A brand new Story of Seasons has arrived, while taking back the abandoned land of our grandfather from the frontier, can we find a place to belong?
+The amount of farmland we have access to adds up to be absolutely massive. Through normal play, we will acquire two expansions to our farm through reclaiming the frontier, in addition to the ability to purchase specific seasonal farms later in the game.
+I always say it, Story of Seasons has a fun cast of characters, the romancing events this time around, in particular, feel far more fleshed out. Characters are shown to have their own anxieties.
•With all the villager housing and shops being in a centralized area, it brings a positive and a negative. Everything being centralized makes navigation a breeze, but in the same breath, it also makes the world feel more restrictive.
–This may just be me being nitpicky, but it strikes me as odd that coming from my prior “new” experience in Story of Seasons, which was the first of the titles to bear this name on the 3DS, the amount of items we’re capable of producing feels lacking.
–There are some significant issues with the game struggling to load areas if you have a large amount of machines or other entities in one spot.
I’ve said it before, I will say it again and again until I am blue in the face. I adore the Story of Seasons series of games. The formation of habits can bring a sense of normalcy, and it is in that which we find that addiction that picks at our brain. This particular title struck me as odd, while it does to some level fulfill that aspect of habit-forming I have grown to love, it also presented an issue I didn’t realize I have with this specific type of game. It wound up leaving me feeling a tad bit, should we say, dispirited. The longer I played the more I had this odd thought popping up in the back of my mind, but we’ll get there when we get there.
For now, let’s get into what made this game such an odd experience for me. Despite my better judgment, for the bulk of this review, I played on the easier of the difficulties. I wanted to be casual about it this time around. I don’t feel this choice has impacted the core of the review a great deal, but to be safe I did take a glance at the difficulty which made me a bit more, shall we say, frugal in my approach.
Following That Trail Which We Blaze
Once more I find myself in this old familiar seat, picking up the latest Story of Seasons and watching as my character departs from their tired city life to land much more tranquil. This time it’s a bit more towards the extreme side of “rural life”. I’ve gotten used to needing to upgrade my house from a rundown shack and going from rags to riches. I was not, however, prepared to see that I didn’t have so much as a house when I started, but a tent. How did we get here? My character, yearning for the frontier his grandfather always spoke of, the untamed wilds that he along with several friends tamed to establish a town, called for us. With little more than the clothes on my back, a pocketful of change, and a heart full of wonder, I set out on our scooter to Olive Town. Before that, I have to decide on my character’s appearance.
I was, admittedly, somewhat stunned by the number of options for character creation this time around. There was no restriction of whether you wanted to wear a dress or slacks, you could choose two different types of gait. It wasn’t until you actually arrived at your grandfather’s old land that you were even asked what gender you were. I feel this is just a bit more inclusive than some other games out there. For my initial file, I went with a character more closely tied to my actual appearance, foiled only by the inability to give my character a beard.
Immediately upon arrival to the farm, I am approached by one of the original pioneers of this town, the current mayor, and one of my grandfather’s good friends. He sends our sadly disrepaired scooter off to the local mechanic and sets us up with a tent, coming back for the first several days to act as our tutorial and bring necessary supplies to tame our land. From that point forward, everything is business as usual. Clear the land, work the earth, plant some crops, rinse and repeat. It’s not the most difficult or rewarding style of gameplay, but it is extremely satisfying.
Time To Build The Economy
It’s always an odd feeling in these games, being the newest addition to the town and immediately having the prosperity of it foisted upon your shoulders. The mayor will shamelessly do so, regardless. Olive Town is largely inaccessible to most people. Tourists and residents can come in either by ferry, or a long journey that leaves a motor scooter in the repair shop for an absurdly long time. It’s not all bad however, this time your efforts often get a more physical reward than just a pat on the back. Completing requests for the townsfolk and completing various tasks can earn you titles and other rewards. Titles, in particular, tend to come with their own sets of rewards which can be claimed in the mayor’s house, the same place you can complete requests. These rewards can be town medals, which can be sold for a nice chunk of change, or resources and makers.
I have to admit. I tended to forget to check requests and my title rewards for full-in-game months at a time, only to remember to check on what goodies I had at my disposal and need to make multiple trips back to the mayor’s house to claim everything. I settled into a routine, you see. Every new game day I would start by checking on my animals, making sure they had their fodder and then go and water my crops. The usual behaviors. Then I’d either descend into a mine for most of the day or go around my farm cleaning up trees, boulders, or weeds. The fight against nature from taking over the farm again is endless. Truly, I forgot to clean up around my farm for five in-game days and it was absolutely covered in rocks, sproutlings, and puddles.
I would need to come up for air from these tasks, however, and that’s when I would spend time with the various characters inhabiting the town. This time around the townfolk felt more alive to me. Rather than all being one-dimensional, they had just a bit more to define who they are. A dutiful daughter who worries about her father but is also outgoing. A lazy son who tries to find excuses to get out of work but tries to suggest solutions to his father. A father who works hard and tries to hide when he’s unwell to not worry his child. I can’t say I dislike a single character.
At first, I bought small amounts of seeds to get my farm going. This was the initial nest egg I needed to upgrade my tools to make gathering wood and ore easier. An interesting addition this time around is the option to find the reconstruction of several farm buildings using either money or materials you’ve gathered. Trying to save up tool upgrades, I always just farmed out the resources.
Yet, in the back of my mind, I couldn’t shake a feeling.
The longer I played, the more I got the feeling I had seen this all before. Clearing away trees and rocks so I could use their resources to build maker machines to refine certain items produced on my farm. The further I progressed the bigger this thought grew, and grew and grew. Then it dawned on me. Several elements of this game, the maker machines, skills related to specific farming abilities, reminded me of Stardew Valley. I try to not draw comparisons like this, but the resemblance was uncanny. This tied into another woe I had.
The amount of refined products feels lacking. Aside from the recent Mineral Town remake, the last Story of Seasons I had played was for the 3DS. I became accustomed to being able to refine different types of cheese and butter. Different types of mayonnaise. A variety of ground herbs. All of that was missing. Different types of cows gave you milk. Using goat milk or cow milk to make cheese just gives cheese. It felt like a definite step backwards.
Another issue I had in my playtime is, as I added more makers to my farm, I would being to experience significant drops in framerate. In a few instances, the game froze for a full two or three seconds and then shot my character across the farm to compensate. This has affected my desire to play, as the makers are vital for making your ingots, lumber, and other goods. Progression eventually hits a choke point when you start to need more hard to obtain resources.
Mirage Lumber and Orichalcum in particular. Only a few mirage trees grow on your farmland in a very specific spot at any time. Where before you may have found yourself making great progress, you find yourself forced to a neat halt. It’s an example of artificially cushioning the investment required to access particular features of the game. In my one year of in-game time, I have managed to gather ten Orichalcum Ingots and ten Mirage Lumber. I gained access to the areas these resources can be gathered in the second month of the game.
Having this wall I must dismantle stone by stone, it brings a lack of desire to progress much further. I fully understand the need to earn late-game progression, but the ease with which you can reach this point only to be forced to a crawl gives a bit of whiplash.
There’s some good here. There’s some bad here. There are a few odd choices that don’t quite lend themselves well to the overall experience. If you don’t care about getting access to everything you can so you can become a mogul the experience is great. For me, I like options. I like being able to find that one niche for goods I thrive in and making it my focus.
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Version Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Marvelous Interactive Inc.
Publisher: XSEED Games
Release Date: Available Now
If you take it at a leisurely pace then you absolutely won’t reach the issues I did. That aside, this game is still what you play this franchise for relaxation and the formation of routines. At that, it excels, and while I appreciate the approach for this title it definitely didn’t resonate with me.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game provided to us by the publisher for the review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Kennard Daniel Prim isn’t just your average gamer, he’s a die-hard fan of the single-player genre, specializing in imported games from Japan as well as his love for everything RPG-related.