Animal Crossing’s Endgame Trolls Focusers Even More

With Animal Crossing: New Horizons’s increased tools for town customization - the ability to actually shape the land and water, place furniture and decorations outdoors, and decide where almost every building goes - many people have done crazily impressive things with their islands that are wonderful to behold. These island-scale projects seem to be what you are intended to do once you reach the “endgame” and unlock the terraforming tools. But I found that when I reached that point, I had very little interest in undertaking such projects and was largely done with the game. And I think I’ve figured out why.

Animal Crossing does a lot to deliberately slow the player down, but once you start working on projects as large-scale as terraforming the delays and interruptions both skyrocket. Not only will each project take a long time, but you’ll frequently have to put it down unfinished and remember what work remains to be done.

The first factor is that the terraforming tools themselves are slow and clunky to work with. You don’t get some kind of Sim City-style god mode; you have to physically walk to each grid square (traversing any cliffs or water along the way), carefully position and point yourself, and use the correct terraforming tool. This process is at least free - infrastructure changes (moving houses or shops, building slopes or bridges, or demolishing slopes and bridges) all have costs in the tens or hundreds of thousands of bells, which slows down how much of that you can do, although that’s at least in an organic way that allows you to set and work toward goals.

More interruptive is the fact that these infrastructure changes also have arbitrary delays and limitations attached. You can only be building or demolishing one bridge or slope at a time and it will take at least one day each. You can only move one house or shop per day and it will also take one day each. Perhaps worst of all, you can only plan to place a house or shop in a place that is currently clear.

Want to move a house one square to the right? That will require two moves over two days and a separate house-sized clear area to temporarily hold the house. It will cost a total of 100,000 bells.

Want to swap two houses? Three moves, three days, a house-sized holding area, and 150,000 bells.

Want to raise or lower the ground where some buildings currently are? That will require two moves, two days, a house-sized holding area, and 100,000 bells per building, with terraforming in between.

On top of this is the largely random distribution of furniture and decoration items making it difficult to plan to use specific ones, especially in large numbers. If there’s something you can buy but it’s not currently at the store (or if it’s in limited supply) you can mail-order it - but you can only order five items per day and they won’t arrive until the next day.

Add it all up and a large-scale project like renovating your island can easily take weeks and this seems to be by design. Having a long-term goal and poking at it a bit further every day can be pleasant and satisfying - but to focusers like me, the fact that it’s broken into multiple days by arbitrary interruptions and it’s not possible to track your progress makes it far less pleasant than it could be.

The kicker is that it’s extremely difficult and expensive to experiment with changes (which is especially important for people like me with poor spatial visualization ability). If I think I want ten streetlights in an area, I mail-order them over two days and have them all on the third day. If I try them out and then decide I want garden lamps instead, I’ve just wasted the bells but more importantly two full days of mail orders. And when I did do a medium-scale project to create a little suburb area for four villager houses, after a few days of moves I realized the houses were each one square to the left of where I wanted them - and I just left them there rather than spend 400,000 bells and eight days fixing it.

When I played Dragon Quest Builders (and this also applies to Minecraft, Terraria, etc. etc.) and I wanted to redesign my town, even if it took a lot of time and resources I could do it in a single continuous effort, keeping the goals in my active memory. And at one point I redid a town in Dragon Quest Builders, decided I didn’t like it, and simply reloaded my save.

But if I want to redesign my island in Animal Crossing, I have to make a long-term plan, commit to it without a chance to test it out, and keep track of it over at least several days as it gets interrupted over and over. And since Animal Crossing auto-saves and has no capability to back up a save, any design I end up disliking will take just as much time, effort, and bells to undo.

I like the idea of terraforming and renovating my entire island. I can see why for some players it’s a source of additional enjoyment that extends the game’s lifespan by dozens of hours. But for players like me, it’s a giant chore that doesn’t seem worth it.