Reviews// Story of Seasons

Posted 12 Jan 2016 11:43 by
Despite no longer carrying the long-running franchiseís name, Story of Seasons is a new Harvest Moon game in every other aspect. Iíve played more than my fair share of that series, though each instalment has grown increasingly less interesting to me over the years. Can a new name and a fresh approach revive an aging formula?

Of course, upon starting the game you could be easily be forgiven for mistaking Story of Seasons for any old Harvest Moon entry. Once again your blank slate farmer avatar has moved out of the big city into the countryside to get some life experience or something. Thatís about all the set-up youíre going to get. Then youíre immediately taken in by a kindly old woman who decides she will teach you how to run a farm and force you to be best friends with her grandson, another aspiring farmer. Soon youíll meet the other townspeople, a host of infinitely bland one-note folk who immediately welcome you into the fold like theyíve known you all their lives. Itís all a bit syrupy sweet for a cynical grump like me.

And visually I canít help but find Story of Seasons very underwhelming too. Even accounting for the simple colourful aesthetic they were presumably aiming for thereís an overall lack of detail that leaves the game looking flat and washed-out even compared to considerably older titles. It might be one of the gameís goals for you to become invested in the town residents but thatís hard when theyíve got such limited animations and their profile art only has a handful of different expressions. Thereís very little life to them.

I am not here to make friends with these backwoods yokels, however much the game might want me to. Iím here to turn this old patch of land into a juggernaut of the farming industry while crushing everything that stands in the way beneath my steel toe-capped boots. Which immediately brings us to this gameís first major issue, an agonisingly slow start-up pace. Your first hour of play will be spent fighting through the first five days or so of the game, during which youíll weather a storm of boring tutorials and character introductions. By the time you actually get some freedom to start accomplishing things you might have forgotten what you were here for in the first place.

Eventually you will break free from Grannyís iron fist and receive your own plot of land from the local guild, at which point the game finally lurches to life. Essentially these games have always been about time and resource management, and once the ball gets rolling itís easy to get caught up in trying to keep on top of things and maximise your productivity.

The farming mechanics are largely the same as in the Harvest Moon games, but with some welcome refinements to make things smoother and less time-consuming. Rather than working on each patch of land individually you now tend to entire fields at a time, planting seeds and watering crops with a single button press rather than the nine or so of past games.

And there are plenty of ways to spend your time in Story of Seasons. But whether youíre taking care of your crops, raising animals or even out gathering building materials to expand your farm, youíre always going to be using up your limited energy reserves. Later in the game youíll start amassing enough money and supplies to replenish your stamina when it runs low but early on youíll have to prioritise your work each day to get the important work finished or risk passing out from overworking. Itís this repetitive challenge that will keep you playing if you want to see your work pay off.

As your farm becomes more successful youíll need to put some of your money and stores of gathered stone and wood to good use if you want to continue expanding your business. Youíll need to build barns to house cows and sheep, and other features such as wells and storage buildings to ensure your farm continues to run smoothly. You can even fence off your fields if you want to keep areas divided. These are all features that were in the Harvest Moon games in some form, but Story of Seasons handles them with a more user-friendly and streamlined approach that makes working on your farmís layout a much simpler affair than before.

Despite the refinements to a lot of the mechanics thereís still an overwhelming sense of Ďbeen there, done thatí to Story of Seasons. As usual the farming and resource management gameplay can be challenging and addictive, but everything around it just seems to get in the way. The bland graphics, boring characters, flat dialogue and dated presentation conspire against the solid tried and tested core gameplay.

Maybe the problem for me is that Iíve just played more than enough Harvest Moon games. Maybe some optimistic fresh-faced young kid whoís new to the genre will enjoy this a lot more than I can, just like I really enjoyed the old SNES, Nintendo 64 and GameCube Harvest Moon games back in their day.

Pros:
+ Refined farming mechanics.
+ Nice farm customisation options.

Cons:
- Very niche appeal.
- Dated presentation.
- Bland characters and storytelling.

SPOnG score: 6/10

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