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  • Writer's pictureNoah Yard

Sakuna Of Rice and Ruin: Every Grain Contains Happiness.

If you’ve been following along with my blog then you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been reviewing a lot of videogames during quarantine. I clearly have a videogame spending problem. But it has helped me figure out what kind of games I like and I believe I’m more inclined to play much more relaxed, less hardcore games. I enjoy the thrills of Hades and the intense storytelling of Age of Calamity, however, I can spend more hours on a more relaxing game, with a slower rhythm and a brighter feel. For instance, I played Pikmin 3 multiple times, and Spiritfarer. And I’ve sunk over a thousand hours into the wormhole that is Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

So, when I found a game whose main goal is to simply grow rice in an intense farming simulation, I jumped at it, arms outstretched. Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin, is my latest addiction. It follows the story of Sakuna, a condemned goddess of harvest who has been sent to an island with a group of humans to learn the value of hard work and learn some humility. To do this, Sakuna must balance battling away the demons on this little piece of land the group finds, and growing rice.

The rice growing mechanics are simple enough to learn but very very thorough. It’s not like most other farm simulators where you plant some corn and then harvest it ten minutes later. You have twelve in-game days that make up a year and it takes that long to prepare, grow and harvest the rice.

There are several stages; planting, watering, fertilizing, then harvesting, husking, and beating into single grains. Each of these processes is very involved and at times difficult. But there is, like with most farming games, a meditative quality. When you are removing the husks, or slowly planting two hundred seedlings, the pacing is very soothing.

The quality of your rice is very important to your success in the game and is highly dependent on multiple factors; how far apart your seeds are, the control of how much water you add to the field, what fertilizer you use and a lot more. At first, your yield will be, well, terrible. Then slowly, as you learn what works, you’ll see the yield and quality of the rice rise.

This has an effect on the second half of the games play, slaying demons. You can adventure away from your peaceful little farm to the surrounding areas where demons lurk. The rice you create and eat gives you more energy, strength, stamina and magic, so if your rice is crappy, you’ll get your but kicked. With the help of your friends on the farm, you can build stronger weapons and clothes from the parts you find while battling which make you stronger. Its cyclical, and you get more out of it the more you play, the more you fight, and the more you grow.

Of Rice and Ruin’s stories, reminiscent of the Shinto religion, revolve around Sakuna’s origins as a goddess. As well as the origins that surround her and the other gods and goddesses, particularly Lady Kamuhitsuki, the tree of life goddess who cast Sakuna out, yet benefits off of her hard work as Sakuna’s rice is distributed throughout the capital. You get a lot of story out of listening to everyday conversations over dinner with your human friends. Or from reading the descriptions on the levels that tell you about the lore of the island, the preeminent gods, and what happened with Sakuna’s parents, who are the gods of war and harvest. It’s charming and as you play through there is also drama with other gods, as Sakuna tries to get into their good graces.

I highly recommend Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin to anyone who loves farm simulators, but also loves a challenge, or for those who love a good story full of myths and fables. While the Rice can be arduous and the side-scrolling action can get monotonous ultimately after the work is done both aspects of the game are fruitful and rewarding.

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