|Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin
|November 10th, 2020
|Action / Farming Simulation
|PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin has been in development for quite awhile. XSEED Games announced they would be publishing this title way back in 2017, but it has finally released. I didn’t really know what to expect going into this title but I loved the art style, and the gameplay seemed very unique. I got a bit more out of this one than I was expecting, but let’s see if that was a good or bad thing.
The story begins as a group of humans have managed to wander into the celestial home of a very spoiled Harvest Goddess named Sakuna. After some unfortunate events, Sakuna is responsible for causing a fire and destroying some sacred offerings. She is then banished to an island filled with monsters and is told to discover herself there. She is aided by the group of human trespassers and her guardian Tama. Will Sakuna ever redeem herself and make it back home?
I found the story here to be a pretty simple tale of redemption, but the characters added a lot of depth. Watching Sakuna grow from a spoiled brat to a warrior is very satisfying, and discovering the quirks of your companions is fantastic as well. The dinner conversations drive a lot of this storytelling, and give you a good bit of details about the lore of this land as well. I honestly didn’t expect to love this cast as much as I did going into this one, but I will remember them for a long time to come.
Graphically, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is beautiful. It looks like a living water colored painting. The lighting and shadows give all of the amazing environments a ton of depth. These range from mountain peaks, forests and even some caves. Each area looks outstanding, and the changing of the seasons make some of them look even better depending on the time of year you are on. The character models are very simple, but somehow are filled with emotion. This really is one time when less is more. The enemies look great as well and the boss monsters in particular are amazing! They are huge and very detailed! I played this game mostly at 1440p, but I did test it at 4K on my rig and got a steady 60 FPS.
The game is also pretty solid in the audio department. Both the English and Japanese voice casts really bring these characters to life. I really can’t say which is better personally, so just pick the one you enjoy more. The music is very fitting for this title. Lots of Eastern inspired tunes really enhance the overall atmosphere, and I caught myself humming along as I dispatched every baddie in sight.
There is a lot to the gameplay of Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. Players will have to grow rice in order to learn skills, improve their stats and even trade for items later in the game. If you think growing rice will be a simple task, you better think again. After playing this game, I’m pretty sure I could plant and harvest a rice field old school. Players must first till the soil to soften it up, then you plant the rice, make sure it has a proper water level, make fertilizer, shuck the rice and then hull it to the point that it is brown or white. Brown rice gives you more food while white rice gives better stat bonuses. This process is very tedious to start with, but it becomes much easier as you craft new tools and Sakuna learns new farming skills. I thought this was kind of neat, because you could actually feel the effects of her learning as the seasons passed.
The game does a fair job of explaining how all of this works through the many scrolls you find throughout the world, but this can get very complicated. I knew this was gonna be very involved when it started giving the temperature of the water and amount of things you could do with the fertilizer. I put the farming on easy mode after the first couple of runs. I wanted to focus more on the action side of the gameplay since I was having more fun with that.
Aside from all the farming, Sakuna must rid the island of all of the demons as well. To do this, you will travel to different areas of the island and complete objectives in each. Completing these will earn you exploration points that will unlock new areas. These can range from simple tasks such as defeat X number of demons to more complicated things like get to the exit in X amount of time. This system works out fairly well most of the time, but sometimes doing things that require platforming is a real pain. You can also get stuck doing your main quest for a bit while you gather up exploration points to unlock the area. This can be a bit of grind, but generally you will need materials which makes it more tolerable.
Materials gathered during each stage can be used for a variety of things. Food items can be used to cook dinner with. Depending on which meals you make, you can get great abilities and stat buffs. Getting the ones that recover health when not in combat is vital to your survival in most stages. These buffs and abilities will last for a limited time, then you will have to eat again to regain them. Other materials can be used to craft weapons and armor. Food items that spoil and many other items can be used to make fertilizer as well.
Combat seems like your basic side-scrolling hack ‘n’ slash to start with, but you discover there is plenty of depth here. Sakuna has a light and heavy weapon at her disposal. You can use these in tandem to create combo attacks. Each one will have spirit boughs attached to them. These will give them a variety of effects that range from damage bonuses to stat boosts. They can be attached to armor as well and will power up once you meet the set requirements.
Sakuna has a variety of fighting and Raiment skills at her disposal to slay all the demons in her path. Many of these skills will bounce the enemies around the screen causing them extra damage as they crash into other enemies or the ground. This makes combat very hectic at times, but I really had a blast with it. Raiment skills can also debuff enemies, which is very helpful in boss battles. My only real issue in combat is you cannot hit enemies when they are on the ground. You have to wait for them to stand before you can continue your assault, and this can throw the timing of your attacks off a bit.
The Raiment is not only good for attacking. It can be attached to areas in the environment to help you reach places you can’t by jumping alone. This is used a lot in platforming games, and overall things work well here. But I had some issues when it came to making it attach to an area diagonally. Sometimes it would either fly straight out, or straight up. This wasn’t annoying most of the time, but there are times where it can be a pain. This usually occurs when environmental hazards are draining your health every second, and you die because you couldn’t traverse the area fast enough.
Overall, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a very unique experience. The game mixes an action game with a pretty robust farming simulator and the results are pretty solid. The farming is very tedious at first, but it is great watching Sakuna grow and improve with each harvest. The combat is fast and fun, even if there are some issues with platforming aspects. The storytelling is great with a cast of likable characters that you will grow to love in your over 20 hours of gameplay. I think this one needed just a bit more polish, but I still think it is worth a go for anyone looking for something a bit different. Its charms really do outweigh its faults by a lot, and is well worth the $39.99 asking price.
Game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.