Harvest Moon is a game series I’ve heard a lot about, but never played. So naturally, I was pretty keen to check out the latest offering in the series. After a bit of research, I learned that the Harvest Moon games had actually split off from their original series, which ended up being (confusingly) renamed Story of Seasons. Either way, both series seemed to be similar sorts of games. I knew Harvest Moon as the games that inspired Stardew Valley and the host of similar farming games that have gained popularity over the past few years.
Harvest Moon: One World boasts a new graphics engine, switching to 3D, with an aesthetic reminiscent of Animal Crossing New Horizons. The world is filled with cute characters, adorable animals, and a soothing soundtrack. The story takes place in a world without vegetables. The people in your hometown have never heard of any crops besides potatoes. You, however, are a reader of fantastical books which show pictures of all sorts of plants and foods. It seems the harvest goddess vanished some time ago, leading to this strange reality you find yourself in. Soon you meet Vitae, a nature sprite who wants you to set things right and bring back the harvest goddess.
And so you set off on your quest, with the help of Vitae and a mad scientist type, you get your very first farm. What’s unique about your farm, however, is that it’s mobile. Just fill up its energy meter, and you can move it to a new location, usually with more room to grow crops, or a different biome. This is a really cool concept.
Unfortunately, this is where my praise for this game comes to an end. Once you start farming and exploring the world, you’ll notice just how empty it is. The map is quite expansive, so it takes you a good long while to run from one place to another, even once you have a horse to ride. However, there’s nothing to do on the way to your destination, except collecting seeds, chopping down trees and petting the odd wild critter. There are no secrets to discover, no chests to find, no NPCs hiding in remote spots. The areas aren’t even decorated with clutter – they are quite literally empty apart from the odd tree or rock, and maybe a tuft of grass here or there. Buildings are dotted around the towns, but without any texturing or clutter objects under or near the buildings, they don’t even really look like they’re part of the world. All of this gives the whole game the feeling that it’s unfinished. I’d expect to encounter environments like this in the alpha version, not in the final release.
The characters in the game are cute enough, but very few of them demonstrate any kind of personality at all, and most of the minor NPCs just have descriptive names like ‘Confident Man’. This made finding specific NPCs to hand in their quests quite difficult, even with the basic map tracking the game provides. And being the materialistic creatures that they are, you can’t improve your relationship with NPCs by talking to them – only gifts will improve their opinion of you!
Harvest Moon: One World offers very little in the way of player guidance, apart from the main quests, and even then, you’re often left to figure out where an NPC or specific object can be found. Many NPCs who offer quests, including important ones like upgrading your equipment, aren’t even marked at all until you happen to speak to them. We struggled along with the starter equipment for many many hours because we hadn’t spoken to a specific NPC multiple times.
Making sense of it
The game is filled with a huge variety of crops for you to grow, but you’ll need to explore to find the seeds you want. This is cute in the beginning but soon becomes frustrating when you want to grow a lot of a specific plant. Each crop has a specific season it prefers, as well as a particular biome. Plants grown at the wrong place or time will be pretty unhappy, but they still seem to grow anyway, which makes the whole system seem a bit pointless.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a farm without cute critters to care for. You can buy basic farm animals early on, if you have enough cash, including chickens, cows, and sheep. If you want something more exotic (and have a lot of patience), you can befriend wild critters you come across. Caring for your farm animals quickly becomes tedious, however, as each animal needs to be interacted with at least twice to care for them and collect their produce. Each interaction takes a second or two, so a barn full of animals is gonna take up a chunk of your day. In contrast to this, crafting and cooking have no associated animations at all, and just happen instantly.
Naturally, you earn money from selling your produce or cooked items, but honestly the money makes no real sense. An egg sells for 100 gold, while a fried egg sells for 300g. A triple fried egg sells for 900g but gives the same amount of stamina as the single fried egg. Food can also be used to keep yourself warm or cool in some of the harsher environments in the game. Instead of, you know, buying or crafting new outfits for different climates.
Similarly, the mobile farm system doesn’t offer much in the way of progress. Very early on you stop adding buildings to your farm, and the only way to have more plots of land to plant crops is to teleport back to old farms to look after distant fields. Exploration doesn’t pay off with nice vistas or fun secrets, and the multitude of crops and mutations just become background noise as you
It’s been a long time since I played a game that felt this unfinished, and was so utterly dull. If you’re looking for an insomnia cure, Harvest Moon: One World is perfect. If you want a fun farming game, play Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing.