Returning to a Story of Seasons game after more than 5 years has been a refreshing experience. The calming music, relaxing pace and charming visuals of Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is just what the doctor ordered after our adventures in Ys IX. This little peaceful seaside town is where we find ourselves on a quest to establish a farm. All the while with a town in development. If you’re accustomed to this series then you’ll feel right at home in Olive Town.
Your farm, situated south of the town, is a messy affair at first but that quickly changes. Similarly the town continues to evolve with new stores added as you progress. Among them are your standard general store, tool shop, carpentry shop and of course the town hall. Acquiring many of the products in these shops usually requires not only money but also resources. These resources obtained via mining, agriculture and other salvaging methods can be further refined using easily crafted machines.
And here is where the problems begin…
These machines use up a ridiculous amount of real estate and thus create a messy farming situation. Since these sorts of games are a delicate juggling act of time management, it’s never good when you’re hindered by a mechanic meant for productivity. If you intend to produce a lot of resources quickly, you’re going to have machines all over your farm. There’s also the fact that they’re a visual eyesore. Each takes up four tile spaces and once you’ve got 12 or more it starts looking like a factory more so than a farm. The light at the end of the tunnel though is that you can craft lager machines later in the game to somewhat alleviate the issue.
While the machines may be an issue for me personally, there are much more serious issues with this title. To begin with, the lack of character portraits during dialog is a huge step back. In Pioneers of Olive Town the characters just have text speech bubbles and only during some story cutscenes do you get close up camera shots of them. The title also contains some of the weakest marriage candidates in a Seasons game to date and that’s saying a lot because these aren’t games known for complex characters. The devs have future story and character plans involving the season pass but that’s a paid fix for a self inflicted wound that could have been avoided.
The Trash Tier Online
Pioneers of Olive Town also has some of the most underwhelming online features ever. Tourists visiting your town and pictures showing up on your loading screen is as far as it goes. That’s literally it. You can’t interact with them and they add nothing to your game. Adding to the whoos are abysmal framerate dips in both handheld and docked mode. This is unacceptable when considering titles like Mario Kart and Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm 4 run buttery smooth on the Switch with a myriad of effects. Gone are the days of solid performance and working out character interactions. Now characters will accept any gift you give them positively.
Oh and lastly, how the hell is Beth not a marriage candidate. She has one of the best designs in the entire game, is about the same age as your character and GOD DAMN! that flaming red hair. Damn you Lars and Marvelous and the universe and faith and DAMN IT ALL TO HELL!!! Well maybe that’s a bit too far.
Though it may seem like I’ve got a lot of negative things to say about the game, I actually adore it.
Sweet Sweet Easy Mode
The ease of progression for example is one of it’s strengths. In previous Seasons titles you’d be required to invest an absorbent amount of time to initially clean up your farm but not here. Pioneers of Olive Town forgos all the tedium to get you up and running in no time. There’s literally no difficulty curve outside of stamina and even that can be reduced in a relatively short period of time. Even adding animals to your farm has been nerfed to the point that you don’t even need to buy them. You’ll find new wild animals roaming every month that you can effortlessly tame then add to your farm. Each animal can then be cared for to produce higher quality byproducts and those products don’t require you to acquire or upgrade any tools either. It’s a simple system that’ll get many newcomers in the door.
When not farming it’s possible to enter the mines for resources, interact with towns folk, participate in events, do some shopping and of course pursue your waifu/ husbando of choice. Just don’t forget to accept your rewards at the town hall while you’re out on the hunt for love. This is your standard Story of Seasons affair after all and when it comes to quality farming sims It’s among the good ones but with training wheels enabled at all times.
Anime Farming Life
The visuals were another of the strengths of the game. At first they seemed almost mobile quality in screenshots but in motion they prove their pedigree. It’s a simple cartoonish looking title with vibrant colours and effects which change with the seasons. Shadows are a bit lower quality and so are some of the textures but thanks to the artistic style, that’s barely noticeable. That being said, an over the shoulder camera would have made it even better.
Music is calming thanks to slow, slow tempo an I like that. However the lack of voice acting is unacceptable in 2021. So on the audio front it’s what we’d call acceptable but lacking at the same time. Games like this benefit from voice acting but I’m sure there will be those who’ll disagree with me on that.
Having no timed exclusive waifus sucks. Remember Nami from Harvest Moon A Wonderful Life? Having the training wheels on from the start can be off-putting for veterans of the franchise. Having fame-dips, lackluster online and that maker situation is a damn shame but… if you asked me if I enjoyed my time with Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town I’d say yes. It’s a bit of a clunky game but I love it all the same. In the same way that one can like an old stuffed toy even after it’s lost its polish. Most of us love a challenge but sometimes it’s just nice to kick back and enjoy an easy relaxing few hours in the virtual countryside.
The copy of Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town used for this review was provided to us by it’s publisher, Marvelous Interactive Inc.