Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town
Developer: Marvelous Inc.
Publisher: XSEED Games, Marvelous
Genre(s): RPG, Farming Sim
Platform: PC (Also available on Nintendo Switch)
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 15/09/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
My fondest memory with my PlayStation 2 is buying games with my pocket money from Bromley Shopping Centre, whenever I went to visit my late grandparents in London. On one of those occasions, the game in question was Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life. I read the manual (I really wish games still had those!) front to back while I visited since I had to wait to get home until I could play.
Admittedly I was eager yet nervous to play Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, after feeling let down by one of the Harvest Moon entries on the 3DS. I craved that magical feeling that A Wonderful Life gave me!
A fellow writer covered Pioneers of Olive Town with its initial Nintendo Switch release; so, how does it play on PC, and what was my personal farming experience? Let’s find out.
The New Farmer of Olive Town
In typical farming sim fashion, your protagonist leaves the big city for Olive Town, inspired by their grandfather’s days as a pioneer there. The mayor is actually your grandfather’s old friend and helps you get settled in to a dilapidated farm. He is the one who teaches you how to play at the beginning, before similar hints as shown below pop up when you reach something new.
I did find the controls on the PC didn’t come as naturally as maybe they would on Switch. Often I’d accidentally press the wrong buttons despite there being visual diagrams. For example, left click would be one means of interaction and right click would be the other. Since the buttons are so close to each other and I switch onto autopilot while playing, I’d sometimes spam one without thinking. A lot of actions would use right-click too, like handing over an item to someone and eating an item. This once lead to me eating an item I intended to give to a bachelor (more on that later) since he walked a short step away from me!
There’s also generally a fair bit to remember, like R and F being to scroll between your bag hot bar at the bottom of the screen. Again, though these were labelled, it wasn’t something that felt natural or became part of muscle memory. They’re not difficult controls by any means, but perhaps me having been a console player up until the last two years has affected my preferences.
A Farm Favourite
Running and expanding your farm is the main objective of the game. Growing crops and looking after animals subsequently rewards you with food and materials. These can then be sold for money in order for you to buy anything from pets, clothing, materials, furniture or even a new home. But be sure to use the makers, which can convert items into something more valuable, for example turning eggs into mayonnaise. I share a similar opinion in our previous review about the Makers that are used for this; they take up a lot of space, and when you can craft some items from a crafting menu, it seems an odd choice.
Nevertheless, the farming aspect follows a familiar formula that I find so addicting. I loved having a routine, watering or harvesting plants each morning before checking on livestock, then sticking all my goods into Makers. If only I could be that organised in real life… Anyway, your area of farmland is also surprisingly big, and you can unlock new areas by either paying to rebuild a bridge or gathering materials yourself. There is a lot of grinding to do, however. Gathering materials uses up your energy too, some taking up more as well, for example, supple trees take longer to chop down.
You can replenish your energy by eating, but I tended to stop when my energy got low and wait for the next day, as it is also restored overnight through sleep. Avid Stardew Valley players will be familiar with this sort of gameplay style, so it’s safe to say if you’re not a fan it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy Pioneers of Olive Town/ It really is quite a niche genre that you’ll either love or hate.
A Town of Romance
It’s not all about farming, however. The mayor would like you to help turn Olive Town into a tourist gem, so you are tasked occasionally with gathering materials for him. This leads to the creation of new buildings like a salon. You can also fill the museum similar to Animal Crossing, taking photos of wildlife to turn into statues or handing in relics. It’s nothing out there, but it gives a secondary agenda to simply farming. As well as this, events take place throughout the game year, such as the pet derby! Who doesn’t want to see cats race against each other? It’s a shame some are cinematic, but the interactive ones give you something to look forward to.
A farming sim wouldn’t be complete without the ability to romance and eventually marry one of the marriage candidates. In Pioneers of Olive Town, you can choose between bachelors or bachelorettes. I’m currently pursuing Ralph in my playthrough, a forest ranger who loves animals! Players of other iterations in the series or Harvest Moon will know the grind that it takes in order to eventually propose with a blue feather. However, this grind is worth it as you get unique heart events along the way, which are different for whoever you choose.
Again, it’s a tested and familiar formula but keeps the game from being dry or repetitive. It’s always an exciting moment when a cut scene starts, breaking the routine of farming life.
Switching to PC
I did not pick up on any performance issues when playing Pioneers of Olive Town on PC, with no frame drops or rendering issues. Loading was also very speedy when moving between areas, something that was pointed out as an issue in our Switch review. Though not perhaps the most visually demanding, with some plants looking a little lacklustre, there’s some great use of shadow and the colours are vibrant. Looking at screenshots, it seems if you want a slight visual upgrade you’re better off with the PC version.
Of course, this then sacrifices the portability of the Switch. It seems like it would be a good game to pick up and do some farming while watching TV, or on a commute. Saying that I quite happily sat at my PC for hours playing it! I guess it all depends on how serious of a player you are, and how much you care about performance. For me, it’s something I’d prefer to play on my PC to get properly stuck into.
I was fortunate that my review copy also came with the DLC Expansion Pass. This includes various outfits for your protagonists and the marriage candidates, such as Animal Attire which puts all bachelors/bachelorettes in animal costumes! It’s amusing, but not something I’d personally pay for, though it was nice to get some new outfits for my character.
Also included are three new areas to visit, based on past games in Story of Seasons. This is a nice touch for fans, especially as they each hold two marriage candidates as well. For example, I saw Neil at Windswept Falls who I was actually pursuing on the 3DS! I think this is probably a greater selling factor for those familiar with the series, who may want to revisit these areas. There are also two sub-scenarios, the Olive Town Mystery Files and the Legendary Sprite Dance. This may be good for people who still want to play the game but would like some extra side quests or events to do.
The DLC is £17.99, so I would only recommend it to big fans of the series or the game, who are sure they’re going to put the time into Pioneers of Olive Town to make the purchase worth it.
A Farmiliar Formula
At its heart, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town isn’t so different from the gameplay we know and love about the farming genre. However, I found the daily routine peppered with heart events, town restoration and monthly events hooked me in. I’d often end up playing for a couple of hours after saying “Just one more day!”. I am also very happy with the PC version, despite my clumsiness with the controls. Having it on my monitor helped me get more in the zone than I feel it would on the Switch handheld, as much as portability is tempting.
Of course, it is all up to you! Have a read of our Nintendo Switch review too and decide whether Olive Town is the place for you. Now, I’m off to tame that brown alpaca and romance Ralph with a bowl of clam soup…
Rapid Reviews Rating
3.5 out of 5
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.