Harvestella REVIEW (NSW)
''Harvesting a good time''
Release Date: Nov 4th,2022
Platforms: Nintendo Switch/STEAM
*Review copy provided to me by Square-Enix*
Harvestella is an action adventure farming simulator that is developed and published by Square-Enix. With Square-Enix absolutely crushing it this year with fun tile after fun title being released at every corner, they now decide its time to bring their own faming simulator to the table and get their feet wet into the genre. But does the venture into farming simulators pay off for Square-Enix? or is the market just to oversaturated at the moment? only one way to find out, so lets farm!
*THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS*
In a vibrant and colorful world, players will tend their crops, befriend the townsfolk, overcome threats, discover the origins of the world and the truth behind the calamity along the way. Waking up in the middle of Quietus, a calamity of terror that comes with each change of season, you must work hard and do all you can to solve the mysteries that are about to unfold that holds the entire worlds fate in its hands.
Ok so to address the elephant in the room, both this year in 2022 and heading into 2023, there's been this weird fascination with farming simulators. We've gone through gaming phases of the market being about platformers, third person shooters, first person shooters, open world games... but now, everyone seems hell bent on making a farming simulator, and to be perfectly honest, I have no clue why. But do I really have to understand the question as to why the industry is obsessed with the genre at the moment? well no actually, because as long as these games are interesting and put a fun twist to the formula, I'm more than happy to become good ol McDonald and have my farm, E i e i oh. In regards to adding to the formula, Square-Enix does exactly that with taking the usual time based crop and farm maintaining and fusing it with an action and RPG element with an on going story throughout. Its definitely a weird little experiment, but one I feel, for the most part, actually works out. Well.. kind of. I'll explain more the further we get because with this being an experimental title really, it achieves success in some areas, while falling a wee bit short in some others.
The title opens up with you, as your created protagonist, waking up with a bout of amnesia as you're now in the tiny little village of Lethe. Who are you? why are you here? why are you dressed so funny?. These are the type of questions that I get asked when walking into a strangers house unannounced, but were not talking about me, oops, were talking about our created character in Harvestella, my fault guys. Once awoken, you begin a series of events that have you meeting other villagers who try to pry information from you, trying to figure out just how exactly they can help you, as you are currently suffering from amnesia, and during all of this investigation, you learn of an imminent event called the Season Of Death, otherwise known to them, as The Quietus. During this event, peoples crops and lands die quicker than peoples farm land did in Independence Day when Russel Casse crop dusts the wrong fields, oh yeah, it's THAT bad. During this season, times are bad, dire, and the inhabitants of the village suffer greatly. If that weren't enough, mysterious armored layered beings known as Omens are also present as they investigate the four crystals that have control over the many seasons. You know what, with having mentioned Independence Day already, maybe they should've just have gotten Will Smith to handle all this? he's good at punching things, other boxers like in Ali, aliens and even Chris Rock. But I'll settle for Jeff Goldblum too, we don't have to kill these Omens, perhaps just give them a cold, that seems reasonable.
As you push through the games narrative and meet a girl named Aria, who thinks she's from an episode of The Twilight Zone and gives you the line of ''I am a time traveler'', you investigate the mysteries of the season crystals, uncover the truth about the Omens and their true purpose, meet new characters that teach you the ins and outs on how to survive in your brand new world, and find a way to lessen the effects of The Quietus in the process. Seems straight forward, sure, but that's because, well it is. Early on, the story isn't a broad reaching one and it will take some time to really get into, its a slow burner. This on its surface could be a negative, if I can be perfectly honest, because literally the first hours of the opening chapters are exposition, tutorial, introductions, exposition, more tutorial. You do tend to get the vibes of Twilight Princess with how long these dang tutorials take to get through and it can feel like a bit of a slog. But just like in Aladdin, come chapter 3 and onwards from the story, you too finally get to explore A Whole New World, so ''don't you dare close your eyes'' because this is where you finally get into the real meat and potatoes of the game and where you start seeing both how good it is and where the cracks start to show as well. This in regards to both the games exploration of the areas you traverse, farming and its overall combat.
When you actually get by the opening narratives, exposition from minor and important characters, hear of their plights and motivations, you can now learn about what really makes this game tick and what you will be doing most of your days as you play. I mean this literally. The game operates on a day and night cycle that lets you travel the map and various areas to find treasures, items and defeat enemy monsters in order to find ingredients or materials needed to further bolster your own crops for growing, and this is all done on a timer. It may not be as scary as Majoras Mask timer where you're going to die in just 48 hours, not THAT bad, but you have ample time to explore the neighboring town, buy ingredients at the store, or even buy new gear and weapons to fight with the more adventurous you feel. Should you start running out of clock, the game will advise you to wrap things up and head back home before nightfall because ''What a horrible night to have a curse'', should you stay out past your bed time. Waking up the next day, you're able to take your farming tools, dig an area where you wish to plant a your food, whether it be lettuce, wheat, fruit, plant your seeds, and water away. After waiting a bit, preferably till the next day, harvest your new found crops and use them as a personal use for on the field such as for cooking and eating or ship excess crops via your mailboxm that yields extra rewards for you like more currency, pretty neat. Simply click on the box next to your farm, highlight your shipment and send away and bam, next day, YOU GOT MAIL. Oh man, I just got AOL flashbacks, that voice forever lingers in my brain. Should you gather up enough currency, then the further you progress in the game and expand, you will also be able to take in and care for livestock as well. Sorry Bibi and Tina At The Horse Farm, you have been replaced.
If you're a die hard fan of simply farming and farming only, like most of these simulations, then you honestly might find this game a mixed bag due to there actually being a pretty heavy storyline involved that's mixed in alongside combat. Farming is a key component here, yes, but overall, its not strictly the main focus. On the flipside if you aren't a farming simulator fan and are mostly interested in this title because you saw it had RPG and combat mechanics, then this is where YOU might run into a problem. Grinding. Much like all other simulators, Harvestella is a game about grinding and taking time for your crops. This means you must seek out what you want to grow, buy specific seeds, gain money to expand, water properly, maintenance your land efficiently, manage your small and cramped inventory and save up to get the best tools fit for the job on your farm. Personally this grind didn't bother me as I'm the same person who spent over 20 hours in Crawlers Nest in Final Fantasy 11 grinding out over 1 million experience points for one level. Oh ya, I have no life, but that's besides the point. But grinding isn't a total snore fest as Faeries are here to alleviate some of the tedious nature of this title by providing you with various tasks, each offering their own rewards that make farming more like a mini game rather than a headache. How? well by completing tasks given to you like harvesting an X amount of crops, you're rewarded with larger and more expansive ranges to further improve your harvesting and even allow you to to craft items to help you on your farm by collecting and finding varied materials that you find when you're out slaying monsters. My only regret is that I wasn't able to get my own Pig and name her Peppa, but, maybe next time. So you know the basics of the story, how to farm, Faeries and their rewards, but what about the actual combat? how does that one shake out? well Florence and The Machine, I will tell you.
Diving into the combat a bit, which actually plays a key role in how you farm and obtain specific items needed for crafting or maintaining your farm, you will first need to know, that like any other RPG on the market, a job system is in place to go along with melee combat, and each job you choose has their own set of skill trees that contain both passive abilities and active skill abilities which broadens and strengthens the efficiency of your overall party. Congrats, you're not as worthless as Cait Sith with these features, feel proud. The stronger you get though, so to do your enemies, this is why it is also key, much like going to town for farming materials, to purchase upgrades for each weapon you obtain by using materials found on your adventure. Now that you're all set, its time to set out and bomb some dodongos. Ok maybe not dodongos but monsters none the less.. and this is where we kind of run into an issue. Battling in this game is very basic, with multiple attacks for slashing and poking, but its a tad bit held back by its awkward camera that can be annoying to fiddle with when trying to keep an eye out on multiple enemies, very stiff character movement during combat, and no cancel mechanic to escape from an attack you've made. This means should you attack around the same time the enemy, in other games, you have a chance to dodge, but here in Harvestella, you HAVE to take the hit, and if you're fighting 2 to 3 enemies at once, due to them linking together, this can be an issue. Dodging would easily negate some of the headache, sure, but its locked behind a skill tree early on, Its not a default feature, you have to earn the right to dodge. Its very... weird. Even Piccolo would be angry at it.
While I did find some of the fighting rather mundane and uneventful, it wasn't all boring because it teaches you to pick your enemies wisely and separate them from each other when necessary until you feel comfortable enough with your strength and job skill trees to branch off into multiple foe confrontations. The further you elevate your jobs and skill levels, you will also unlock the ability for job switching during the heat of battle that provide you other numerous ways to take advantage of your scenario as you manage cooldowns of your job and its abilities. Its nothing super expansive, and its definitely not as comprehensive as other Square-Enix outings, but its passable at the very least. As you rummage through enemies, finding more rare materials to sell or craft, learn more about Aria and how she's trying to figure out if this ship near the village is hers, take on a plethora of side quests that are sure to take quite a bit of your time away from you because lets face it, its a freaking RPG, explore the painting like world that to me looks absolutely gorgeous, get lost in the soundtrack of the game that sounds like for the first time in years that Square-Enix hit on all cylinders and every piece of music you hear is perfection on your ears, take time to go fishing, since you know, if you don't have fishing in your game, then are you even trying nowadays? I think not. If there wasn't fishing in this title, I would've just called Seaman and he would've handled it, no question. Even after you do all that alongside maintaining the passage of time to manage crops or dungeon dive. You will still find a game that takes you roughly 20-30 hours to push through, depending on your play style or how much you goof around, much like me.
At the end of the day, Harvestella manages to be a very weird hybrid title that marries the RPG and farming simulator genres into package that can leave both fans of each genre scratching their collective heads. While the game isn't perfect with some dialogue in the story getting a bit exposition heavy, combat feeling a bit stiff and having a janky camera, character models not being as expressive as I would've liked, there are still genuinely good things about this title. Having a pretty interesting story that keeps you interested in its overarching narrative, addictive farming that makes you want to manage the best farm you can using bought or crafted tools, fishing actual fish out of a lake and not a tire or baby mario, gorgeous looking scenery alongside a fantastic soundtrack, linear but fun dungeons to partake in that offer you a chance to use your fast travel or warping items, etc. If you're a fan of farming simulators in general, then I feel this game will be an absolute treat for you, its got everything you'd want in that aspect, with a Square-Enix twist. If you're a combat heavy player however, this might not be the one for you, chief. But for me personally? well, with all this having been said, my verdict is clear, GameNChick says BUY NOW