Review – Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is the first proper current-gen game released for the series, as last year’s Friends of Mineral Town was a remake of a Game Boy Advance game, and the Doraemon spin-off is… well… a Doraemon spin-off. This is the first true contender made by Marvelous to compete against other slice of life juggernauts like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Stardew Valley. Well, there’s still Harvest Moon, but let’s face it, that game is just carrying the name of a much better franchise without any of its charm or soul. How well does Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town fare against its competition?
Just like in most Story of Seasons/Harvest Moon games, the story can be condensed with the same old cliché: you’re tired of the city life, so you decide to move to a rural town where you inherit a derelict farm once owned by your grandfather. You start off with very little money, just a handful of tools and half a dozen seeds. Then it’s up to you to find ways to transform your pitiful little homestead into a money-making monster of a ranch, all while interacting with the townsfolk and even finding a significant other to eventually marry. We’re not here for innovative storytelling, that’s for certain, but that’s not a bad thing. I can’t think of a single person who would play one of these games for their plots.
In all honesty, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town plays exactly like its predecessors. It’s a very safe kind of sequel, as the core concept of engaging in daily agricultural routines, improving your skills to eventually be able to spread tons of seeds at once, making meals to replenish your pitiful stamina bar, and interacting with the locals is all there. These simplistic mechanics aren’t bad at all, even though they sound stupidly boring on paper. It’s all about doing menial chores and slowly witnessing your farm grow with your hard-earned cash. You’ll begin to afford more seeds at once, which will result in larger financial gains. You’ll be able to invest in cattle, resulting in more items to sell daily. It’s a fantastic progression system that rewards you with little incentives with each new day you spend inside this world.
That doesn’t mean that this game is just a carbon copy of its predecessors. There are new gameplay elements in here, and yes, they do make a difference. Right from the get-go, you can already notice the vast improvements in the graphical and sound departments. Pioneers of Olive Town is easily the best looking game in the franchise, with more detailed characters and environments, all while retaining the franchise’s characteristic “chibi anime” charm. Sadly, it comes at the cost of not running at the best of framerates, but considering the fact it’s a slow-paced farming simulator, it ends up not being such a harsh issue.
For the most part, the sound department is pretty good. The soundtrack is instantaneously catchy, especially whenever you listen to the sweet and warm tune that’s played whenever you enter a shop or someone’s house. It feels cozy and inviting, like how a house from a friendly rural family should feel like. The game even included a few small voice clips for each character, adding an extra layer of personality to each one of them.
The changes aren’t limited to the game’s technical aspects, thankfully enough. One brand new addition, which is most likely something inspired by the Animal Crossing series as a whole, is the possibility to fully customize not only the layout of your farm, deciding where to put your coops and crops, as well as how many of them, but also being able to customize your house. You can buy lots of kinds of furniture and you’re given higher degrees of customization freedom the bigger and fancier your house is.
The Earth Sprites, supernatural entities who show up in some way or shape in each of these games, can now transport you to mythical landscapes after fulfilling certain prerequisites. Finally, you’re an integral voice in the development of your town as a whole. Given you’re a city boy, the mayor will constantly ask you for suggestions regarding the town’s growth, and how to expand its tourism industry. You can also complete requests set in the town’s bulletin board, which are usually nothing more than simple fetch quests in exchange for money. Finally, just like in New Horizons, you can help populate the town’s local museum with different kinds of fish, pictures of animals, and valuable items you may find throughout your playthrough. You will always have something to do in this game.
I used to wonder why people were so hooked on slice of life games like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley, but now I completely understand why. Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town hooked me like very few casual games have ever managed. Something as banal as doing farm chores and committing to a routine turned into an engaging experience, slowly seeing my farm grow into a borderline agricultural empire, all while having all the freedom in the world to customize my household to my liking. What better way to spend your lockdown spare time than playing a game that reminds you of the menial tasks we all miss?
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is the best looking game in the franchise, even if it suffers from a very unstable framerate. Given the fact it’s just a slice of life game, that’s not a huge issue.
The sheer amount of new customization options and brand new mechanics introduced in this game more than make up for the fact its framerate isn’t the best.
There are small voice clips in here, giving characters a minute but essential layer of personality. The soundtrack is also very catchy.
Fun Factor: 9.0
Just like its predecessors, it’s the kind of game that looks tedious in theory, but becomes extremely addictive after just a few minutes. It’s chock-full of content, side missions, compelling characters, and much more.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is available now on Switch.
Reviewed on Switch.
A copy of Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town was provided by the publisher.