|STORY OF SEASONS: Pioneers of Olive Town
|March 23rd, 2021
The Bokujō Monogatari series is something I’ve enjoyed casually playing for years now. I never spend too much time on each entry, usually I’ll get burnt out by year two or three. Despite that, since truly getting into the series with my very first copy, Sunshine Islands, I’ve since bought almost every entry that came out afterwards. The series could be challenging when you got into the real depths of a game and unlocked the various features of each one, but they also all had this charm about them that I loved and, thus, I kept picking up new titles as they came out.
STORY OF SEASONS: Pioneers of Olive Town, the latest entry in the Bokujō Monogatari series, starts off by telling you about how the main character you’ll take control of had a grandfather who set out and created Olive Town with his friends. Once they set up their new town, your grandfather became the local farmer. He used to tell you stories when you were a kid about his life and, because of this, you’ve always wanted to live in Olive Town. Which brings us to the current day, when you hop on your motorcycle and head to Olive Town to start your new life as a farmer.
It honestly seems like the developers of Bokujō Monogatari took inspiration from Stardew Valley this time around. Yes, anyone who’s a huge fan of the farming sim franchise should know that the creator of Stardew Valley was the one who was inspired by the Bokujō series. But, it seems like after it gained so much popularity, perhaps Marvelous took note of what fans liked about it and incorporated some of that into their newest game. I say this, because Pioneers of Olive Town had a lot of things that reminded me of Stardew Valley, for better or worse. Some of it I appreciated and some of it not so much.
In PoOT, various aspects of your farm life will gradually raise certain skills, which you can get all the way up to level 10. Some of these skills include: communicating with the townspeople; chopping down trees; draining puddles; fishing; and etc. Once you’ve leveled up these skills, you unlock certain things each time. Sometimes it simply improves that skill. For example, chopping down trees will slightly power up your ability to do so at certain levels. And some levels you reach will lower the stamina it requires to do so. You’ll also unlock craftable items. See, that’s one of the more significant features that seems inspired by Stardew. Your menu has a tab that’s full of things you can craft right there in your menu, provided you have the materials. You’ll be able to craft anything from fences and pathways to place on your farm, all the way up to stuff like sprinklers and makers.
Speaking of makers, that’s one of the things that I think was made worse in Pioneers of Olive Town. Rather than being like some of the DS and 3DS Bokujō games where one maker will allow you to make a whole bunch of a single product, this time around, each regular maker only creates one. If they created the product quickly this wouldn’t be a huge issue. Unfortunately, each product takes a few game hours minimum, and the better the material (gold, solid wood, diamonds, etc.), the longer it takes the maker to create a single unit of that product. My farm ended up half filled with far too many makers. At one point, I did unlock a larger brick maker, yet still, I was only able to make three bricks at a time with one of those. I much prefer the system where you have only a few different makers and each one can make as much, or as little, product as you want.
A new change I did like were the fishing mechanics. Upon watching the trailers, you might think fishing is something they made worse, making it too much like Stardew Valley’s more frustrating fishing mechanics. Well, I’m happy to tell you it is a much easier system and nothing like that, aside from the added meter. With Olive Town’s fishing, you have a meter showing the durability left on your line and how close the fish is. The little fish icon will either be white, meaning you can reel it in slowly; blue, meaning you can reel it in quite a bit faster; or red, meaning the fish is angry and you’ll only be wasting your line’s durability trying to pull it in. Just trust me, it’s not half as difficult as Stardew’s fishing system, yet it is probably a smidge more challenging than past Bokujō games.
I’d love to tell you absolutely everything there is to know about PoOT, but we could be here all day covering everything new, and I don’t want to spoil the game. So, let me just mention a few last important things. First of all, I didn’t find the game as charming as past entries and to be honest, it has a lot of issues. By the time my review is out and you’re reading this, XSEED should have put out patches fixing a lot of the freezing issues I had. Regardless, moving around your farm when it’s loaded with stuff can feel pretty choppy and it just wasn’t the smoothest experience. There’s not even any kind of strafing feature to easily move through taking care of your crops. Plus, the fact that going anywhere – from your house to outside, from your farm to town, into a building in town – will pull up a loading screen for a decent amount of time, adding to the rough experience.
Personally, I found the game to be an okay experience. It wasn’t by any means bad, I enjoyed my time playing Pioneers of Olive Town. Which reminds me, I should mention that the game has a ton of content. It took me about 50 hours just to get through year 1 and see the credits resulting from completing the main goal of the game, attracting tourists to Olive Town. I also want to state that, for as much inconvenience was added this time around, there is also a lot of convenience added in, particularly when it comes to taking care of your farm animals. And that reminds me, XSEED has stated that they have various fixes planned for the game (aside from fixing freezing problems), including making the loading screens less annoying and somehow improving the maker system. We don’t know at this time more specifically what they’re going to do, or how much better the game will be when they’re done. In the end, it was still merely an okay experience, like I said. I had fun and I enjoyed myself, but it’s far from my favorite Bokujō Monogatari game and not the best Marvelous could’ve put out for the 25th anniversary. However, if you’re a huge farming sim fan, or you simply appreciate the care XSEED always puts into their physical releases like I do, then you might want to consider picking this one up.
Review copy was provided by the publisher. A copy of your own will cost either $49.99 for the Standard Edition, or $59.99 for the Premium Edition.