Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town review — It’s time to get farming
For many players, Harvest moon is the pioneer of agricultural RPG. Paving the way for later titles like Valley of stars, he established many now standardized mechanisms across the genre. Due to certain ownership complications it has since been renamed as History of seasons to the west, but the concept is unchanged. And History of the seasons: pioneers of Olive Town is the latest installment in the series from developer Marvelous.
It is actually a port like Olive Town pioneers released on Switch earlier this year. However, the limitations of the hybrid console caused various performance issues, hampering the potential of the game. History of seasons prayed for it to play well on PC. Fortunately, there is no need to worry.
Make Olive Town a great city
As the name suggests, this game is set in Olive Town, a peaceful community looking to expand. The city’s mayor, Victor, sees your arrival as the perfect opportunity to expand tourism and turn Olive Town into something special.
On your way to becoming the ultimate farmer, you will come across history events and festivals. Story events are the primary method of upgrading Olive Town, and completing these events can yield useful rewards. This includes opening new stores and opportunities to get to know other townspeople better.
Of course, helping the city to develop is just one goal among many. The player is also tasked with expanding their own farm and tackling a host of side activities. You can build relationships with the citizens of the city, complete the museum, or fight to improve your stats. In terms of content alone, there is an impressive amount to be done. Finalists who seek to accomplish everything will have their work cut out for them.
Olive Town pioneers is designed in such a way that you can define your own story. Of course, sometimes the game will throw ideas at you, but nothing applies them. The player has the absolute choice of what to do and when. It’s a refreshing level of freedom that, while typical of History of seasons, is not too common elsewhere.
The obvious comparison
As with everything History of seasons game, there will be comparisons with Valley of stars. But I think getting carried away by the comparisons can make it easier to forget something obvious. The two games are inspired by each other and thus appeal to a similar audience. Having said that, it is not true that if you like Star dew you must hate Olive Town pioneers. Quite the contrary, really.
Probably inspired by Valley of stars, Olive Town pioneers takes a much more personalized approach to farming. The limitations of previous titles have been removed, and players have a lot more choice in how they use their allotted space. With a little time and dedication, it is possible to make your farm amazing.
The catch is that the tools to do this are not very well designed. You have to place one tile or item at a time, and removing a lost item is slightly more complicated than necessary. Not in a way where it becomes a serious problem, but it’s enough to get on your nerves over time.
Also, Olive Town pioneers has a habit of spawning random vegetation and saplings all over your farm. To be fair, it makes it easier to harvest renewable resources without having to actively worry about them. But when you try to build new things constantly having to erase them it gets boring. Theoretically, embellishment is possible as long as the necessary means are provided. Yet again, it’s a little more boring to do than it should be.
This is the first main entrance Harvest moon game to showcase both same-sex and multisexual marriages. This is a bigger deal than it first appears. While not completely new to Western games, a Japanese developer including the option of miscellaneous relationships is rare. It’s a good surprise, of course.
I have to admit that I didn’t get too involved in relationships due to the lack of character portraits. The characters are always so cute. Honestly, I actually prefer this style of art to what a lot of Olive Town pioneersoffer the competitors of, but the lack of portraits is disappointing. They allow powerful emotions to be conveyed that are simply not present here.
Plus, I found the dialogue surprisingly bland. If an event in town happens, that’s basically all everyone is talking about with zero variance. Interacting with a city dweller and leaving the conversation thinking it was worth it was a rare occurrence. It’s kinda sad considering the community is meant to be such a big part of what you do. Although, from what I understand, this has been improved from what it was when the game was first released on Switch.
I don’t wanna be too harsh cause it’s not like Olive Town pioneersThe system of relations of is a complete deletion. Those interested will likely find at least one character that they can make a meaningful connection with. After all, most of their designs are cute, and their friendly personalities make them easy going.
Go to work
Making new friends is great, but what about farming? Perhaps the most noticeable change, from previous games, is how relaxed everything is. The constant micromanagement and the need to be as efficient as possible are gone. There is easily enough time to complete all the tasks and have room to explore freely. Even with a large farm, it never gets to the point where you dig into the farming aspect of the game for a whole day.
It could do Olive Town pioneers less appealing to longtime fans of the franchise, but that’s certainly a bright spot for most other players. I can tell this was the developer’s goal by some of the changes in the new fixes and the PC version. For example, manufacturing devices that are used to refine certain materials no longer need to be kept. Instead of processing only one material at a time, up to ten can now be inserted. With a few creators set up for each resource, it’s pretty easy to add whatever you need and get through your day as usual.
New forms of automation are even being introduced, such as sprinklers. To access more complex devices like these, you need to upgrade some skills. Skill levels are centered around most of the game’s progression, and farming is no different. It’s a similar case with tools, which can be upgraded to multiple levels. Maximizing the twelve skills and each tool will take a long time, so get ready for some serious work.
Once the high level tools and high level skills are obtained, you start to feel almost divine. It’s hilarious how effective it is in the later stages of the game. Even Mother Nature herself will bow to you. This makes much of the initial challenge now trivial, but I enjoyed seeing my grinding pay off. Lots of other games like this lack that endgame buzz that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something.
Smoother than the Switch
As I mentioned before, the Switch version of this game has a lot of performance issues. Heavy rain causes frame rate drops and some loading screens are much longer than they are allowed to be. Fortunately, the power of the PC platform, along with improved optimization, solves all of these issues.
While the Switch version remained locked on a finicky 30 FPS, the PC version offers options for 30, 60, 120, 144 and unlimited FPS. Due to the nature of gaming, hitting extremely high frame rates isn’t all that important, but those with mid-range gaming PCs can expect a constant 200 FPS excess. It’s a good harvest plantation right there. By the way, the recommended GPU is only a GTX 970. So most PC gamers will have no problem running it.
A good yield
It’s easy to over-criticize games like Olive Town pioneers because our expectations often outweigh what is reasonable. This is a sandbox farming RPG so everyone expects and wants different things. But the way I see it is that it’s a good game, albeit a good game with obvious flaws.
The relationship system being poor is unfortunate, as I know for many it is big business. Still, it’s hard to ignore the sheer amount of things to do alongside the quality of life improvements for the PC version. It won’t be the farm game for everyone, but there is certainly more than enough of it for the right person to spend a lot of hours on it.
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