This week on Zero Punctuation, Yahtzee reviews Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town.
So after I reviewed Harvest Moon: One Star a few weeks back and said it was the imperfect Pod Person replica of the original franchise that got rejected for forgetting to glue its nose on properly, and that you should probably hold out for the new Story of Seasons, I immediately realized, "Oh crunchy nut bugger-flakes, I've tied my hands on this one, haven't I?" I've basically endorsed Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, sight unseen, so now I have to review it to make sure it doesn't leave skid marks on the guest towels. After all, it's not like the original Harvest Moon developers are hoarding the secret formula for light farming sims like it's the recipe for Coke; you just need a twenty-minute day cycle, a brace of anime hotties, and an at-best truncated idea of childbirth.
Some of the original Harvest Moons were stinkers, like that one on the GameCube from the "make everything look like we're viewing it through a coffee filter" era of graphics that had all the visual charm of the top layer of scum on the pond behind the abattoir. If you want to know if Pioneers of Olive Drab is better than Harvest Moon: One Wank, then yes, it is, but that's not much of a bar to clear. Nice job, guys; you completed a one-page assignment without resorting to 24-point text and triple spacing. The question is if it lives up to the current standard for light farming sims, which, to my mind, is Stardew Valley, which I hear just got another free content update, because the developer's doing it out of love and is apparently allergic to money or something.
And if there's one thing that condemns Story of Seasons before it's even wobbled out of the fuck-shed on bloodstained newborn legs, it's that it hasn't done a lot of updating over the years. At least Wonky World was trying something new; it went for the kickflip and broke its nose on its own selfie stick, but Story of Seasons isn't even in the skate park. It's at home, assembling the same jigsaw puzzle as always: growing, harvesting, fishing, mining, chickens first, then cows, and all the animals look like overinflated balloons and think that foot-and-mouth disease is just a euphemism for saying the wrong thing at a social gathering.
It's only really improved graphically over the years, and call me a pointlessly persistent proponent of pixel art, but I feel that top-down cartoon farming is a concept that just doesn't benefit from full 3D; I mean, I go around town for the first day's waifu hunt, and all I have to go on are a bunch of tottering dead-eyed Bratz doll mascots that cause nary a stir in my character's humble flaxen underpants, and they don't even have attractive 2D portraits of the characters to throw on top of their dialogue boxes so you can get a feel for how they'd look once you've got a serious set of beer goggles on. In the end, I zeroed in on the one lady who appraises relics you find in the mine, just because I was seeing her every day anyway when I dropped off that day's sackload of earth-caked garbage. It's hard to feel electrified with romance, settling for the girl I would have no reason to interact with were I to just buy my own fucking pressure washer.
On that note, if you want to hear about new features, Story of Seasons has pinched a few eggs from Animal Crossing's Easter basket in that you can donate fish and relics to the museum, so every time you find a new fish you react not with joy, but with eye-rolling dismay at now having to let it stink up your inventory until you can get to the museum again, and then having to pick where to display the fucking thing like I had time to learn how to curate a fucking aquarium while I was learning how to milk a spherical cow. There's also some Animal Crossing-y online features where you can visit other people's farms and marvel at how their turnip patches are a slightly different shape than yours. Who's got time for that shit? I have to moisten all my crops, then head out waifu-hunting and moisten some other things. But who the fuck's demanding innovation from their light farming sims? As I say, the formula's pretty much down, so it's like trying to liven up a perfectly good money shot by using spicy mustard instead of cum.
Let me just say this now; if you've never played a light farming sim, and don't want to try Stardew Valley because Eric Barone murdered your family or something, then you'll get the full light farming sim experience with Pioneers of Bollock City. All I can do at this point is nitpick the little ways I don't like it as much as others. So I've gone over the waifus; just the way they like it, am I right, fellas? I also don't like the loading times, and they're not helped by the loading screens all being what I think must be photos taken by other players, because they're usually blurry and poorly-cropped images of somebody's armpit.
I also have a specific bubble in my catheter tube about coal; you need coal to power certain machines, but I tried to stick some coal I found in the mine into one, and it slapped my hand away. "No! I only want refined coal!" So a little searching around later, I discovered a crafting recipe that I picked up without realizing that turned one piece of raw coal into one piece of refined coal. If you needed more than one raw coal to make refined coal, or if there were other things you could do with raw coal besides make refined coal, then this would be a gameplay mechanic; as it stands, it's just pissing about.
Right, what else? I do like how you make lumber machines out of basic wood, because it means when you get your wood bachelor's degree and graduate to advanced wood, you still have a use for all the basic wood that's still lying around. Trouble is, you don't need to get far along the tech tree before the game starts demanding large quantities of lumber, and when one lumber machine can only make one at a time, and the lumber machines are practicing social distancing so you can't cram them up next to each other, you end up with rolling meadows of fucking lumber machines, and that's not the kind of scenery I hope to spend my retirement gazing out at from the farmhouse window.
My gut tells me this game is simultaneously a bit too slow and a bit too fast. "...Does your gut want to clarify that, Yahtz?" Well, I don't want to push it; we had Mexican last night. The days might be a touch too long, 'cos I keep running out of things to do, but at the same time, stuff seems to respawn a bit too fast. I guess we need the trees, since we go through lumber like a termite colony under an IKEA warehouse, but as my farm expands, I feel like I'm spending half the morning holding the weeds back.
Also, I feel like development happens too fast early on, and not because I'm working hard; I'd upgraded to both iron tools and silver tools before I was halfway through the first spring. And I didn't even have to pay for a chicken coop; there was one already there, complete with one free wild chicken that was leaning against the wall ready to go tame for the first passing farmer to pat it on the head, and it's only their blind luck that I didn't happen to be setting up a teriyaki restaurant. See, you're more emotionally attached to something you've had to wait for and put a bit of work into, I suppose; that's why I've started putting on oven mitts to jerk off.
- Big fish in small pond: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- Man after the last few weeks I'm really hankering for a game about murdering lots of things in a short time
- I used to have a waifu but then she filed for divorusu