I’m sure there are a few people out there who might have wondered what a farming-sim from Square Enix would look like, but I imagine not many. I, for one certainly haven’t, given their repertoire for being a juggernaut in terms of turn-based and action RPGs like Final Fantasy and Bravely Default. After seeing Harvestella during June’s Nintendo Direct Mini, however, my interest was piqued. Given the plethora of farming games on the Switch, I had my reservations about the game despite how spellbound I was from the trailer. So of course, I had to try out the recently released demo. Here's our Harvestella Preview:
Business as usual, you wake up on a hill with no memory of who you are and are awoken by Cres, a doctor from Lethe Village. They’re currently undergoing the season of Quietus, a period where a deathly dust pervades, making people stay indoors. Through your protagonist powers, you survive the night and get a nice and comfy home with a nice bit of (surprise) farming land. Shortly after though, a meteorite appears in the sky and lands close to Lethe. Upon exploring the crystal, you discover an armor-clad person inside, whom the villagers call an Omen.
Several more cutscenes involving a meteorite later, you finally get to do some farming. The farming system is nothing out of the ordinary here. Much like the Harvest Moon or Story of Seasons games, you have to till the land, plant your seeds, water them, and harvest them. You sell whatever crops you get in the shipping bin and earn money. Your coin goes towards seeds, tool upgrades, house renovations, and weapons.
Yes, weapons. Like Rune Factory there is some combat to this game, albeit most of it is very mashy. There are various skills that you can unlock and a skill tree, so there is some depth to it. You can usually find monsters in designated combat areas and if you’re lucky they’ll drop a crop seed or two. You’ll also need to source your materials for crafting from these areas, so you can’t entirely forgo combat if you’re just looking for a relaxing time.
It goes without saying that Harvestella looks absolutely stunning, and without a doubt, is one of the best looking farming games on Switch. Its environments are mystical and grandiose (it's probably the fact that there's a crystal at every corner) while its interiors are cozy and ambient. The game has multiple locations to check out, with each location themed around a particular season. While it’s a welcome departure from most farming games being centered around one town, there is one major gripe that I have with Harvestella.
Time passes by in a flash, and I don’t just mean that figuratively. Days in Harvestella seem awfully short and by the time you’re done getting your seeds from the general store and planting them, you’ll find that the sun’s already setting. You might even find yourself sitting and fishing for a couple of in-game hours with not so much as a single bite. Not to mention, if there’s a cutscene playing right after you wake up (and trust me, there will be plenty of those) a chunk of your day gets eaten up by that.
On the other hand, Harvestella’s story seems to have quite a bit of substance. The supporting cast has their own backstories for you to figure out, and not just in a way that involves you leveling up their friendship with them. That being said, there’s no confirmation as to whether there’s any romance in the game, and if you can get married. Considering that romantic relationships are a staple of the farming-sim genre, it would be a surprise if they weren’t there in the final game.
From what I’ve seen and played so far, Harvestella has a lot of promise. It’s certainly got some aspects to improve upon, but Square Enix has a knack for taking player feedback seriously, so hopefully, we’ll see some changes in the final game. Harvestella releases on November 4th for the Nintendo Switch and PC.
TechRaptor previewed Harvestella through the demo on Nintendo Switch.