Farming sims are one of my favourite genres of games, so when a new one comes along I always hope to get new experiences and improvements mixed in with the classic chill tropes. When we got our first glimpse of Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town (SoS:PoOT) we saw the classic run-down farm taken to a new level. Your farm is a veritable wilderness, overgrown with weeds, trees and rocks and its sole building is in ruins. With a vibrant art style I was filled with hope for a new and exciting experience and was super eager to jump into this new game. I’ve been lucky enough to head to the country earlier than most and my experience so far has been great. While I can’t spill all the beans I’ve grown just yet, I can share some of my early impressions.
From the character creator in SoS:PoOT, I was thrilled by the progress this game has taken from the last instalment. There’s more than a farmer’s dozen of possible customisation options up to the level of different eye colour if you so wish. The creator is truly diverse, particularly for the LGBTIA community, allowing you to completely design your character from all of the options, or modifying a number of presets, before selecting your gender. I know many will be thrilled by this. The hair physics is also really nice. You can also customise the colour of your scooter too!
Harvesting materials is really satisfying, especially once you can fell multiple trees in a single swing
Olive Town is huge compared to many other farming sim towns with over ten shops. There is a restaurant and cafe, tool shop, animal/pet shop, carpentry shop, museum, town hall and more. Your farm starts out much smaller than the town and just like in Animal Crossing you start your humble farming life in a tent. Like most farming sims, clearing an area for farming is necessary but it’s more than that in this game. You must forage and collect materials to restore your farm to its former glory, do lots of crafting, upgrade the town and expand your abilities to explore more areas of your farm. At first I thought the game may be unbalanced in terms of how much materials you need to upgrade and unlock things, however I quickly changed my mind as these materials accrue at a good rate in line with the amount of stamina you have and use. The amount of harvesting of materials also encourages you to upgrade your wimpy beginning tools for better ones so that you can chop down multiple trees or smash multiple rocks at once in incredibly satisfying fashion. The combination of farming with collecting and refining materials is an enticing loop, and I found myself sucked in for hours on end.
All the best doggos and cattos
The number of crops as well as trees available in the game is also huge, with heaps of different things to grow per season. This adds a lot of choice but also difficulty to figuring out what’s the best money-making strategy if that’s your thing. In addition to farming you can of course raise animals as well. The adorable cows are back and as cute as ever in addition to alpacas, sheep, goats, chickens and rabbits. A really cool feature in this game is that you can find these animals wandering around in the wilderness of your farm, free and ready for adoption once you have the appropriate buildings and skill level which is a really nice addition. More animals of a certain kind can also appear after you have adopted the first, potentially with different colours or breeds as you expand. Speaking of breeds, pet dogs and cats return with many, many new breeds to choose from including Shiba Inu (wow, much excite), Pomeranian, Border Collie, Maine Coon, Persian and Scottish Fold. Another awesome addition is the ability to take your pets (both dogs and cats) on walks around your farm and through town.
Farming games always have a mine and this game is no exception. SoS:PoOT actually has more than one mine with higher level materials and depths in each one that become available as you expand your farm. There’s a whack-a-mole mini-game on each level of the mine where you have to whack a literal mole for items, including very useful coal, but this can also cause you to lose stamina if you’re too close when it pops out of the ground. Like past games you have to locate a ladder to go down to the next level and you need to watch your stamina and the time of day to make sure you don’t pass out. If you do run out of stamina you just fall asleep and wake up late the next day with less health.
Using your bucket you can scoop out mini pools that can appear everyday for a hidden surprise
If you didn’t think this was enough to take in and do, there is even more. The game has a collectathon experience through the museum where you can donate fish, treasures, and photographs of wild animals and bugs to unlock rewards and replicas to decorate your house. The museum also allows you to identify mystery object bags that you can find when whacking moles and from treasure chests that may contain treasure, items for romancing or crafting materials.
I have seen a heap of quality of life improvements in this game that I’m super happy about. It was always annoying to have to plan your tool upgrades in most farming sims for when you wouldn’t crucially need them as they would be taken away from you for a day or so. Worry no more, in SoS:PoOT your tools upgrade instantaneously. Additionally, in most farming sims you require a huge range of tools for developing your farm and foraging but also for taking care of your animals. While you still have all of the standard tools for farming, mining and foraging you no longer need any tools at all for looking after your animals. Rather you just have to interact with them to shear them, harvest milk and praise them. The tools you do have can be stored in the main inventory for use but can be quickly stowed away to save space within a tool bag, which is really helpful early on when you have limited inventory space.
The adorable animals are back and are easier to look after than ever
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is shaping up to be a great new addition to the genre, but there’s no more time to talk, I have to get back to farming. Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town releases exclusively on Nintendo Switch on March 26, stay tuned for my full review around then.
Preview code supplied by the publisher