You cannot imagine how much I cherish farming sims. These games have had a special place in my heart since I was a kid. There is something special about being able to forget the world while taking over virtual chores. For some reason, real-life chores seem boring, but virtual ones are more than welcome, haha! So it is of no surprise that I was over the moon when I heard that Dinkum was releasing on July 14th, 2022. Despite its name which I still struggle to properly understand, its gameplay is one of a kind. This title is an example of how a developer can take inspiration from other titles, and still manage to make theirs a one-of-a-kind experience. So, is Dinkum the game for YOU? Let’s check it out!
You start your journey by choosing how you want your character to look, which I know many of you appreciate, including myself. From skin tone, hair style and color, eye shape, and more, you give yourself a name and your story begins. You used to live in South city, a cold and miserable place that you could not tolerate anymore. So, you decide to accompany Fletch, your Tom-Nook alternative, to a new land. This is where you will start your new life!
As you’re landing, you’ll notice the quick resemblance to Animal Crossing: New Horizons. You’ll see the airship flying above the Australian outback. At first, the world is empty in terms of buildings and humans, but you will be in charge of changing that. However, Dinkum does not fail when it comes to the diversity of areas and wild animals.
Despite the large world, we thankfully have a map to use. The map clearly shows you where bodies of water are, as well as desserts and tropical forests. It also lets you use different symbols. These easily allow you to mark important spots that you would like to revisit. One thing I would appreciate being added soon is different location names. This would let us connect to the world a bit more.
Speaking of areas, you’ll notice beautiful open waters with jellyfish and sharks, ponds with cute fish swimming around, but also open wilderness that switches between tropical forests and fierce deserts. Every time you go somewhere new, you’ll see the interaction between the predator and the prey. You’ll experience crocodiles attacking kangaroos and ostriches, but also stray dogs and gorgeous birds living their life.
I adore this aspect of the game because the abundance of animals makes the world feel lively. So, Dinkum knows how to charm you into wanting to explore it furthermore. Not only does it try to let you experience beautiful textures and shadows, but it also enables you to enjoy calming music when you’re roaming around and then more upbeat tunes when you’re in trouble. I like that the music does not play 24/7. Sometimes you’ll hear it, other times you get to fully experience the plethora of sound effects. From the sound of mosquitoes, your footsteps, kangaroos jumping around, the tools you use, and so on. This all adds to the immersion factor which I appreciate.
You’ll certainly notice the mixture between the 3D NPCs, flowers, trees, animals, and then the more square-shaped land. This feels like Animal Crossing, Minecraft, and Stardew Valley had an Australian baby! Presentation is distinct here and it made me connect with the game in a special way.
Life in This Australian Outback
As I mentioned, you arrive at this Australian outback where you cannot find any humans. In fact, you are only surrounded by animals at first. So, you need to set things up from scratch with Miss Fletch. The first step to do so is setting your and her tent. Your tent is to sleep, which lets you save and progress to the next day.
Hers, on the other hand, is for the workshop that you can use to craft plenty of blueprints. The blueprints are essential for your survival on the island. You can craft a spear, cooking station, nails, furnace, along with so many other items. You also have a donation box to pay off your debt, which we’ll get into in the next section.
There are licenses to buy as well to expand your inventory, go deep mining, own water, and land vehicles, and use metal detectors to name a few. These make the gameplay fun since you always have something new to work on and unlock. However, licenses need permit points to be unlocked. These are gathered similar to milestones in Animal Crossing: New Horizons. By completing daily and long-term objectives, you can redeem them in your journal. For example, by collecting a certain amount of shells, walking for X miles, mining X ores, and more, you’ll get points in return.
After setting yourself up, John appears on the island. At first, he is here to sell you different basic tools like the fishing rod, ax, pickaxe, and shovel to name a few, and buy items from you. Soon enough though, Fletch decides that he needs to expand the shop and move in. Of course, you will be doing all the work. By fulfilling a few favors and buying some items, John quickly gets persuaded to move in. So, you grab a construction plan from Fletch, decide where to place it, and begin work. You’ll have different items to donate as well as money to pay off. We will dive deeper into how businesses work soon.
Gathering Resources and Leveling Up
This leads us to collecting resources. Everything you do requires money and specific items to create. That’s why the tools you buy are important. They help you fish, catch bugs, find unique metal items, chop trees, collect ores, and such to either sell, use to craft, or build. And the more you engage in certain activities, the more you can level up. This in turn expands the range of items you can craft.
In the beginning, this can get overwhelming. You will quickly unlock the ability to craft paths, fences, bridges, boats, and more. However, I found this loop very fun. I usually don’t like games that take me forever to unlock items. I love that I am able to quickly start living freely on the island. I also like that you can see yourself level up every time you go to sleep. A gorgeous screen will appear where you can see the skills that you leveled up, the amount of Dinks you made (in-game currency), and the things you collected (i.e. butterflies and fish).
Keep in mind though, the tools you use have a durability bar. The more you use them, the more likely they will break. That’s why in the beginning, I recommend you always buy an extra tool if your current one is about to break. However, eventually, you will gain access to repair toolkits that can fix your tools (I am not sure if that is their purpose though).
I also want to point out that I really appreciate how simple it is to use tools. For instance, the ax and pick ax work by simply pressing the left click. Whereas fishing, which is usually confusing in other games, works by throwing in the line, waiting for a fish to bite, reeling it in when it is not moving, and voila! You caught a fish. I find it so confusing when some games go out of their way to make fishing complicated.
Another thing you need to take into consideration when gathering resources is the day/night cycle and season. Similar to Animal Crossing, Story of Seasons, and other farming entries, different resources are available at different times. This lets you look forward to the next season, or go out of your way and explore at night, to test out what you’ll find.
As we tackle the importance of tools, we also need to mention stamina. Everything you do requires energy. Thus, you need to keep an eye on your stamina bar, the yellow one that you see in the top left corner (in the picture above). If this runs out, your character will become extremely slow, and everything will become grey. Regardless, you can maintain that by either going to sleep, or eating food. You can eat fruits, or cook yourself different recipes by using the cooking station (craftable), or using a BBQ (bought from John’s shop).
You also need to keep an eye on the red bar, which designates your HP. Dinkum can get pretty feisty. You have different animals to fight such as sharks, crocodiles, porcupines and some crazy ostriches. You will also fo after some bounties on Alpha beasts which act as boss fights here.
This is where one of my biggest gripes rose. Combat at the moment is extremely clunky. Despite having different weapons to use (i.e. spear or hammer), movement is slow. Additionally, there is no dodging. Thus, you’ll see animals constantly dealing you great damage while you can barely move around. Not only that, but even the basic crocodile feels like a “damage sponge” (if that’s how you call it). You can hit it so many times and feel like you are barely causing any damage to it. For instance, the alpha crocodile will wipe your butt in a second. It will constantly hit you and if you try to move away, it will spawn different layers of stone which diminish your HP in moments.
Combat won’t stay like this forever and I am happy to share that with you. I contacted James, the solo developer of Dinkum. He told me that he will be working on combat very soon and will be adding dodge and other mechanics. This will certainly make the gameplay more fun and fair. Until then, you will need to focus on cooking items that boost your stamina, HP, and attack and hope you can survive.
Town Building, Businesses, and NPCs
When you’re not out and about kicking butt or getting your butt kicked, you can enjoy building your town. At first, you and Fletch are alone, then John joins in, but soon enough more and more NPCs will stop by. Some of them will quickly ask you to move in, like the owner of the museum. Others might take some time before wanting to.
NPCs will visit you in the visitor camp, very similar to Animal Crossing. When you meet them, you can chat, buy unique items and blueprints from them, and do them favors. This in turn helps you build a friendship together and gain hearts!
When an NPC wants to move in, you need to talk to Fletch. If all your debt is paid off, she will show you different deeds that you can invest in. Once you choose a business to build, you decide where to place it on the island, contribute the required resources and pay the fees. This was another gripe I had with the game. The finances are extremely high at the moment. John’s shop was an instant 75K, and the museum (the next building you get access to) is 125K. Add to that, the first upgrade to your house is 90K. The problem is, it is very difficult to gain this money quickly. You can fish, catch bugs, and such for so long and sell them to John. But I feel like the excessive amounts force an unnecessary grind, for the sake of it.
Eventually, you will meet an NPC called Franklyn. They will accept shiny discs from you for a decent amount of Dinks. These discs are found by using a metal detector. However, Franklyn won’t always be there. So, the grind is inevitable. Another way to make money is by completing favors for NPCs. You can even take time-limited quests from the notice board. However, for the most part, these quests are very difficult since they are the ones that ask you to fight off Alpha animals.
Going back to NPCs and town building, you will have plenty of new friends to make and lots of flexibility to build your perfect paradise. You can use different paths, bridges, fences, lighting, and decorations to create your perfect town. You can also terraform the land and mold it how you want it to be. This can also be done to your house. This all makes the experience unique to you since you will never find anyone who has built the exact same town as yours!
Is Dinkum The Game For You?
I had such an amazing time playing Dinkum. In 15 hours, I managed to unlock so many craftable items, learn about different quirky NPCs and deal with the greediness of our Tom Nook alternative. I enjoyed the beautiful night skies, the gorgeous sunsets, and the crazy animals. With all that, I know I barely even scratched the surface. I feel like this game is exactly how inspiration should look like. These days, we see so many new farming games taking inspiration from others and then copy-pasting. However, this shows how you can be inspired but still create your own enjoyable experience. It even offers multiplayer so you can play with friends. If you are like me then you will absolutely adore it.
Dinkum is the game for you IF you:
-Love farming games
-Do not mind having survival mechanics in a farming game
-Get easily bored and want a title that has so much to offer
-You enjoy the grind but also the progression system of farming games
– Love Animal Crossing, Dragon Quest Builders or Minecraft but want something new
– Loe playing with friends (multiplayer mode)
Dinkum is not the game for you IF you:
-Get easily bored from grinding
-Cannot tolerate clunky combat (it is like this for now)
-Do not understand the appeal of farming games
-Get easily overwhelmed by massive crafting options
If you enjoyed this article, then stop by my Youtube channel, and you will find lots of cozy and wholesome videos there. Of course, you also get the occasional shenanigans with Bubbles. You can also find me on Twitter where I am always posting thought-provoking Tweets about gaming, life, mental health, and more. As always, stay bubbly, stay positive and I hope to catch you in the next post. BYE <3