Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town Review
If you are predominantly a PC gamer, you might not be familiar with the Story of Seasons franchise, but you’ve probably heard of the series’ original name – Harvest Moon. The highly influential classic inspired other bestsellers such as Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley, among many other farming-based games. The franchise had to change its name due to copyright reasons with the publisher they left behind, but rest assured, the original devs are creating Story of Seasons.
Pioneers of Olive Town marks the first time since the franchise’s inception in 1996 that the series has made it to PC. (Well, last year a remake of their 2003 title, Friends of Mineral Town, received a port but a remake is still only a remake, it’s nice to have a flagship title.) But of course, there is a lot more competition in the genre now! The question is, does Story of Seasons manage to keep up?
Inspired by your late grandfather’s stories of living off the land, you jump on your moped and ride out to Olive Town, where he used to live. Starting with nothing but the money in your pocket, an undeveloped piece of land, and a tent, you get down to transforming it into the place of your dreams!
The thing about Olive Town is that it’s so unbelievably cute to look at. The citizens of the town each have their own adorable style, both in character illustrations and the model itself. With one of the game’s classic focuses being around finding someone to marry, the wide range of unique bachelors and bachelorettes is definitely a big plus. Additionally, the environment is colourful, soft and calming, and the animals also bring me absolute joy (especially the plump cows!).
There are also plenty of customization options for your own character too! Many different outfits to unlock and express yourself with, ranging from cute farmer attires to joke costumes that make you look like a giant shiba. Of course, you can build and decorate your own house too, which is one of my favourite ways to spend my time in these games.
The events and story also provide perfect places for the game to display all these elements interacting with each other. Puppy racing, fishing tournaments, harvest festival, and so many other events will put a smile on your face on top of the fun mini-games they provide. Plus getting closer to the townsfolk will give you their own personalized stories and events, of course including dating events with your romantic partners.
Farming is Perfect (But Nothing New)
How’s the core gameplay like? Well, it’s just as good as it always has been. There is an undeniable addictive quality to the gameplay established by Harvest Moon, and it still lives strong here. The gameplay loop is simple, clear out the land gathering resources, place seeds on the ground and water them, feed your animals, and harvest the goods, repeat every day. If put into words, these games always sound terrible, but it’s really something else when you play them. There’s always that just-one-more-turn feeling that you can’t put down. Tomorrow your cucumbers are ready for harvest, which means a bunch of money coming in, that means you can unlock that new upgrade, that means you can explore the new area, now you found a new barn you can fill with animals, and by the time that’s done, it’s time for another harvest.
It’s hard to ever really say a gameplay mechanic is truly perfected, but it really does feel that way here. The more surprising thing is that this isn’t rare. It’s existed for a very long time, and you can find it just as good in Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley. There isn’t much (if at all) innovation here, but maybe that’s a good thing if the loop is already so good.
That means that the unique things about Pioneers of Olive Town exist solely on the non-gameplay factors. As I mentioned before the visuals elements are fantastic and it stands as probably the best reason to pick this one over the others if you like this style. The seasonal events are pretty standard fare, again quite good, but nothing special. However, the characters and story left me a little wanting.
Like others, Pioneers is going for a feel-good game, an idyllic farmland you can escape to at the end of the day. The problem here might be that it’s maybe a little too conflict-shy. There don’t seem to be any problems at all, and it doesn’t feel like the town needs your help. Which of course takes away any pressure, but also removes the impact of the story.
This feels especially impactful with regards to the relationships you can form. Dating feels like simply getting to know the other person better. You don’t share vulnerabilities, you don’t come to understand each other’s flaws, and you certainly don’t help each other become better people. These are the factors that make any romance memorable. Characters simply don’t undergo major growths here. I’m not wishing for a hardcore depressing story, but a little darkness can make the story a lot happier and lasting. Of course, if you are looking for a deep story or a good romance game, any of these farming games wouldn’t be your go-to. Still, it does add a nice little bonus to the ones that do deliver on some memorable characters.
Still, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town gets it right in all the important areas. The characters are definitely serviceable and are full of personality. I’m still absolutely in love with the aesthetic, and I can admit that I’ve definitely stayed up too long playing this game. It is missing any online functionality though, but if you are looking for a new solo farming game, definitely take a look at this one.
***PC review code provided by the publisher***
• Super Addicting Gameplay
• So Freaking Cute
• Great Sense of Progression
• Shallow Characters
• Nothing Innovative
• No Multiplayer