Story of Seasons
Many people play video games to visit fantastic worlds, wield exotic weapons, and watch epic stories unfold. Story of Seasons provides an escape on the other end of the spectrum, transporting players to a rural farming community with an emphasis on nature, daily chores, and quiet living. Don’t let the premise put you off; just because you aren’t saving the world doesn’t mean you can’t live a fun and satisfying life.
In Japan, this game is part of the Bokujo Monogatari series, which has been known as Harvest Moon in North America up to this point. The name of this entry was changed here due to complications with the rights, but players still get all of the familiar farming and courtship under the Story of Seasons banner.
Starting as a new farmer with practically nothing, you slowly build your homestead by growing crops, taking care of animals, and trading with merchants. Your meager plot of land eventually becomes a bustling and successful business, but don’t expect it to happen overnight. You need to spend years of in-game time performing your daily chores like milking the cows, watering your crops, and maintaining the land. The biggest addition is the focus on trading with neighboring lands, which adds an interesting strategy to how to grow and sell your crops. Without the daily income from a shipping box, you have to be more careful early on, but a little forethought keeps you from going broke while you wait for harvest time.
I loved the first several hours as I explored the area, met the interesting townsfolk, and settled into a comfortable rut. Part of me always enjoys the routine in farming simulations, but the charm wears thin the longer you play. Story of Seasons seems built to accommodate hundreds of hours of play, which means that your payoffs and rewards are slow in coming; it feels more like an MMORPG in terms of pacing.
I understand that a leisurely life on the farm requires patience, but the glacially slow drip of new content makes it hard to stay invested – and when you do get something new, the changes aren’t as impressive as you might hope. Even the basic features take a while to open up; I unlocked the ability to play multiplayer after about seven hours. While getting visitors to your farm (and visiting others’) has perks, it was more of a fun novelty than something that I integrated into my approach to gameplay. Bigger houses and more efficient tools are nice, but the leaps are too small to be really satisfying. Even the key moments that you work so long to attain – like getting married and starting a family – don’t alter much about your day-to-day activities.
The process of wooing potential partners is a bit complicated (as usual), but the characters you’re dealing with are likeable and entertaining. On the other hand, nothing about the story or the cast is remarkable. The real draw is the progression of building something from nothing. Crafting items, customizing your farm, and improving your home may take time, but they convey a sense of ownership. Your gradual transformation from city slicker to agricultural expert may be hard to see from one upgrade to the next, but looking back on your accrued efforts after dozens of hours imparts a feeling of accomplishment that is hard to find elsewhere.
If you’ve played previous installments, you’ll feel right at home in Story of Seasons. For fans of games like Harvest Moon, spending some time on the farm is an entertaining getaway from the world of high-octane blockbusters. Unfortunately, the pastoral scenes feel too similar and mechanical day after day. Once the thrill of starting a new life wears off, all you have left is your chores.
Once the thrill of starting a new life wears off, all you have left is your chores.