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Stardew Valley meets Vampire Survivors in new Steam farming roguelike

Pesticide Not Required is a roguelike farming game where you grow crops while fending off hordes of creatures, with a free Steam prequel.

Pesticide Not Required is a fun new roguelike game with a free Steam prologue - A cartoon frog leaps across a field of wheat outside a farmhouse.

Stardew Valley is not something I’d have guessed anyone would try to match with roguelike survival game Vampire Survivors, but Pesticide Not Required developer Jampacked Games has done exactly that. After sitting down to try the game’s prologue, which is available now as a free Steam game, and completing several runs in my first sitting, I have to admit that the two games are actually the perfect match, and now I can’t wait to get my hands on the full thing.

Pesticide Not Required is a delightful roguelike game where you play as a frog just trying to run your Stardew Valley style homestead. There’s farming, mining, and fishing to be done as the different seasons pass, but unfortunately, an ever-present threat stands in your way. Each day, increasingly numerous hordes of insects swarm onto your farm, attempting to take you down, and in true Vampire Survivors fashion you must rely on an arsenal of auto-attacking weapons to defend yourself from their assaults.

At the start of the day, you can visit the MerchAnt to stock up on seeds and expand the size of your farm’s field area where they can be grown. These seeds will then have to be planted and provided with enough water until they are ready to harvest. Both planting and watering are done automatically when standing near to your land, while getting close to ripples in water will see you catching fish, and nearing rocks will cause you to mine.

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Regular crops will provide you with money when they are harvested, but you can also buy “weapon seeds” that grow into the weapons you’ll use, of which you can hold five on a single run. In addition to this, you’ll be given a choice of three different upgrades each time you level. These will often include a mix of powerful buffs at the cost of some downgrades, offering up some really interesting build variety as you progress.

My favorite of these upgrade options gives you a particularly strong boon at the cost of diminishing returns in the future. The Blue Chilli, for example, gives you a large boost to how often your attacks fire off but reduces the effectiveness of any future attack frequency changes.

Pesticide Not Required - The player chooses between three upgrade items, each with various benefits and detriments.

Defeating stronger ‘boss’ insects will give you a choice of two pets, and you’ll also occasionally have the chance to buy an additional one from the MerchAnt when you visit. These pets act as additional automation, ranging from toucans that will plant your seeds for you and elephants that will water them, to cats that can help you by attacking nearby enemies.

In between runs, you return to your house, which you’ll be able to develop and upgrade using a separate currency, a bit like a combination of Stardew and Hades. There are various home decorations to unlock and make use of, and there’s also a series of permanent upgrade trees that will grant you buffs for your character on future runs.

Much like Vampire Survivors (which is even given a direct nod in the description of the game’s whip-like Tongue Lash weapon), you’ll also unlock new characters to play when you reach specific milestones. Each of these has its own specialties and a different starting weapon, and with different creatures appearing across each of the four seasons, you’ll want to give them all a try.

Pesticide Not Required: Prologue - A frog defends its farm against swarms of insects using water jets and seed whips.

Pesticide Not Required: Prologue is out now as a free game on Steam. I’d recommend trying it out if it sounds up your alley. Jampacked Games says the full game will include at least “20 playable characters, 20 weapons, 16 difficulty levels across all four seasons, 150 level-up rewards, 100 achievements, a full kitchen skill tree, tons of house cosmetics to unlock, compendium and pet-related unlocks, and lots more fun stuff.”

Alternatively, hold out against all odds with more of the best survival games on PC, or browse the best indie games in 2024 to discover what games from smaller teams you won’t want to miss out on this year.

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