The Strange, Wonderful World of Slime Rancher

The Strange, Wonderful World of Slime Rancher

Perhaps the most unusual upcoming Xbox One game of all involves cannibalistic slimes.

We're at E3 this week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!

Sometimes, video games feel like a real merry-go-round of borrowed inspiration. And sometimes, that's a very good thing indeed.

For my first day on the E3 2016 show floor, I began the show by interviewing the Dragon Quest Builders team about how much their game resembles Minecraft. (So much.) And, then, I closed out the day by playing a game that I can only describe as a cross between Dragon Quest and Harvest Moon: Monomi Park's Slime Rancher.

Honestly, that description doesn't even begin to fully explain Slime Rancher. But at least it points you in the right direction. And it definitely pegs the game's most obvious influence: Everything about Slime Rancher, as its name suggests, revolves around dealing with grinning gelatinous blobs of goo, straight out of Dragon Quest. They even demonstrate many of the same behaviors! Monomi Park CEO Nick Popovich gave me a guided tour of the game and smiled knowingly when I made a passing reference to King Slimes, which you get when a bunch of Dragon Quest slimes pile up together and form into a giant, powerful mass. Slime Rancher includes its own variant of that, as well as slime stacks and many other strange quirks for the many different types of slime that exist in its world.

Make no mistake, though. Slime Rancher is by no means an RPG. Players have two abilities in the game: The ability to suction up slimes and carry them around in a containment device, and the ability to reverse flow and blast out the slimes instead. You can vacuum more than just slimes, though; basically, your suction device can scoop up pretty much any kind of item you come across. That includes water, food, and "plorts," little crystal gems that slimes create when you feed them and, like all the best excrement, doubles as cash.

The game is more or less open-ended, with a fairly expansive free-roaming world and nothing much in the way of structured goals. You can create and upgrade holding pens for different kinds of slime, feed them, or even play god. Slimes of a single color or type — pink slimes, rock slimes, kitty slimes, etc. — all play well together, and each has its own behaviors and preferences. Smash two different kinds of slime together, though, and you start to see various effects that can potentially have a huge impact on important factors like plort output, but which can also pose real danger to your slime ranching ambitions.

And... that's really about it. Slime Rancher currently is in early access for Windows and Mac, but Monomi Park is also working on an Xbox One port (the version playable at E3). Much about the game has yet to be defined, and Popovich says the story — which is sparse, but present, and perhaps surprisingly personal in light of the whimsical nature of the game — is still coming along. Even at this fairly early stage, though, Slime Rancher is one of the most eye-catching games at Microsoft's E3 booth thanks to the vivid neon blobs of jelly that comprise its featured creatures.

We're at E3 this week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!

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