When I saw that this game was coming, I knew I’d be getting it. From way back on Harvest Moon DS, I’ve loved the Farm Story games with their business management-like gameplay as you aim to build up a great farm that can earn hundreds of thousands per month. And maybe get to know the townsfolk along the way. Since I knew what I’d be getting into with the new one, I stuck only with the one trailer that showed off some gameplay until the Japanese release.
That was when Marvellous had been kind enough to give early access codes to streamers of the full game in English so the rest of the world could at least get to experience some of the game. I’d tuned in to watch KattStrike tackle the first few days, where she had fun getting started with her farm. It was a fun stream, and whenever I do tune in to watch whatever she’s playing, there’s always a good time had.
Back on track, and the release arrived, where I had my own fun with streaming the game. Even after that stream had concluded, I continued playing well into the night. And the same again on Sunday, and then again on Monday. It had got me invested, so that’s a great start for it. But what exactly is getting me invested?
The one thing this game offers is freedom. Just like with Farming Simulator, the choice of what to do is your own. There’s no bills to pay here, so there’s no threat of becoming bankrupt. As such, you could just spend days fishing if you so wanted. However, you will be forced to sleep if you don’t hit the hay and call it day, which will start you off later the next day, so there’s a level of planning what you need to do each day.
The other is the progression system. You start with just a small section of the farm, with access to a small mine. By collecting materials and crafting makers, you’ll soon be getting lumber and ore which can be used for many things. Opening up the next section of the farm brings new materials, new facilities, and a whole lot more space to use. But the progression system isn’t just tied to expanding land.
The tools you have are basic at first, capable of an easy life at that starting section of land. You need materials and money to upgrade them, which will bring new strength and charge abilities (which expand the area a single hit will affect) that will make life on the farm easier.
Progression also comes in the form of skills. Each skill relates to an area of the game – whether that be on the farm or away from it – such as logging, mining, and communication. By performing actions relating to that skill, you earn experience and eventually level them up, thus gaining traits that help when performing actions within that skill. Certain makers get unlocked through these skills, as well.
The start of the game introduces the mechanics of it well, with each of the first few days giving new tools to try and new things to look out for. If you know what you’re doing, you can easily upgrade from a tent and get the chicken coop repaired before the game even tells you about them, which does prompt alternate dialogue even if the tutorial box still pops up to tell you about it.
Olive Town has everything a farmer needs and even some things one doesn’t (I can applaud the fact there is a play park for the kids). The majority of the story beats happen here, as the mayor hopes to turn Olive Town into a hot tourist destination, and so you’ll be asked for your input on the various ways that can happen. Whether through text or completing requests, you are the driving force of progression that brings in the tourists. Then there’s the titles you can collect from the town hall, which award you with various goods. Makers, materials, or even medals that as of yet I haven’t found a purpose for.
Within the town are the townsfolk. There many of them. At present, there’s no connection to them from me, which is probably down to the lack of portraits that give them a bit more personality. The writing for basic interactions also feels lacking. While there’s several things they can say – including reacting to events coming up or that have happened, there’s no real distinction between personalities from most of them.
Maybe I just haven’t been paying much attention to the characters of this game, but the writing is never much of a strong point within these games, and is certainly not the selling point of them. Events dialogue is usually that bit better, but as of yet I haven’t come across many.
As for the mechanics of farming, the grid system is in place as per the norm, making working the fields easier. You’ll also note the always showing button prompts for various actions you can make and the square that shows where the action will happen when you have a tool equipped. With movement unrestricted, it can be a bit awkward to position yourself correctly, though you should soon get used to how it works.
The only negative I can see is there's optimisation issues that I'm sure will be sorted out in a patch down the line. Loading times when going between areas is inconsistent, though not long. Random stutters also happen, with occasional slowdown when at the farm. It doesn't annoy me, but I can see how it would do so for others, so just be aware.
I’m loving what is on offer here, and I’m only halfway through summer of the first year. New things always open up as the seasons go by, with plenty more things to see and do. I’ll be sticking with this one for a good while yet, and so this is an easy recommendation for the life sim / business management sim lovers. Even if you don’t fall into those categories, though, there’s still a lot here to love with its easy pick up and play nature and stress-free gameplay loop. If you choose for it to be so.