When Harvestella was announced, I was somewhat skeptical. It was revealed along with a few other Square Enix titles that would be released within close proximity of each other, as if they were just wanting to get everything pushed before the holiday. It was hard not to wonder just what we’d be in for with so much out at once from one company. The other point of skepticism stemmed from the first trailer. Is Harvestella a Harvest Moon or a farming simulation clone? Or it is more in the same vein as something like Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles? At first glance, it seemed like a mixture of both, however, the more I got into Harvestella, it was clear that it’s really its own unique experience.
When we get down to it, Harvestella opens with some typical RPG fare. That is, you’ve got a character creation tool where you can design your avatar and choose their name, and you play the role of the silent protagonist who conveniently is suffering from amnesia. Sounds familiar, right? Right. Despite this tried and true formula, Harvestella does attempt to mix it up a bit. While the story, including your amnesia-ridden protagonist, eases out the gate at a slow pace, things do eventually pick up as they lean heavily on RPG tropes mixed with some unique themes that round out an overall compelling experience. Add in the copious side quests and you’ve got the perfect mix of character stories to go along with the main narrative.
The character creation tool in particular is of note, and it’s not because it has a ton of options you can choose from. It’s noteworthy because of the gender choices you can select when you make your character. There’s the usual Male and Female but also Non-binary, which is something you really don’t see in Japanese games so its inclusion here is worth pointing out. While it doesn’t affect gameplay, it’s still a nice gesture from the developers to expand that sort of accessibility.
Once you’ve got your character customized it’s all about diving into the meat of Harvestella proper. The gameplay loop is actually quite extensive – there’s a farming element, general adventuring, and typical RPG enemies you can fight on the field. You can take your character through each day choosing to do each of these things before you grow tired and must return to bed. Sleep is important here just as it is in real life. Harvestella may be an RPG but it’s also a time management simulation that doesn’t feel too punishing due to its leisurely pace.
Harvestella takes place in a world with four crystals that affect the seasons and it’s their abnormal behavior that’s ushered in what’s known as the Season of Death: Quietus. As deadly dust emerges from these crystals, people are pushed indoors and crops fail. The seasons are another unique aspect of Harvestella as you’ll be journeying to various towns and locations that embody the themes of those seasons. For example, one of the towns known as Nemea is draped in beautiful flowers that bloom all year due to the crystal nearby. It’s not all picturesque, however, as a certain conflict within the area will have you fighting in no time.
While Harvestella’s farming and crafting elements are simple, there is still a lot you can do with them even if farming itself isn’t the main focus despite appearances. You’ll have your own farm, plant seeds and water them and eventually take those crops to sell them off or use them in cooking and crafting. The crops also rely on the seasons system as there is a handful you can only grow and harvest during a specific time of year. Others can be grown all year round. It’s these elements along with things like pets and caring for livestock that make the farming part of Harvestella so appealing. It’s fun to just vibe and relax while making the most of your daily life.
If farming isn’t your favorite activity, you can take to the fields and fight some monsters in traditional RPG style. The world of Harvestella is not just sunshine and rainbows as the daily life activities might lead you to believe. There are areas of danger and conflict and you’ll need to take up different weapons and abilities to succeed. Similar to Square Enix’s own Final Fantasy, Harvestella allows you to equip various job classes and take advantage of specific skills and weapons based on those jobs whilst swapping through them in battle. If you’re inclined to melee you can play as Fighter, or if you want to cast magic, you can play as Mage. There are other unique roles as well including Shadow Walker and Assault Savant. There’s a good variety here that keeps combat from becoming too stale even if the battle system is simple and somewhat dated - especially when you have to strategize to take care of enemy elemental weaknesses and perform special attacks. This is furthered by the recruitment system and the ability to learn from your fellow party members.
The combat system itself is a pseudo-action affair with MMORPG-type actions where you’ll use the face buttons for your abilities, but unlike other RPGs with action battle systems, Harvestella won’t let you dodge normal attacks. Instead, there’s a bit of strategy that comes into play with things like area of effect markers you’ll need to pay attention to. If you’re an avid Final Fantasy XIV player like myself, it might seem very familiar. It’s that familiarity that had me enjoying Harvestella’s battles even if they weren’t the most complex or fast-paced. It’s that familiarity that made it quick to ease into, even when things get hectic in the multilayered dungeons.
On the visual side of things, Harvestella might not be pushing any graphical boundaries but the fantasy art style shines throughout. His bright pastel colors highlight the anime art style and the different locations scattered around the world. The music is also a surprise with catchy tunes that make the world seem more lived in. Harvestella runs especially well on PC, and I was able to plug in my DualSense controller seamlessly even if the buttons didn’t swap to their appropriate designations.
Harvestella Review | Final Thoughts
There’s a lot to say about Harvestella but my biggest takeaway is that it’s an underrated gem that’s sort of been pushed out at the end of the year with little fanfare. Its solid RPG foundations are packed into a simple, yet charming game that doesn’t let its simplicity hold it back. The story and especially the character writing make up for the vanilla silent protagonist, and the art direction and music are especially a delight. Hopefully, once the holiday dust settles, more people will be willing to give this one a look.
Techraptor reviewed Harvestella on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Nintendo Switch.
- Gorgeous, colorful world to explore
- Compelling narrative and character stories
- No shortage of daily life activities
- Runs great on PC
- Overall difficulty and sense of urgency could be higher