Culture Feature

Terraforming Changes How We Experience "Animal Crossing"

Can perfection and relaxation go hand-in-hand?

Animal Crossing

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

The experience of playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons isn't just different from previous franchise entries due to the vicarious nature of living in a happy world during real-life quarantine.

The in-game mechanics are different, too, and I'm not convinced it's entirely for the better.

Of course I'm talking about terraforming—undoubtedly the biggest and most anticipated alteration to gameplay since the franchise's debut in 2001. In every prior Animal Crossing entry, the town that generated at the start of your game was the town you were stuck with. 2012's New Leaf gave players the freedom to determine where their house would be located, but that was the extent of town customization options.

Now, with terraforming, players can shape their Animal Crossing landscape however they see fit. Rivers and hills can be created and destroyed at will. Buildings can be relocated again and again and again. Save for two river mouths and the location of the airport and town center (all of which players select at the beginning of the game), any piece of land can be changed. This, in essence, turns your player into an Animal Crossing god, of sorts.

Admittedly, it's a bit silly to rail against such a well-implemented customization option that, on top of offering a feature that Animal Crossing players have been wanting for decades, is also extremely fun to use. At the same time, omnipotent power is a major diversion from the traditional Animal Crossing experience.

Animal Crossing is an incredibly personal game in the sense that every town is unique and almost every goal in the game is self-made. As such, no two players will have the same Animal Crossing experience. Some people might prioritize tending a perfect garden or decorating an ideal bedroom, while others might focus on completing item inventories or making custom outfits. But the one aspect that remained consistent across every prior Animal Crossing game was the feeling that you had moved into a pre-existing world.

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