Harvestella is a jack of two trades, but a master of neither. Part-action RPG, part-farming sim, it’s a game that tries to blend to very different styles of gameplay, and for the most part it does so successfully- or at least successfully enough that it’s always enjoyable on at least a fundamental level. At the same time, however, neither aspect of the experience feels like it’s fleshed out enough, which means that Harvestella is never anything beyond predictably satisfying in any of its core mechanics, and often with plenty of rough edges.
Harvestella is set in a fantasy world where four giant, intricate crystals dictate the passage of seasons, each found in a different part of the world. Lately, however, these crystals, known as Seaslights, have been acting up, which has resulted in a frequent occurrence called the Quietus- a one-day event where the air is filled with a deadly dust that anyone who comes into contact with will die, forcing people indoors. Amidst all this, you step into the shoes of an amnesiac protagonist (because of course the protagonist has to be amnesiac), found unconscious in a tranquil village right in the middle of the Quietus, completely untouched by its deadly effects.
"Part-action RPG, part-farming sim, it’s a game that tries to blend to very different styles of gameplay, and for the most part it does so successfully- or at least successfully enough that it’s always enjoyable on at least a fundamental level. At the same time, however, neither aspect of the experience feels like it’s fleshed out enough, which means that Harvestella is never anything beyond predictably satisfying in any of its core mechanics, and often with plenty of rough edges."
Harvestella’s story has some interesting ideas and ropes in some intriguing elements (like time travel, for instance), while its fantasy world also feels surprisingly rich and fleshed out. Of course, I don’t want to overstate things- the story is fine for what it is, if not extraordinary by any stretch of the imagination. It does a decent job of keeping you invested- and if nothing else, it’s far more comprehensive than what you’d ordinarily find in games where one of your primary focuses is farming. For the most part, the story doesn’t feel like it interrupts the relaxed farming gameplay loop too much either- though conversely, that relaxed structure does impact the story’s pacing at times.
On the gameplay front, Harvestella invokes a similar response- it’s perfectly serviceable, and for the most part, even enjoyable, even if it’s not exactly remarkable. Half of this game is modeled after games like Harvest Moon and Rune Factory– it’s a farming sim (as I’ve mentioned a couple of times), where you’re focused on maintaining and expanding a farm, tilling and watering the soil, planting seeds and harvesting crops, and once you’ve unlocked the ability to do so, tend to livestock. The in-game time moves forward constantly, and you have a limited amount of time each day before you have to return home and go back to sleep, which means you have to decide which tasks to prioritize and which long-term goals you want to work towards.
Meanwhile, Harvestella also allows you to explore the town where you’ve made your home and get to know its denizens. That is done through side quests, which tend to focus on various NPCs and party members, and while I wouldn’t exactly describe any of them as standouts or highlights of the game, there are enough good ones to make sure that side quests don’t feel like a hindrance (even though side quest design and structure at its core mostly tends to be pretty rote). Improving your relationships and bonds with characters is also something that Harvestella lets you do, as farming sims often do, and while the game’s cast doesn’t have any characters that will live long in memory, the activity at its core is engaging enough.
"Combat is a very simplistic hack-and-slash affair- so simplistic that it doesn’t even allow the ability to dodge."
All the expected gameplay mechanics are here – from keeping an eye on your stamina throughout the day and being able to upgrade and improve your house to gathering resources and crafting useful new equipment and more – though Harvestella tends to keep things simplistic for the most part. It never feels too restrictive, and the tools it afford to expand your farm and improve the efficiency of your farming feel valuable, but if you’re expecting something that rivals the depth of, say, Harvest Moon’s farming sim mechanics, you’ll be left wanting.
The other half of Harvestella is an action RPG- though perhaps calling it referring to it as an action RPG lite would be far more accurate. Nothing exemplifies that better than the game’s combat, which is disappointingly straightforward and limited. Combat is a very simplistic hack-and-slash affair- so simplistic that it doesn’t even allow the ability to dodge. You have a few abilities that you have on cooldown, and there are multiple classes to play as, though the progression, too, feels half-baked. Classes end up feeling bland and, often, not too unique, while combat ends up feeling like a chore. Exploring dungeons and other locations over the course of several in-game days, as such, also feels like a significantly weaker part of Harvestella’s gameplay structure, owing to how much more focused it is on combat.
Meanwhile, when it comes to visuals, I’m honestly conflicted about how I feel about Harvestella, because while there are aspects of how the game looks that I truly appreciate, others are shockingly subpar. Where its art design is concerned, there’s a lot to like about Harvestella. Its setting isn’t going to pull up any trees in the fantasy genre, but you can see that this is clearly a game where the art department had an absolute field day. From a technical perspective though, it’s absurdly lackluster. Things looks muddy, environments and models are lacking in detail, the animations are stiff and wonky, and everything just looks choppy and blurry. Though there are sights in Harvestella that might be gorgeous when viewed in their concept art form, in a much more real sense, the game itself doesn’t look great.
"Though there are sights in Harvestella that might be gorgeous when viewed in their concept art form, in a much more real sense, the game itself doesn’t look great."
The easiest way to describe Harvestella is as a classic example of an unpolished yet enjoyable AA Square Enix game, of which we’ve seen quite a few in recent months, from The DioField Chronicle to Valkyrie Elysium. It’s rough around the edges, it doesn’t shake up any formulas, and it doesn’t ever come close to setting any new standards in its genre, but it’s not an unenjoyable game. In trying to be both a farming sim and an action RPG, it ends up failing to make an impression as either- though it’s a much better farming sim than it is an action RPG, and taken as a whole, it’s a decent experience that’s worth clocking a couple dozen hours into… if you have nothing better to play.
This game was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.
Fun, engaging farming mechanics; Other life sim activities are mostly enjoyable; Serviceable story and setting; Strong art design.
Combat is dull and disappointingly simplistic; Gameplay feels too straightforward at times; From a technical perspective, the visuals are horrifying.
Share Your Thoughts Below (Always follow our comments policy!)