Square Enix has released a plethora of games, both big and small, at the latter end of 2022 for audiences to enjoy. One of those titles was Harvestella, an action RPG with farming elements. With farming games being the current trend among indie and mid-sized companies, Square Enix had a lot of competition when it came to attracting people with their new title. Does Harvestella do enough to set itself apart from the competition and find its own audience?
Harvestella opens up with your character awakening in the middle of a village. Everything is quiet around you, save for a strange girl that delivers a cryptic message: save the world and a young girl. Before you can ask for more information, you faint. The next time you awaken, you are woken by the village doctor, Cres. She is shocked to have found that you were out wandering during a dangerous time known as Quietus, but is also confused by the fact that you appear alright.
With no idea who you are or where you came from, the mayor offers you a stretch of land and a house for you to stay at while you recover. With that, you are officially a farmer (and soon to be an adventurer). Before you get too comfortable, the large crystal known as the Seaslight near the town starts glowing and something crashes on the outskirts. From there, things start getting weirder and weirder all across the land. Disappearances, destroyed property, and aggressive monsters are plaguing everyone and it’s up to you to find the source of all the chaos.
The writing for Harvestella is interesting, given that a lot of the story is drip-fed to you as you progress. While that’s fine early on in order to capture interest, it does start to feel like you’re a horse being constantly guided by a carrot that never seems to get closer up until the very end. But with that said, the game does go in a direction that wasn’t expected and, while a bit convoluted, results in a fascinating story.
There are a large amount of side quests to partake in, with two distinct types: regular and bond quests. Regular side quests involve NPCs that you encounter in the different towns and cities you stumble upon. When it comes to the content of these side quests, many will star the same group of characters, helping to further develop them. From missing children, amnesiac lovers, and suspicious businessmen, Harvestella succeeds at having interesting storylines for many of its side quests. The only downside would be that there will be a lot of back and forth going on between locations in order to complete a side quest.
Bond quests are much of the same, although these specific quests are focused on characters that you can have in your party during combat. Many of their storylines involve learning more about their fears, motivations, and dreams. Since Harvestella is the type of game where the main story shifts from one location to the next, bond quests are a good way to keep the story going for characters tied to a specific location in the story. Completing these quests also results in increases to your party’s overall stats, such as increasing critical damage percentage.
Harvestella is an action RPG with farming elements, with an emphasis on elements. The marketing of the game made it seem as though farming would be front and center, with adventuring as a supporting feature. However, the truth is actually the opposite. Your farm is a good way to generate revenue in order to upgrade your equipment and purchase/harvest items to cook, but most of your time will be spent exploring dungeons and fighting against monsters.
Harvestella is an action RPG where you will battle against monsters as you make your way through dungeons. When it comes to the combat, the actual system is just as simple as the rest of the game. You have one main attack that you can combo with, along with skills that you can unlock using job points. You gain job points by defeating monsters. Skills operate on a cooldown and can’t be spammed. As such, the combat for Harvestella is very simple, to the point where you’re pretty much just spamming your main attack, using your skills when they’re available, and dodging enemy attacks.
There are multiple jobs that you can experiment with that have their own attacks. Each of the jobs has an attribute that can be taken into account when fighting different enemies. You are able to switch between three jobs while you’re exploring, although after switching jobs there is a cooldown before you can switch again. Any jobs that you have “equipped” will gain job points as well, making it easy to unlock skills for newer jobs. There isn’t a leveling system when it comes to jobs, so switching from a job that you had since the beginning of the game to a new job isn’t a hinderance. You might be doing slightly less damage initially, but you’ll be able to catch up quickly.
Harvestella operates on a clock system, with time passing as you’re out and about. You’ll want to pay close attention to the clock, for if you stay out too long past midnight, you’ll eventually pass out and be teleported back to your house. Whether your character passes out due to exhaustion, or you’re defeated in battle, this will count as you being knocked out, and you’ll lose money due to doctor’s fees. You’ll also start the day much later than if you went to bed of your own volition. The doctor fees will go up in price, so don’t be afraid to heal or escape back to your farm if the going to too tough (or it gets too late).
Experience is handled a bit differently in that you don’t level up until the day ends when you’re in your bed. So while you can grind to boost your levels, you won’t see the fruits of your labor until the next day. Grinding isn’t necessary however, so long as you’re battling enemies as they pop up in dungeons. There are larger mini-bosses known as FEARs, indicated by large icons on the map. If you are vastly under leveled, the FEAR will show up as a red icon, and will change to yellow and eventually green the closer to its level that you become. It’s easy to avoid FEARs, even if you inevitably get their attention. Since they are stuck to one area on the map, running outside of its range will cause the FEAR to reset.
At the end of each dungeon (excluding those that are connecting two locations), you’ll face against a boss. Boss fights operate much like regular enemies, although they telegraph almost all of their moves. This makes it easy to avoid most damage being dealt out, provided you don’t fall into the habit of constantly comboing and remaining in one place. Each boss will also have a large scale attack that can easily deplete all of your HP if you don’t cancel or diminish their attack first. These attacks will be in the form of objects appearing that help to power up their attack, or a large orange bar appearing, decreasing when you land attacks.
Farming and Crafting
Harvestella has four seasons with different crops available for each. The number of days it takes to harvest varies by crop. Some crops, like carrots and wheat, can only be harvested once while others, such as tomatoes and peppers, can be harvested many times before needing to plant more seeds.
When it comes to actually managing your farm, the entire process is pretty simple: plow your plots, plant your seeds, water, and then wait until the crops are ready to harvest. Rinse and repeat. As you progress through the story and continue farming, you’ll unlock skills and items to make farming easier, such as a sprinkler to water multiple plants in a row or the ability to plow multiple plots at once. Past this, the farming doesn’t get more intricate. You’ll unlock other farming biomes (waterside and cave) where you can plant different types of crops that can’t be planted on your regular farm. Besides that, all crops are taken care of the same way.
The only form of consequence in Harvestella when it comes to farming is the event known as Quietus. Quietus always happens on the last day of the season before things change over. Therefore, it’s heavily recommended not to plant anything that can’t be harvested before that day arrives. On the day of Quietus, all crops besides trees will die, leaving you with withered crops to harvest instead. The upside though is that you can sell off these withered crops, albeit for pennies compared to your normal crops. If you forget to water your crops because you’re caught up with exploring, nothing bad happens to your crops except that this will delay the harvest times. Your plants must be watered in order for them to grow, but they won’t wither outside of Quietus.
As you explore through dungeons, you will scavenge items that can be used for crafting. Crafting (and cooking) is simple in that all you need is a recipe and the required items. For some specific items, such as bombs or repair kits, completing achievements will unlock recipes for stronger kits. Anything crafted can end up being used on your farm or during dungeon exploration. Cooked meals will provide you with HP and stamina, making them a great way to heal.
There is one downside to using cooked meals to heal, however, and that is your hunger meter. Truthfully, there is no reason for the hunger meter to exist, as it doesn’t have any consequences when it’s resting at 0. The only thing that the hunger meter manages is your stamina. If your stomach isn’t empty, your stamina will refill by itself. Otherwise, your stamina won’t refill. And much like the human stomach, you can’t really overstuff your stomach once it’s close to capacity. So you’ll need to pay attention to how much of your hunger meter is being filled by meals and plan your healing accordingly.
There are quite a few dungeons in Harvestella, whether you’re moving from one town to the next, or you’re exploring a rumored location that may be holding secrets. All of the dungeons are linear in nature, although there will be quite a bit of running around in areas before you’re able to unlock a straightforward route. This will typically be in the form of bridges or ladders that you need to repair, which require kits that you can craft at your home.
As the game progresses, dungeons will get longer and longer. While that’s fine and understandable, towards the end, it does start to edge on being a bit excessive. However, you can rest assured that each new area of a dungeon will have what is known as a Motus Monolite. These act as checkpoints that you can fast travel to, as well as save points. While you can only fast travel to other Motus Monolites that are in the area, all of them do allow you to teleport back home.
When you need to travel between areas, you’ll have to navigate your character across an overworld map. As you progress, you’ll unlock mounts that will cut down on the time spent traveling. As you start traveling farther away from home, these mounts are essential for making the most out of the time that you have.
Team Building and Upgrading
Starting out, you’ll only have yourself to rely on in battle. However, you’ll quickly meet other characters who can join you on your quest, as well as unlock new jobs for you to try out. Outside of exploiting enemy weaknesses, each class is viable in its own way. Truthfully, it comes down to what jobs work best for you. There is a nice mixture of ranged jobs, such as Mage and Avenger, and melee jobs, like Fighter and Sky Lancer.
You can equip up to three jobs and switch between any of those three while out in dungeons. Experience is tied to your character and not the job, so you don’t have to worry about leveling up each of your jobs, which makes experimenting with new jobs easy. You will have to unlock new skills and perform other upgrades using your job points, but it’s easy earning job points simply by battling. Along with skills, you’ll be able to increase your normal attack damage as well as decrease cooldown times for your skills.
Harvestella also gives you control of your team layout, allowing you to choose who you bring along into battle. Each character has their own dedicated job and will operate on their own in battle. Allies will follow your character by default and this is both good and bad. If you’re running away from battles for instance, your allies will follow behind you with no fuss. If you’re running to move out of the way of a telegraphed attack, and you just so happen to end up out of range, your allies will follow you (and not attack the enemy as a result). Still, they are smart enough to not stand in the middle of an AOE… most of the time.
Aesthetics and Performance
When it comes to the graphics of Harvestella, they are really nothing to write home about. Honestly, compared to other 3D modeled games, the game feels like it would be more at home on a mobile phone. With that in mind though, it does well with its character designs and making each character stand apart and interesting to look at in their own way. The environments are just as nice to look at, with you traveling to several types of places from a mountanous canyon to a waterside town.
The same cannot be said for the performance however. Large scale attacks and a large amount of characters on the screen easily slow down the game to noticeable degrees. This mainly happens in battle, typically during boss battles, although some of the regular enemy fights towards the end were also experiencing this issue.
Music and Voice Acting
Although the game makes you think that there is voice acting, with the option to have either English or Japanese voices, they are barely utilized outside of minor quips. Honestly, it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference to include those quips, as even they aren’t noticeable outside of the first few times that you hear them.
The soundtrack to Harvestella really fits both the farming and battle aspects of the game. While you’re out and about in the towns and on your farm, you’ll be greeted by piano and woodwind instruments, lulling you into a sense of calm. The moment that you’re engaged in battle, however, the soft tones are quickly replaced by strong guitar riffs and fast tempo beats. And the songs in-between are just as memorable, especially the default dungeon themes. Harvestella’s OST is definitely a highlight and worth giving a listen to.
Harvestella is a decent first step into the farming/action RPG realm for Square Enix. The only problem is that it is truly just a first step. The game, while interesting in its plot and satisfactory with its gameplay, does just the basics to produce a good final product. Farming and combat are simple in nature, and the dungeons do what they need to do in order to guide the player forward in the game. The models of the game could have been better and the lack of voice acting is very apparent when drawing attention to the fact that there are voice actors credited in the game. For the price tag, it can be hard to recommend checking out the game to those on the fence. However, it’s an experience worth checking out and if you have the opportunity to try it, you may find yourself enjoying Harvestella more than you expected.