Harvestella review: A blend of genres that are better left alone
Harvestella combines adorable life sims with gripping RPG elements but manages to create a complicated and busy experience that never seems to find its sweet spot.
As Square Enix’s first fully-fledged farming simulator, Harvestella boasts a cross between the ever-popular life sim and the thrilling tropes of an RPG. Its Rune Factory animated style and fantasy atmosphere complement a monster-filled dungeon and faerie-enhabited farm fantastically, but it just fails to truly capture that perfect mix of each genre.
Nevertheless, Harvestella is an enjoyable experience that introduces necessary elements and game-altering ideas we will likely see in popular farming sims to come. However, despite its positives and beautiful style, Harvestella just falls flat.
Harvestella: Key details
- Developer: Square Enix
- Price: $59.99 USD / £44.99 GBP / $89.95 AUD
- Release Date: November 4, 2022
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch and PC
Unique experiences for all
Harvestella explores the mysteries of the Seaslight through a plethora of quests, characters, and seasonal towns. It combines RPG elements with a life sim to create a wholly independent and unique experience for each player, allowing them to choose their own story and dictate how they want to play the game.
While the story itself is gripping and filled with both emotional elements and well-written characters, the primary success emanating from Harvestella is its ability to allow players to explore however they want. If you prefer farming, fishing, and cooking all year — then it’s entirely possible, or, if you want to save the world instead, then you can do that too.
Nevertheless, while it allows for freedom and unique experiences, sometimes we couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with the number of elements in the game, leading to multiple distractions and a feeling that maybe the two genres should stay apart rather than be blended together.
An unsatisfying blend of genres
While Harvestella is undoubtedly inspired by similar titles such as the Rune Factory series, it just fails to capture that life sim RPG blend this game needs. It succeeds at both elements but combining two fully fleshed-out genres essentially creates an experience that could have easily been split into two different games.
The combination leads to a busy experience filled with lengthy main quests, all split into multiple chapters and sections — along with the many side quests and alternate jobs like farming, fishing, cooking, crafting, and exploring. While it’s certainly not expected to complete all these jobs in one day, we often found ourselves feeling like we’ve ignored certain elements of the game in favor of completing the storyline first.
Ultimately, it feels like Harvestella has tried to incorporate as much as it possibly can, therefore creating an extremely long tutorial and far too many elements for one game. Harvestella would have been better off simply choosing to be either a great RPG or an adorable life sim.
Classic Farming Sim with an artistic twist
When separating the Life Simulator elements and the RPG tropes, inherently positive and negative elements come to light. Ultimately, the farming elements are extremely calming, and entertaining, and grant the player multiple ways to earn money and lay out their farm with crops and adorable animals.
Farming sims are not an unseen genre of game, in fact, thousands of similar titles are either already released or are set to release thanks to the ever-growing popularity of games like Animal Crossing, Disney Dreamlight Valley, and Stardew Valley. So, to truly feel unique, Harvestella needed to introduce a new twist to its style. For this game, it was done through the art style and the fantasy tropes.
The art style is one of the best elements and makes cooking an absolute delight, especially when the meals look as mouthwatering as they do on screen.
As for the fantasy tropes, they just draw out the great elements of Harvestella perfectly. The animals are weirdly adorable, the crops are just far enough away from our own (apart from Carrops), and the tools look like a mixture between future and past, perfectly representing the storyline of Harvestella.
Unfortunately, that’s where the positives stop. The actual farming, fishing, cooking, and crafting are fantastic but one element that is really lacking is its interaction with NPCs. Some you could forge a bond with, whereas others would just give you a generic line about the weather and go on with their day. It felt like the game was trying to let you make meaningful relationships, but only when you follow the relevant quest rather than simply going around Lethe and making friends.
Gripping dungeon fights
If we focus solely on the RPG elements, Square Enix has created a gripping storyline with interchangeable characters and fantastic dungeon segments, but the lack of voice acting and consistency leaves plenty to be desired.
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One of the best elements of Harvestella is its dungeons. They’re a great way to collect resources and introduce an exciting element through the monsters’ weaknesses and boss abilities, especially when more jobs and techniques appear. All the dungeon elements create this sense of fluidity and acknowledgment that you can go at whatever pace you desire. The save points allow for easy transportation and the ability to skip a previously seen boss cutscene, as well as being able to prepare before the fight, is a blessing in disguise.
In fact, the boss fights are one of the best elements of Harvestellas RPG aspect. They are all challenging without feeling too repetitive, while the introduction of different terrain and attacks makes the battles feel unique every time.
However, one of the primary issues surrounding Harvestella’s combination of life sim and RPG is its lack of true voice acting. Farming sims don’t tend to have audible characters when completing quests, but implementing that into the RPG elements took us out of the game on more than one occasion. Something as story-heavy as Harvestella should have audible voices coming from the characters rather than making players read everything that’s being said.
Blurry but clever visuals
One of the more significant aspects of Harvestella is its non-binary option when choosing to customize your character. While this is a needed inclusion, it really feels as if the lack of character customization ultimately hampers this important step forward.
Instead of having the ability to create an appearance that reflects the player, you’re forced to choose what is essentially a standard masculine or feminine appearance, which prevents players who don’t identify with those body types from selecting a non-binary option that truly reflects their experience. This could have been greatly improved with the inclusion of a third body option that is more endogenous, or with sliders to adjust bust and hip sizes.
Customization aside, the visuals of the game left plenty to be desired. The movement when exploring the towns was blurry and the landscape was untextured and extremely underwhelming. While the art style itself is worth speaking highly of, it feels like much more could have been done to make Harvestella as beautiful as the trailer and the Seaslight cutscenes.
However, one notable feature is the style and design implemented when traveling between towns and notable locations. The dreamy yet soft look is both a unique and fantastic way to implement travel without making you trek for a prolonged time.
Beautifully overpowering melody
When it comes to Life Simulators and RPGs, music is at the forefront of every notable experience. Especially when there’s not much actual conversation being had within the game.
Harvestellas soundtrack is beautiful — in fact, plenty of care and attention has gone into making each battle, adventure, and conversation one to remember. However, while it complements the game well, we cannot help but feel it occasionally overpowers the gameplay.
Nevertheless, the ambience combined with the stunning soundtrack transports you directly into Harvestella and whisks the time away fantastically.
The Verdict – 3/5
Harvestella is a rather blurry but calming and eventful RPG farming simulator that fails to capture the beauty in its two primary genres. Its gameplay is busy, often distracting, and ultimately leaves plenty to be desired. While this game is definitely enjoyable to play, it just doesn’t quite hit the mark, nor does it bring the exciting unique style it so adamantly promised.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch