Today, I’d like to bring up an older favorite of mine. This game has kept me invested for hours at a time, it got me invested in inventory management, and it’s even come along on road trips with me. That game is Shepherd’s Crossing 2. Before you ask, no, I don’t have the first one. I don’t have the right console to play it on, and even if I did, I don’t know if I’d be able to get it, for reasons that will be addressed later.
For now though, let’s get back on track. At its heart, Shepherd’s Crossing 2 is a farming game. Developed by Graffiti Entertainment, you play as a shepherd who just bought a plot of land in a remote village, and it’s up to you to grow your farm and adjust to your new life. Even 10 years later, it still holds up pretty well, though it does have some… questionable… design choices.
The meat (and potatoes) of this game is in the land development. As you continue to grow into your new home and unlock more options, you’ll be able to play the game the way you want to. Just want to farm? You can do that! Raise animals? You can do that too! You can get a dog, multiple breeds even! Also cats and ferrets! Just make sure you have enough food for them.
This duck is on your farm too.
Yes, she has a bottle roped onto her back.
Nobody knows why, or what’s in the bottle.
She will not leave.
Also, she talks.
Her name is Brummie.
Don’t mind her.
She’s just your friendly neighborhood exposition duck.
There’s hundreds of potential crafting and cooking options to make, and you can grow so many different plants. Personally, I like to stock up on daikon plants, they give me something to check up on during winter, and they also sell for a pretty penny. You may not be able to terraform the land much, but the sheer variety of options available makes every playthrough feel unique.
It is fun, but there’s a certain degree of challenge as well, especially in the early game. You have to be vigilant of your food and firewood supplies, or else you run the risk of getting a Game Over. Money is of concern as well, you need to be mindful of what you can buy and sell. If you don’t have at least enough funds to buy the Store’s back-up supplies, you could set your progress back by years in your scramble to sell enough to make ends meet… or worse, you could accidentally softlock your save file.
The growing season of each crop is important to note, don’t mess that up. There’s also the need for crop rotation and fertilization, you can’t just keep planting your crops in the same field over and over. You have the ability to fast-forward time, but you can’t be too trigger-happy with it, or your animals will die of starvation. Animals and crops can also die in random disasters like pest invasions and disease, though there are things you can do to mitigate some of these risks. Shepherd’s Crossing 2 can be hard, but not brutally so, and you’ll be fine with proper time/resource management.
There’s more to this game than just your own home. There’s a fair amount of options available to you in the village as well. There’s the store, where you buy/sell goods and livestock. They won’t have a lot in the beginning, but as you buy more things, you’ll unlock more things in turn, so keep trying things out! You can bring gifts of food to other households, interact with the residents, and sometimes they’ll return the favor. You can even get married, though the process to get to that point is… well, I’ll get to that in a bit. The people all have their own distinct personalities, favorite foods, jobs and hobbies, and it makes the village seem more alive.
The art is great as well. The pixel art is clean and crisp, and you can tell what everything on-screen is without looking at the item names. You can freely rename things, by the way, if you go to the signboard in your house. It’s not really necessary to do so, but it adds an extra bit of personality to an already charming game. The full-body character art is well-detailed and expressive; it isn’t over-the-top, nor is it excessively generic. A lot of attention is put into the scenery as well, though I would’ve liked to see a few more pieces set against different houses.
My biggest complaint about this game is the layout of the land. Aside from your house, here’s no dedicated space for storage or animal pens, so you either have to sacrifice some of your arable fields or cram everything onto the narrow walking paths. It’s not as big an issue once you’re able to unlock more land, but the thought will always be at the back of your mind, as you begin to realize it’s impossible to neatly order everything while also maximizing your potential crop production. This game may single-handedly be the reason for my obsession with rearranging things.
One other strange thing about Shepherd’s Crossing 2 is the slight misogyny. Rather than having both genders play identically, the developers actively chose to make the game harder for female players. Case in point, supply shortages: If the female runs out of any supplies, they’re immediately accused of being a burden and are kicked out of the village, no second chances. Meanwhile, the male gets several safety nets of neighborly gifts before a Game Over, and instead of being kicked out, he’s married off into a rich family. Not by choice, mind you, but at least he’s not left to fend for himself. I get the game is set in a traditionally conservative environment, but still, is adding gender prejudice really necessary in this particular case?
While we’re on the subject of gender differences, let’s talk about the marriage system. For men, there are 3 basic steps the player must follow:
- Buy sheep.
- Get more sheep.
- Raise enough sheep to pay the dowry.
Women, meanwhile, have to jump through so many more hoops to reach the same end goal:
- Buy sheep.
- Raise sheep.
- Buy cleaning materials and several new tools.
- When spring arrives, shear a sheep and collect its wool.
- Wash and clean the wool.
- Spin the wool into yarn.
- Knit the yarn into fabric.
- Repeat the previous 3 steps 9 more times.
- Knit the 10 collected fabric pieces into a full bed cover.
- Repeat until you have enough bed covers to pay the dowry.
Sure, you don’t have to raise a huge herd of sheep, but the woman’s path to marriage takes so much longer if you don’t, and the tasks are so much more menial. Also, you end up consuming double the resources when you’re married. Your spouse shares their salary with you, they’ll occasionally give you gifts, and you get a few extra cutscenes, but the actual pay-off is minimal compared to the time and effort you need to invest in order to reach this point. In summary: easy mode is male, hard mode is female, marriage is difficult.
Anyways, this’ll conclude my review of Shepherd’s Crossing 2 for the DS. While I do have some grievances with the game as it goes on, the positives mostly outrank the negatives. It’s still one of my favorites to this day, though that may be my personal bias speaking, and I’d say it’s worth buying…
At least it would’ve been, if you were buying it 10 years ago. I didn’t realize this until I did my research, but Shepherd’s Crossing 2 apparently had a short production run. This, combined with how well it plays, has made the game’s value increase exponentially. Copies put up on eBay normally sell for over $150, and that’s not even including the case or game manual. This game, which I just so happened to buy one day in a bargain bin at Giant Tiger, may now be the most valuable game in my collection… huh. I don’t have any plans to sell it, but it’s interesting to note nonetheless…
And on that note, I’ll wrap this up. It’s a fun game, gives you lots of creative freedom, while at the same time providing a decent challenge.