone else, you should definitely try Eastward first.