Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town Review
It’s been a long while since we got a really good, brand new Story of Seasons / Harvest Moon title, and the month of March 2021 brought us two! While each game was vying for superiority this year – some called it the battle of farming simulation games – only one game really hit home, and that experience was Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town. While I wasn’t a fan of everything in the game, the overall experience is top notch, and a must play for farming simulation fans.
Story of Seasons has about as much story as past titles have had, and that isn’t much. You are looking to rehabilitate a dilapidated farm once owned by your grandfather, all the while building up Olive Town into the ideal tourist destination. Add in some marriage candidates, and you’ve about scoped what the ‘story’ is all about in Pioneers of Olive Town. This isn’t a fault of the title, however, but rather a statement about the the genre as a whole. Focusing too much on a central story would ultimately take away from the day-to-day farming elements, and it is quite obvious that this wasn’t the goal of the development team. And it shows.
From start to finish, the farming elements in Pioneers of Olive Town are top notch, with very little to be worried about. Animal husbandry is fantastic – the first few animals can be tamed from the wild areas of your farm, and it won’t be long before you are using breeding kits, upgrading product quality, and so much more. The progression system throughout the game is fantastic and balanced, and this goes for animals as well. I was finding and breeding animals at an excellent pace, and never really had a dull moment when dealing with the variety of fantastic animals available to me.
Cross over to your fields and the excellent game play cycle continues. There are a variety of crops available to you, and more can be added by finding and shipping forgable crops scattered around your farm. Within a season, you’ll be using hte basic sprinklers to your advantage, and upgrading your watering can to better make use of your stamina. Your stamina also has a fairly strong progression path that never keeps you sitting in one place for too long. In fact, I’d argue that outside of one annoying system, that is the common thread throughout the first bit of Story of Seasons – progression is consistent and balanced, creating an experience that never stays too long in one place.
That isn’t to say things are perfect. The maker system – which has you dropping raw materials into machines to refine them and produce finished products – needs an overhaul, as waiting hours-upon-hours of in-game time to produce one piece of lumber is atrociously infuriating. My progression has been consistent because I’ve spent so much time investing in the games worst element. So while progression has been OK, it’s not ALL because of the game – some of it is my sheer determination to always have my makers going. And unfortunately, the drive to keep my makers always producing something means a) I miss out on other cool opportunities in the game like raising hearts with folks; and b) makes me want to stop playing more times than I can count.
The development team has promised fixes to the maker system in the future, hence why I’m not allowing this aspect of the game to influence the score of my review too much. The maker system is a broken element in the game, but it’s still far from game breaking. People will compare these makers to Stardew Valley, and I would somewhat agree. The use of makers to produce yogurt, mayonnaise, and even gems makes sense to me. Even processing ore is OK. But where it loses me is the process of refining wood into logs. In Stardew Valley, house, barn, coop, and other upgrades are reliant on raw materials, not finished materials. In Story of Seasons, EVERYTHING is reliant on finished materials, save for a few early, craftable items.
And this brings us to crafting, placing, and ultimately creating our own unique farm. It works so very well, with a few weird, minor exceptions. Placing down paths and fences to beautify my farm is an easy process, and new crafting items seem to unlock at a decent pace. That being said, small issues keep that process from being perfect, like paths not linking up perfectly with bridges, and the inability to create smooth edges when dropping paths on a diagonal. Outside of that, however, I’ve really enjoyed creating pastures and fields around my farm, dropping beehives and mushroom logs in corners that would otherwise be useless. Unfortunately, the makers again rear their ugly heads here, and we will use Stardew Valley as a comparison yet again.
In Stardew Valley, makers are very much a part of the game. Fortunately, those makers can be buried inside buildings and hidden from view, allowing you to create a beautiful farm. Not so here – unless I’ve completely missed something, all makers in Story of Seasons must sit out in the open, not only taking up valuable farming space, but also being a complete eyesore. I have almost 20 lumber makers. 20! Add to that 5 ore makers, a few thread makers, a bunch of brick makers, and I’ve got one VERY uglly area of my farm to look at on a daily basis. Just let me put this crap in a building!
Overall, despite my issues with the makers, Pioneers of Olive Town is still a solid title, worth playing by anyone looking to satisfy that cute farming simulation itch. With so much to do and a pretty decent progression path, there is always something to do in Story of Seasons. I’m a few dozen hours into my experience, and I’m not about to stop anytime soon.