The idea of island living is the epitome of laid-back luxury. Sand, sun, surf, hanging, and living that sweet island life is the goal for many who move to tropical destinations. Unfortunately, no one told your protagonist in Coral Island that, and instead, you have moved to a tropical locale to become a farmer, one of the most labor-intensive jobs there is. For any of you who are interested in moving, we've got a special guided tour of the island coming right up.
Like most Farming RPGs, Coral Island centers on a small, tight-knit community, this time set in Starlet Town on the titular island, where your protagonist has just moved to, in order to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. The gorgeous island setting is the main thing that sets Coral Island apart from other games in the genre, as well as the as-yet unrevealed but hinted-at merpeople mythology that fits together beautifully.
As the game is still in Early Access, Coral Island only lets you play through the first year of the game, capping off character stories and plotlines beyond that point, but already gives a good flavor for the gameplay and the general set-up. One of the biggest focuses in the game is environmentalism, which I love, specifically marine conservation. The trouble that the town is in started because of an oil spill and a big oil company that comes in to capitalize on that is framed as the main antagonist of the story. Clearing trash is a frequent activity, both above and below the water, and one of the most obvious effects of the oil spill is the presence of enormous, oil-black vine structures that are currently infesting the water all around the beaches. The game is enormously pro-conservation and isn't shy about hitting you on the head with it, right out of the gate, which I personally love.
Right now, Coral Island's gameplay is unfortunately a weak spot. Almost all of the systems and set-ups seem to have been copied wholesale from Stardew Valley and slapped with a new coat of paint. From the offerings to the mystical creatures to change the town to mining elevators working every five floors and to the four star quality rating system that tops out at a shade of purple, it's very easy to draw numerous parallels between the two, beyond that of the usual similarities in the Farming RPG genre. The similarities run the gamut of both big and small, and thus far the overarching plot plays out as if you'd substituted Stardew Valley's anti-consumerism message for environmentalism. While it's not necessarily a bad thing, as Stardew Valley has good gameplay, the lack of originality in Coral Island so far is really disheartening for those hoping for a more unique experience.
In fact, the most unique thing that the game currently offers is a diving skill where you clear trash under the water and gradually clean up the oil spill remnants using secret merpeople technology. It's interesting and I'm excited to see where they go with the concept, presumably beyond just “Clear X tiles and you'll save the ocean, hooray!” It hints that this is how the concept of merpeople is going to be introduced to the game, which I can't wait for.
One of the best things about Coral Island is that it's drop-dead gorgeous. The visuals for everything are so pretty, everything is beautifully rendered and the island scenery is just amazing. Truly, you feel like you're playing through the game in a tropical paradise, except for the oddity of your own farm where you can find oak, pine, and maple trees. All of the buildings are suitably tropical and even the local bar establishment is themed, with the appropriately cheesy name of “Fishenships.”
If you enjoy Farming RPGs and an island atmosphere, particularly if you enjoy seeing the progress of your conservation work as you clean up the island and the ocean, you'll probably enjoy Coral Island. If unique mechanics or a storyline out of the ordinary are more your style, there is unfortunately little that Coral Island currently offers in those two categories. The game is currently early access, so that may change in the future, and I'm hopeful that it does. Current gameplay aside, Coral Island definitely has the blueprint to become something special if it can make itself stand out in the genre, and I'd love to see that happen.
TechRaptor previewed Coral Island on PC with a copy [provided by the publisher/provided by the developer. It will be launching for PC on a currently unannounced date.