Farm for Your Life is a fantastic game if you are looking for a little bit of everything - the hybrid genres and gameplay make for a unique and charming take on classic elements that are already very popular on their own. This was a perfect game that I got in a bundle, especially considering that I had already recently played many fun tower-defense games (like Tower Wars) and great restaurant managemen games like Cook, Serve Delicious; and Dead Hungry Diner. This game mixes mechanics from those games very well.
If you like farming (agriculture, AND also RPG/dungeon-style grinding), restaurant management, the zombie theme, tower defense, and bartering systems, then you will really love this game.
The aesthetics are good, the cute character models and graphics remind me a lot of the Mii avatars you can make on the Wii (or your avatars in Xbox Live), with large heads and small bodies. The character customization is limited, but still has a decent variety. The music and sounds are good and match the semi-casual (the game can get brutally difficult if you let it) and (at times) relaxing gameplay.
The controls are easy to learn and the tutorial quickly covers the basics of the game, however, balancing everything there is to do in the game can get overwhelming at times. The learning curve is moderate to difficult, depending on your experience with the different genres present in the game - and especially your ability to juggle different priorities. There is a "peaceful" farming-only mode (no enemy zombies), and if you are not interested in that extra hazard, I suggest you give that a try. Personally, I really believe there is already a lot to do in the game, but I picked the story mode and welcome the added challenge. The story is decent, but many things are left unsaid and you may end up having to consult a guide if you do not understand what to do.
In regards to the actual gameplay, there is a lot of things to do, and each aspect of the game really appeals to me for different reasons.
As a farmer, you can dig areas to plant with your shovel, harvest wood/rocks with your axe/hammer, and use your sickle to collect grass (that you plant), among other things. Be advised, you cannot use these tools to attack zombies. Your plants have two requirements for life: water and health. You are given a blue watering can that can nourish up to 4 plants before you need to refill it - 2 red watering cans are available at the store and can be used to water significantly more plants. For maintaining health, you can use fertilizer on applicable plants - I am fairly certain that doing this will restore a plant's health to full regardless of how low you let it get.
When you harvest plants, you can only hold one item at a time, however, building a crate will allow you to carry up to 4 items.
You also have a kitchen service, and customers will come starting from late morning/early afternoon until the evening (there is a clock that will show you the time splits). These customers will ask for different food/drinks from you, and you can accept/decline, as well as negotiate the terms of the trade. This is one of my most favorite parts, because I have recently gotten into Steam trading and really enjoy it. You can haggle pretty well, and you will also notice that your ability to lowball will increase as you progress through the game (because different plants have different values). You can even trade for plates and cups and use them at the store (extremely high value). Upgrades to your kitchen (and farm) are available here. Examples include more tables, tents (to attract and house helpers), and sprinklers (very useful).
There is a store that provides different recipes and plant seeds - these will expand as you progress through the game. It is almost impossible (if not completely) to haggle with the shopkeeper. There is a good feedback system that will tell you "x more required" for each item you hover over when trying to achieve a balanced trade.
Helps will become available as you progress, and you can assign them to either help with farming or in your kitchen. You must also feed them every early morning before they will work.
To learn recipes, you must do a short mini-game that is a lot like Fruit Ninja - you use the mouse to "slice" the correct ingredients into a pot. You can achieve 1 to 3 stars, and having the max amount will allow you to cook much the item much faster.
You can wander into the forest at any time for rocks and wood, however, zombies are roaming all over the place. If you are touched by one, you will lose all of your collected materials by half. I've noticed that there is a short window after being hit by a zombie where you will be ignored by all zombies. This part can be very annoying, especially if you get trapped by a horde.
At night, zombies will sometimes try to attack your farm. During this part, you can try to herd them by arranging your fences like a maze. There are also turrets you can purchase from the kitchen, each doing significantly more damage than the last. At first, you will most likely be defending your farm by throwing any food items at the zombies.
Admittedly, the AI is not the best, as your helpers will most times prioritize picking up ripe plants versus watering ones that are about to die. I've also noticed that your character will sometimes pick up a plant instead of watering it (happens infrequently).
The game is appropriately challenging and really tests your planning and priotizing skills - do I attend to my farm or my customers first? Expanding takes a lot of work and effot, as it is very easy to become overwhelmed. I once spent an entire day just working on my farm and ignored all customers. You also unlock chickens and cows later on, adding even more variety to the gameplay.
Overall, if you like any of the themes mentioned in the beginning, you should definitely give this game a try. There is even an endless mode that allows you to really unleash your inner farmer. The game may be slow in the beginning, but it quickly picks up in a short amount of time.
DJSF @DJSF's Rogue Reviews