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  • Writer's pictureNoah Yard

What I'm Playing: Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town.

During the pandemic’s multiple lockdowns in Australia, I, like many people, relied heavily on simulation games like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing to keep me sane. They’re the type of game with that calming influence, that give you routine and characters to build relationships with. Those two games were so well crafted, and share many similarities but aren’t exactly the same.

My new obsession with the simulation/farming game craze is the newest instalment of Story of Seasons, entitled “Pioneers of Olive Town.” It’s a farming and development game that has adorable 3D graphics and a relaxing vibe that’s kept me entertained now for a whole year in-game.

The main pull is obviously farming. You get given a plot of your grandfather’s land, and you have to uncover new areas and shape it the way you want it, plant crops, and raise animals. There is a yearly cycle that goes through the seasons, and with each season comes a new set of vegetables to grow. It’s got that same relaxing, methodical feeling of Stardew as you plant, grow and harvest. There’s the added beauty of the 3D graphics too, which makes the vegetable growth really satisfying to look at.

It also means the animals are so darn cute! There are animals that, if you have rebuilt the barns and coops, you can tame on your farm and raise3. These include your standard cows,m sheep and chickens, but also rabbits, goats, and buffalo. Once you’ve found and tamed one of each animal on the farm, you can then buy them from the animal store.

The game has a great tool upgrading system that helps you with harvesting, you are given the basics and then you have to upgrade with the materials that you find on the farm and in the mines. It’s relatively simple and it really helps when you’re removing rocks or trees from your farm later on. The mining portion of the game is relatively simple as well, in fact, it may be a little too simple. You go down levels and smash rocks with a hammer. The only obstacles are little moles that pop out of the ground. They don’t chase you or anything they’re just… There.

One of my biggest, no, THE biggest issue I have with this game is the lack of personality, both in the town and in its people. I hate to keep bringing up other games like Stardew Valley, but when you’re playing a game with so many similarities it’s easy to spot something that isn’t as good. So in Stardew Valley, there is a cast of VERY interesting characters and options for romantic partners. They are all have predetermined schedules, sure, but when you talk to each character as they walk around you get a real sense of who they are from the dialogue. And the options for romantic partners were all totally different and their scenes are enchanting.

In Story of Seasons, I fear that the characterisation is far, far too flat. Sure, each character has a set personality and jobs, they walk around and talk to each other the same as any other game. But the dialogue is boring, borderline robotic, and so the townspeople aren’t as much like the close friends you build in other games in the genre. For instance, on the day of big events such as the egg hunt, the days leading up to and the days after, every character says pretty much the same thing. “Ooh I can’t wait for the egg hunt.” “It’s egg hunt day!” “I’m so sad the egg hunt is over.” Imagine walking around town and hearing that about twenty to thirty times. It really pulls you out of the game. I find myself just not talking to anyone as I go about my business on the farm and in developing the town.

And it’s not like it’s hard to make friends with these people either. If you talk to them once a day, or give them an item they really love you can really quickly build up their heart meters, and earn events/scenes for certain characters. But my motivation to do this is just not there, so after an in-game year of play, I haven’t made any close friends.

And the events themselves, like the egg hunt or mushroom festival, aren’t as interesting as you would hope. You don’t even get to hunt for eggs on egg hunt day! It’s just a cut scene. Outrageous! Every life sim fan knows the key to a perfect game is the quality of the egg hunt every year.

I have however become romantically involved with a character. Iori, the towns fisherman and a traveller from Japan, lives in a traditional Japanese house with his guardian. He’s very stoic and reserved, but when you romance someone in Olive Town, you get heart events. After each heart you gain in a person’s meter, you can trigger a cut scene that gives you more of an insight into the character. Much like in other games in the genre this is one of the more interesting and touching moments, the only times where I feel the character’s actually come alive. I plan to marry Iori, and we shall have magnificent fisherman babies.

Another small gripe I have with the game is its frame rate. Now I’m not a tech whizz or even that well of an informed gamer, so I don’t know about how fast a game should be running, but the game in the handheld version at least (which is what I play all of my games on), can at times be a bit glitchy. If, for instance, you have a large veggie patch or a row of item making machines frames can be a little slow to load, and the game may glitch a bit.

But overall, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is another good way to cruise through time, relax, and create a beautiful farm out of nothing, it’s beautifully done with its graphics and mechanics, it’s peaceful, and it’s relatively simple. It has its issues, and it doesn’t really add anything new to an already saturated genre, but when it comes to farming sims that don’t really matter. Just sit back and enjoy.

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