Story Of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is quite the mouthful. It’s the latest in the Story of Seasons franchise. Those familiar with Harvest Moon will definitely want to keep an eye out for this one. For those unfamiliar, Harvest Moon isn’t the game it once was. As licences and IPs moved around, the original crew were left without access to the namesake. Cue Story of Seasons launching in 2014; Harvest Moon through and through just under another guise.
Story Of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is developed by Marvelous Inc. It’s a game described as a farming simulator. Actually, that’s possibly a disservice to the game as there’s a lot of variety and depth to the game and it feels more akin to an RPG. Fewer monsters to slay; more harvesting, mining, and friendships. You’re also fortunate that this game is landing around the same time Nintendo is making the odd decision to remove Mario from the eShop.
Story Of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town Switch Review – Farming Simulator
I’m not hugely familiar with these Story of Seasons or Harvest Moon games. However, my wife, Mrs. Armstrong, is an expert. This is like her go-to type of game clocking over 500 hours alone in Stardew Valley. In this review you’ll be hearing from me, a Harvest Noob, and Mrs. Armstrong for her more Seasoned perspective.
Actually, I was quite excited to try Story Of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town because of her love for these games. I must admit I’ve never tried them and as Animal Crossing well and truly lost my attention a few months after launch it feels like a good time to try. Are you a fan? Which is your favourite part? Sound off in the comments below!
As mentioned above, Story Of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is described as a farming simulator. Personally, I feel like this just scratches the surface of what this game is about. In the opening, you make your way to Olive Town, a small seaside town that seems to be yearning for tourists. Frankly, it’s in a bit of a slump. You have inherited your late grandfather’s farm, and it’s now up to you to return it to its former glory. Not only that but the mayor will insist you help him with some other jobs to help give the town a boost to lure in tourists.
The gameplay is based around your stamina; represented by hearts in the top corner of the screen. You only have a finite amount of energy to fulfil all of your tasks, and also a limited time window during the day. A day consists of a course of 24 hours, each hour, however, runs as a real-time minute. That doesn’t mean each day lasts 24 minutes because there’s also an 8-hour window your character must sleep in. An early night leaves you more refreshed for tasks in the morning, whereas hitting 02:00 or using up all of your stamina means you collapse and wake up back in bed the next day.
The energy mechanic can be a little frustrating, with some tasks eating into your precious time and energy allowance. It is logical however and once you’ve laid things out how you want, and gotten used to the mechanics it doesn’t get in the way too much.
What is there to do in Story Of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town though to use all of this energy on? Well, the key areas are farming, animal care, mining, and fishing. Though if truth be told, there are actually 12 key skills you practice, a lot of these relate to the above areas. To focus on just farming for a second, that would involve:
- Clearing out trees, grass, or rocks to clear space. This would grant you XP in logging, reaping, and mining respectively.
- Preparing the land with your hoe, planting the seeds, and cultivating your crops. This will improve your fieldwork skill.
- Once the crops are fully grown you can harvest them and sell on the produce. This not only nets you money but also improves the fieldwork trait.
These 3 steps lead to you unlocking new items to craft to enable more and more improvements. After 1 in-game season, made of 28 days, I had cleared out a large space of land, had it surrounded by a fence (purely for aesthetics), and had sprinklers auto-watering the crops to limit my interaction with them.
This principle applies to most areas of the game. Mining allows you to explore underground cave networks to gather resources and unlock new recipes. Fishing means you can gather fish and either donate them to the museum or cook them up; cooked food will grant energy boosts to aid in your progress. Then of course there are other skills such as Orcharding, Beekeeping, Communication, draining, and cultivating. All of these have their own unique paths and unlocks and really allow you to upgrade your farm.
I haven’t yet managed to roll credits on Story Of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town but Mrs Armstrong has. That’s actually a testament to how different the game can be across playthroughs. We’ve put in roughly the same amount of time each, but have focused on very different things. Where she has focused a lot on building relationships and mining, I have focused on farming to maximum effect to have a nice chunk of disposable income.
Gameplay – Mrs. Armstrong Verdict
“Overall I enjoyed the gameplay. The progression is at a fairly even pace, and you never feel underpowered. There’s not only the need to upgrade the tools with resource but also levelling up as a character. However I do not enjoy the machines and how many materials are needed in order to progress with these. There’s a wide variety of each resource, such as 5 different types of wood, that almost feels like a way of forcing a grind.
Other gameplay aspects including getting resources to make your own clothing and other aesthetics is a nice touch. This was introduced as part of Story of Seasons. There’s also a large variety of animals, albeit this can also lead to the same situation as the wood above; an abundance of variety.”
Graphics & Audio
The graphics in Story Of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town are certainly pleasant enough. It’s clear what everything is when things are ready to be processed or worked. I wouldn’t say it is breaking any new ground in design, but it certainly has an aesthetic that’ll age relatively well and last. I do wonder how colourblind folk will deal with how similar some resources look, but their names are present on screen also.
The character models are fairly simple, which does limit creativity when creating your own avatar. Not only that but you will certainly see the same rock, the same puddle, plant, creature all repeated. It works though, in reality keeping everything consistent means there’s no confusion over what tool you need to accomplish a task.
On the audio front, there is no voice acting, which limits audio to sound effects and music. The music is certainly catchy and with a few tunes I’ve found myself humming whilst doing jobs around my real-life house. The sound effects also serve a function and help keep you engaged; there are however the odd sounds that seem needlessly abrasive. One such sound is the you can’t do that sound, which is a rather aggressive beep.
Now with all of this considered you’d imagine this game is a perfect fit for the Switch. Unfortunately, Story Of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town really does start to struggle when you flesh out your farm. With my expansive fields and various aesthetics laid out, as I move from area to area there are very clear framerate drops. I’m talking about dropping down to less than 10 FPS at times. Fortunately, whilst this is poor to see, it’s hardly a game of quick reflexes or captivating visuals. It’s unpleasant but does make you wonder if there are optimisation patches planned or if the Switch is showing its age when it has to remember these levels of data.
Frankly, there is a lot to do in Story Of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town. It’s also very addictive and lures you into that “just one more day” cycle of gameplay. Going from an overgrown mess to a fully functioning farm is quite satisfying. The upgrading of your tools and equipment to make you more efficient and the fact there is a full levelling system also helps.
On top of what I’ve mentioned, there are also a few other key areas. One of which is the museum, akin to Animal Crossing you’re able to donate your in-game photos, fish, and treasures to fill the museum and display the items. You should also find that there is an entire world of spirits who aid you. You can visit their village, take part in minigames, and also get free loot from these little helpers.
It’s also important to note that whilst this game runs on a day/night cycle, it is not real-time. There is no punishment for missing a day or leaving the game for a week between plays.
Whilst Story Of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town does have performance issues and some elements of the game feel lackluster, it is a joy to play. I found myself staying up quite late as I worked on projects around my farm and progressed down certain paths. The spirits and the upgrades they bring, not to mention the levelling and tool upgrades keep you engaged. Of course, until something like Fall Guys lands and distracts you.
“I would very much recommend the game. There are certain aspects to it that could use work; the framerates mentioned above are a big problem. The events also don’t feel too interactive. Other games, such as Stardew Valley, have done a better job of this. If you’re a fan of these games though, you can’t really go wrong.” – Mrs. Armstrong
At this stage, I am happy to give Story Of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town the Thumb Culture Gold Award. It’s rough around the edges but keeps you coming back for more.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.