Review | Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town
In the Story of Seasons franchise, players are typically tasked with rebuilding a family farm whilst navigating their new life in a rural town. This also includes contributing to the local economy – and when it comes down to it – finding love. The newest entry, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, offers a stylistic and mechanical refresh to those familiar with the franchise. It also adds elements reminiscent of those found in the popular indie hit, Stardew Valley. Despite the similarities, fans of both games will find fresh and new experiences during their Olive Town adventure.
Olive Town is a small, seaside community established by your trailblazing grandfather and his friends years ago. After leaving the hustle and bustle of corporate life, you decide to explore the roots of your family. This ultimately means embarking on a journey to the city your grandfather founded. Upon arrival, Olive Town’s mayor will greet you, and before you know it, you’ve inherited your grandfather’s old, run-down farm.
One of the most recent additions to Story of Seasons is the ability to customize your character. At the start, players will have to choose between various facial structures, hair styles, and outfit choices. They’ll also have various voice style and physical stature options. Some players will be happy to know the game doesn’t limit choices to gender either, allowing for more inclusive styles. Upon arrival to Olive Town, players are identified as the grandchild of the late farm owner, prompting the player to specify if they’re the grandson or granddaughter. Overall, it’s a lot deeper than previous entries and is a welcome feature. If you’re not happy with your look, you can also change it at the salon in town.
The first few days of the game include tutorials for the toolkit. You’ll also learn how to progress throughout the game in terms of tool upgrades, crafting supplies, and animal care. Instead of taking up the first ten minutes or so of gameplay, this tutorial is spread out across a few mornings to allow for exploration on your own time. In addition, players have various achievements they can gain based on different milestones. These milestones include speaking to a certain amount of town residents or gather a certain amount of harvest materials. As players progress, they’re able to repair existing facilities on the farm, turning them into animal housing to expand their livestock. They can also create machines to process raw materials into more durable states or different materials entirely.
Like previous iterations and other similar games, once you get the ball rolling, it’s impossible to run out of things to do before you run out of stamina. Gameplay relies heavily on a player’s choice, so it’s up to the player to choose wisely. The most apparent change comes from the introduction of crafting materials. In order to further progress skills in mining, logging, and fishing, players must be able to process materials for the required tool upgrades. Fans of Stardew Valley will be more than familiar with this process. Another new addition is the ability to hitch a ride on an animal friend to speed things up.
Another welcome change is the sense of “unlockable” farmland. After clearing out the farm and upgrading the rundown coop, players are able to repair the small bridge at the bottom left corner of the farm. After crafting the proper supplies needed, players are able to access more farmland and mining areas. This forces focus into one area of the map so players can develop areas before moving on. It opens up even beyond that simple bridge, granting more new areas to expand your land. You’ll really get a nice change of scenery with this too, finding areas like volcanic caverns and more.
Visually, Pioneers of Olive Town is almost like the grown up version of the game that original Harvest Moon fans have been waiting for. Much like how Pokémon’s latest iterations feature whole-body character animation as a graduation from small overworld sprites, Pioneers of Olive Town features more defined character animation in a 3D space. This helps to make interacting with the bachelors and bachelorettes even more interesting. It’s also worth noting that gender doesn’t determine who you can date. In addition, the soft tones of the game give it a casual, laid back feel. The music, much like previous iterations, is calming, adding to the laid back feel.
One of the issues with Pioneers of Olive Town is the accuracy required for tasks. For example, when using the scythe, players can only chop down grass if they’re a specific distance from it. Even if you’re close enough, you’ll only be able to cut just one at a time. When it comes to large areas of grass, or any actionable item, it becomes tedious. Coupled with longer wait times between loading screens, it can be cumbersome to lose the “immersion” of being lost in a game. The frame rate also tends to drop as trees and crops overload the screen.
Overall, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town offers a fresh take to a well-aged game concept. Casual and marathon players alike are able to enjoy their time in Olive Town and build off skills from other familiar games. If you’re seeking a laid-back and somewhat therapeutic experience, then look no further.
Final Score: 8 out of 10