I’ll admit there has never been a point in my life where I’ve harboured aspirations of becoming a lumberjack. I have, however, now spent an entire year all but trapped inside a tiny flat in my own small pocket of the world, seeing the same sights over and over again, and it turns out that that’s about enough time to start idealising the rural life. In that regard, Lumberjack’s Dynasty is a brilliant game that really succeeds in taking you out of the trappings of real life and sets you firmly into the peaceful existence of a woodsman – unfortunately, what the game manages in atmosphere, it sorely lacks in performance.
The general story of Lumberjack’s Dynasty will likely be familiar to many players, following in the same vein as titles like Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon: the protagonist has been given a farm – which in this case also features a lumber mill – and is tasked with getting it up and running again after years of disrepair. The only real change to the trope is that this time the protagonist’s aunt and uncle, from who he has acquired the farm, are actually still alive and present in the game for you to meet. From there, the story follows as you might expect, getting to know the locals, rebuilding your farm, and settling into a new idyllic life in a beautiful mountain valley.
I want to say now, before we get into the rougher details, that I adored my time with this game. Imperfect as it may be, Lumberjack’s Dynasty is a delightful way of becoming immersed in a new, picturesque world and, combined with the soothing music and lack of any sort of threat, the game is a calming escape from the more challenging aspects of our current real world.
There’s more content here than you might expect at first glance too. Beyond the standard rebuilding of ruined farmhouses and chopping down trees, Lumberjack’s Dynasty allows you to collect recipe books to make more elaborate meals, fish in the local rivers, get married and start a family, and so much more that, while superfluous to the main objective of the game, really instills in you that the protagonist’s story is a life being lived, in all its many facets. As an experience, this game really nails the level of immersion it’s going for.
Unfortunately, the things that Lumberjack’s Dynasty does so right aren’t going to be any player’s main takeaway. While its content is, largely, great fun to explore, the game also has a fatal flaw: its mechanics.
By far the biggest problem here is that the game’s performance is extremely hit or miss. At times, it runs perfectly smoothly, while at others it suffers extensive frame drops and input lag, even when the settings are optimised for performance rather than visuals. In the worst instances, the performance was poor enough that I found myself having to restart the game before it could even be considered playable, let alone good.
Lumberjack’s Dynasty also seems to have a number of issues specifically relating to object collision, most commonly in the form of felled trees remaining upright until given a hearty shove. While relatively benign, the problem can also lead to vehicles or the player character becoming stuck on scenery or, occasionally, nothing at all. In one instance during my playthrough, the lack of collision with a window ended up in me clipping through a wall through which I could not get back from without teleporting back to my vehicle. Combined with a somewhat floaty control system – particularly when trying to walk on or climb any sort of slope – it’s a problem that a lot of players are going to repeatedly stumble on.
Outside of the mechanical aspects, there are some content concerns too. The first of these is the incredibly stilted and awkward dialogue, complete with extremely flat voice acting, that makes any conversation you have feel very unnatural. Given that this game is aiming for immersion, this is the one area in which it totally failed to achieve that goal.
Secondly, and perhaps more detrimental to the overall experience, is the general lack of direction the game gives you after the first hour or so of play. There are some tutorial sections at the start that teach you how to do certain things, but once that’s done, players are largely left to their own devices and it can quickly become difficult to know what it is you’re actually supposed to be doing. Having a general goal of ‘use the lumbermill to make money’ is all well and good, but without any real direction on how to do that when you only own a very small section of forest and likely don’t have the money to buy more means that the game comes to a complete standstill while you have to try figuring it out.
Lumberjack’s Dynasty is a game that I wish I could recommend, but in its current form, I’m just not sure that I can. If you are interested in spending a few hours getting away from yourself and relaxing into a peaceful rural life, then you could do far worse than this game, but be prepared going in that you’re probably going to find a lot of frustration here too.