Gearing up for release on November 4th 2022 (on the Switch and on Steam) it’s time to look at Harvestella. My first impression of Harvestella on the Nintendo Switch feels like it is a Rune Factory game with a Square Enix twist. Not that this is a bad thing.
Unfortunately the demo only gives you two chapters or 15 days of gameplay whichever comes first. So, finding out the depths of where Harvestella’s systems can go wasn’t really possible. That said it has the foundations of something solid and I for one cannot wait to see what the full release brings. Harvestella’s art and music are breathtaking and the story that I was able to preview has hooked me.
Carrots Grow In One Day?
The farming mechanics do not feel frustrating in a 3D environment as the game will lock your camera to the grid as you work. Unlike most farming simulations there doesn’t seem to be a set timer for crops to grow. Instead, as long as they are watered they will grow to their next stage as the day passes.
This leads to a far simpler farm design, but I think it will allow for more systems to come in later to cause chaos or help. It certainly helped me to be able to go out and adventure during the 9 days that I played before I beat the second chapter’s boss. If they don’t expand upon this later though I could see it being an issue as the farming part of the game is pretty simplistic at the moment.
Jobs, Skill Trees, Resistances!?
The Job system adds more to the combat system than just swapping weapons. In the demo, you eventually unlock two jobs and switching between them allows for different playstyles. Switching is easy and can be done on the fly, but each job has its own cooldown; as a result, you can’t keep switching back and forth without planning ahead.
Each job has a skill tree, and you unlock new active and passive skills as you level up. The fighter gives you melee slashing attacks that can be imbued with fire as well as a small dash that is triggered with the run button. The mage has an ice auto attack as well as more powerful ice and lightning spells. These skills, along with the break system that is introduced at the end of Chapter Two, could lead to combat evolving into something more nuanced than just spamming the same weapon attacks repeatedly.
The break system is when you hit the enemies’ resistance enough to cause a break in their defence. In turn, this causes them to take more damage, this can be done more than once and it stacks. As you can only see small parts of these systems in the demo, the full game could have a lot of depth left to explore. It’s more than I expected from a farming simulation action RPG. Square Enix’s influence and experience certainly does show here.
Time, Broken Bridges, Broken Ladders and FEAR!!
Harvestella makes your in game time feel valuable. Everything takes time: farming, crafting, walking to areas, going around town, and exploring. The exploration that I got to do in this demo was great. During the first, large dungeon, I ran into a broken ladder. By spending an hour of time I could repair it, allowing me to skip parts of the map later when I came back.
Once you get far enough into Chapter Two, you unlock the ability to teleport to specific spots within an area. But you can only teleport back and forth between these spots and your home, not between different map locations. This does save some time; additionally, I would love to be able to teleport directly from my home to a dungeon or my home to a town instead of walking but that option does not exist. There are also broken bridges, which take repair kits that you either have to find or craft to repair, and that takes time as well.
Then there are FEARs: gigantic versions of the monsters you fight in the dungeon that are much higher level than you. You have to find alternate ways to deal with them. In the dungeon that I explored I had to sneak by them while they were sleeping. All of this gives the world more life. Though I expect to have reasons to come back and take down those FEARS later in the game.
The Story Is Complex
After two chapters I barely have a grasp of what is going on. My character has amnesia (a classic trope for this genre), and there seem to be multiple story threads coiling in on each other. The characters have great personalities and meeting with the character who joined my party was a delight. Of the two in the demo, the one who wouldn’t fight with me was my favourite but I’d rather you experience him for yourself. All in all I have no idea what’s going on yet, but I’m invested in finding out more. From a story standpoint this is their ball to drop as they got a good hook.
I like to explore in these games, and at the start, it railroads you pretty hard. There are many invisible walls that appear and block your way when you get close to them. The story will eat into your hours of the game day, sometimes not letting you start until it’s already 1 pm or later. Additionally, it won’t let you pass out in the field at first. If you stay out past 10 pm the game will force you to go back so that the story can play out. I understand that they want their story to make sense but having no flexibility in this genre is a bit frustrating. It seemed as things progressed there was less of this, so hopefully, it was their version of a tutorial.
Another annoyance is there is not much character customization. I think this was done because of the job system, but more options would not hurt. I will say having the option to be a non-binary character was a nice touch. Any inclusivity is welcome.
The Foundation is There
Harvestella has everything it needs to be a stand-out for this genre. It is beautiful both visually and audibly. If they play to their strengths it’s going to be a hit. Though there are some issues: invisible walls break immersion, and I would prefer to be allowed to make mistakes earlier on. But all in all, those are minor gripes. I’d like to see more complexity added to the farming side and I hope there are plans for that. I’m impressed with the combat side and I am excited to see what other jobs exist. Once I was allowed to explore the world, it was a ton of fun. I really want to dig into the story threads that were given to me. I can honestly say I am excited for the full release in a month.
You find the Harvestella Nintendo Switch page here, and the Harvestella Steam page here.