Review Harvestella – So much for so little

Harvestella wanted to be good at two jobs, but ended up not mastering either. Part action RPG, part farm/life simulation, the combination can be fun at times, but the two styles clash more often than not. As a result, sluggishness is more likely to repel fans of each genre than to bring them together.

As an amnesiac warrior, you wake up on the outskirts of an ancient village, unaware of your origin and purpose. Four strong, monolithic crystals known as Seaslight govern the environmental stability of the picturesque continent, namely its seasons. However, a deadly fifth season called Quietus occurs between the four normal seasons, wiping out crops and endangering humans. This strange normal becomes unstable when Seaslight begins to behave abnormally, seemingly triggered by the mysterious appearance of Aria, a young scientist from the distant future. Like you, Aria has no idea how she got here, so you team up to uncover your respective origins while fighting a global crisis. Oh, and build a nice farm too.

To its credit, the plot is compelling in its absurdity. In typical JRPG fashion, the mystery gradually becomes more epic, and nothing changes as it unfolds. While most of it is silly, I find a few boring. A revelation that made me laugh at how weird it was, and I couldn’t help but respect Harvestella’s willingness to take some wild turns while seeding a few poignant moments. A large group of lovable team members, such as fluent-talking inventors, AI-powered robots, and talking unicorns, join the main duo, but you mostly spend your time alone surname. As a result, you don’t often see people hanging out together, and when they do, the lack of harmony within the group is noticeable and disappointing. It’s like asking a group of good friends out who know you but don’t know each other.

Harvestella promotes two play styles but the first is more like an action RPG and the second is a farm game. The game involves running through bland dungeons and killing enemies, gathering ingredients and crafting materials along the way. A robust job system that offers a good variety of playstyles, but I’ve only been intrigued by a few of them. My favorites include the agile, combo-focused Shadow Walker and the floating blades of the Pilgrim class. Other jobs, such as the Mechanic and the singing-focused Woglinde, are simply not fun to use, and the game rarely encourages me to experiment once I’ve picked my favorite job. Even with the classes and attacks that I love, the combat is average and the bosses are either angry easygoing or cheap.

Agriculture fans won’t find much unique about Harvestella. You grow crops on plowed land that can expand many times in size, process food with machines, but you only raise two animals. The farm changes with the seasons, changing every 30 days, and certain foods can only grow during specific times of the year. Quietus, which only lasts for a day, destroys crops, but I found it very easy to plan around, making it less threatening than expected.

Like fighting, farming feels okay, but is vital to success. Selling crops is one of the few ways to make money. You also need a full pantry to prepare a variety of dishes. Eating keeps your belly full, which in turn fuels your stamina bar. This clock governs actions like farming, sprinting, and even performing special attacks. Eating also promotes health, often in more or less depending on the dish. However, you cannot eat if you are full, which becomes an annoying obstacle in tough battles. Since traditional healing potions do not exist, you will craft all your recovery items. Doing so takes time, which is Harvestella’s biggest annoyance: the clock.

Harvestella works on a day/night cycle in the game, incrementing in 10-minute increments faster than you might expect. Night starts at 6pm and your character falls asleep at 10pm, slowing down their stamina recovery. Therefore, coming home to lie in your bed – and only your bed, annoyingly, you can’t sleep at some inns in the game – is crucial. Staying out past midnight causes your hero to collapse from exhaustion, forcing them to return home. Falling into exhaustion or death comes at the expense of paying increasingly exorbitant doctor fees while clicking through the same unmissable cutscenes. It was a heinous punishment that was too severe for its own sake.

Since you have to drop everything to go home every night, progress becomes massively slow. Crawling in the dungeon consists of inching forward before you have to stop and continue the next day. Just going to a place on the world map will burn precious minutes until faster moving vehicles open up. Even after finding shortcuts and fast-moving checkpoints, you’re still running back and forth between parts of the dungeon until you reach uncharted territory. Doing so will definitely deplete your food supply, so you have to take the time to cook first. Making dishes takes up a significant portion of the day, limiting adventure time. Running out of cooking materials means developing more of them, as only a handful of key ingredients can be purchased. That means spending at least a few days waiting for the crops to replenish, then producing enough food to venture back into the dungeon and repeat the cycle again.

This framework really makes the story impossible to progress for a long time. There is often so much to do first that I am often fortunate to have enough daylight to pursue the tasks I desire. This frustrates me the most as the plot turns into an interesting twist and I want to see what happens next. It’s a terrible form of control, as progress is always blocked no matter how powerful or well-equipped I am. In some cases, it can take days of work and preparation to complete a dungeon floor.

When I don’t have enough time in the day to complete a story quest, Harvestella provides a lot of things to do outside of the main story and farming. Plenty of chapter-rich side quests await, though most of them involve reading lengthy dialogues, completing a basic encounter, or running tedious errands. While there are a few interesting stories, these quests aren’t great, but the game makes completing them worthwhile, for better or worse. Side quests offer lots of cash, important recipes, blueprints, and seeds. To my chagrin, getting as much done as possible has become a necessary evil. I prefer team bonding missions, where I learn about my teammates’ troubles by helping them through unique storylines. These quests are at least more fun and reward me with enhanced physical perks, such as strength, higher defense, etc, practically making them a must-play.

Although it runs fine, Harvestella also has graphics problems that make it sometimes unstable. Specifically, a strange bug where half of the screen occasionally flickers one color, whether docked or in handheld mode. The game also doesn’t look good on large screens due to low-resolution textures and models.

Harvestella’s systems come together in a way that forces you to interact with almost everything it has to offer, whether you want to or not. But those everyday activities are trivial and prevent you from enjoying the RPG elements in your own way. Maximizing your day’s schedule is sometimes rewarding, but the slow pace makes it hard to stay active for long. Harvestella forces you to do a lot to accomplish relatively little. At 70-80 hours, it’s one of the biggest jobs I’ve had in a while. That’s a shame because the combat, story, and characters are good enough that in a more traditional RPG framework they would shine more. As it stands, juicing this fruit is not always worth a small amount of juice.


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