The Story of Seasons is a series that admittedly has escaped me, Pioneers of Olive Town being my first foray. Having experienced a fair bit of Harvest Moon over the years it was a fair bet I knew what I was getting into. This time round and post an 2020 Animal Crossing addiction, I stumped up the cash in curiosity.
Pioneers of Olive Town is undoubtedly wholesome, comfortably reminding me of my Harvest Moon years. The jolly exchanges with the Mayor, the cute animals and safe sojourns into nearby caves. There’s not a lot of room for innovation in the farming genre, especially when trying to hide all the busy work. So, there’s a lot of consistent and very familiar themes running through the game.
I’m a sucker for the concept.
As a consumer, I’m always attracted to these games. The prospect of designing a working farm, making it pretty and efficient along with turning a small fortune. Unfortunately this is always the best example of ‘Ambition vs. Ability’. Inheriting, as usual, a ramshackle farm and working your way through gated tools, skills and produce is tiring. Like working on a real farm tiring. Even in my ‘haydays’ on the Game Boy Colour, onceI had a kickass farm set up I was burnt out by the daily grind of busy work.
The constraints of being a game that wants structure enforce stamina, hunger, skills and sleep. Once we would have lauded such features, but now however they get in the way. By time you start to get anywhere, you don’t have the time or energy to do the fun stuff. Talk about art imitating life.
But, the reality bites.
Pioneers of Olive Town does refine the genre, and also adding some handy mechanics. With that comes with a few annoying workarounds. The ground based highlight showing you where you are about dig i really handy. It was something sorely needed in Animal Crossing. The Maker Machines however feel cheap. Use resources to make a machine that will churn out better resources. Logs equal Timber etc. They are slow and initially in the way and it just feels, well, wrong. Crafting can be fun and satisfying, I can’t place why, but I don’t like this method. You can open up new areas and make friends with elemental sprites to assist with base labour, but again it feels out of sync with working the land.
The other thing that takes over from enjoying the fruits of labour is the Social side. Its like you can’t just be a happy farmer living out your days making friends with forest sprites. No, you have to worry about every villagers birthday, side quests and do your best to marry one of them. It wasn’t really why I got on the bus and partly why I got off the Stardew Valley one.
I’ve nothing against #MAFS Olive Town, but I’m exhausted, it’s getting dark and I haven’t watered my turnips yet.
Skills for prizes Farmer, skills for prizes.
Dig, Chop, Hoe, Water. There more you do them, the more you earn experience and each level opens up recipes or improves efficiency. Great for adding to your repertoire, but it forces you into the long grind to feel like you’re getting the good stuff. Especially if you have to wait until morning so the rocks that you cleared, can magically come back overnight. Ready for smashing again for a little more experience, and produce more iron for your ingot machine. Because that’s what rocks do.
Pioneers of Olive Town, is nice looking and well constructed game. It’s just something I’ve seen many times before in different guises, which is why I’ll be hanging up my watering can for now. After I’ve shipped these last few eggs, and upgraded my house, and given Beth that ring she wanted, and…