Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town marks the third Story of Seasons title to hit the Nintendo Switch. Developed and published by Marvelous and Xseed, the game is the latest instalment of the series as of writing this review. It aims to address issues from previous Story of Seasons games while introducing familiar mechanics from the hit-indie Stardew Valley.
The game opens with a short story of when you were a kid. You’ve dreamed of living in Olive Town, the town your grandfather helped establish during his pioneering days. That dream has finally come to fruition, as you’ll be taking over his farm and carrying on his legacy. It serves as a proper intro to the game, but it doesn’t stop there. More secrets will be uncovered the more you play.
The level of character customization offered is impressive for a Nintendo Switch game. You’ll be able to change your character’s facial features, skin color, left and right eye colors, hairstyle, hair color, bearing, voice, and outfit. The majority of options you can decide between aren’t small in number. The developers have surely outdone themselves to provide the level of character customization content that’s present.
The style you choose to start with can always be customized after a specific point of the game. So if you feel to freshen things up or just want to use different outfits than the two starter uniforms you’re forced to decide between, you’ll be able to. Of course, that’s provided that you have earned sufficient funds and acquired the specified materials to afford it.
As the new owner of your grandfather’s farm, you’ll have to rebuild it to its glory days. To do this, you’ll have to repair abandoned buildings, grow crops, and raise animals. But Pioneers of Olive Town is much more than just this alone. Besides building up friendships and wooing a special someone of your choice, you’ll be able to partake in different activities and events that make the game what it is today. There will be daily chores, but it’s far from frustrating for those who have the patience for farming sims.
The game uses a clock-based system where every second count. You’ll have to manage your daily tasks with the stamina you possess before the clock hits 2 AM; when it does, your character will become exhausted and immediately faint. Regardless of the difficulty you choose, there’s no noticeable penalty for making this mistake. At most, you may not begin the day at full stamina capacity. The way Pioneers of Olive Town mixes these elements makes every decision you make count. Not paying attention to the time can mean a day’s wait just to get that bag of seeds you’ve desperately wanted.
The World of Olive Town
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town isn’t just a cut-and-dry farming game. Although it’s the main aspect of the game, there are many elements that make it much more. One such example is befriending the many townsfolk. You’ll be able to interact with them, gift them items, and trigger unique cutscenes. Each character has a set of their own short cutscenes for you to trigger, and they can occur unexpectedly at times. Talking to them otherwise wouldn’t make for interesting conversation, as they’ll usually give a generic one-sentence response.
The town area is small, which makes it easy to get around. You’ll still have to go back and forth to read requests and get the inquired items. It can sometimes get a little annoying because of the occasionally long loading screens, but with how small and open the town area is, it’s manageable at most. Opening the town map shows the locations of every important character in the game. This makes it convenient to find them on their birthday when time is of the essence, or if you just want to find your future soulmate to gift them their favorite item.
Olive Town and your farm aren’t the only areas in the game you’ll be able to explore. As time passes by, you’ll eventually unlock new areas you can travel to. They won’t be as large or content-packed as Olive Town is, but some will have their own objectives—mini-games being one of them. While these mini-games are entertaining, the core gameplay will likely attract more interest.
Farming and Daily Chores
It’s not a Story of Seasons game without farming. No different from the series, Pioneers of Olive Town heavily focuses on farming. You’ll have to grow crops and tend to livestock regularly. Each season introduces a new set of crops you can grow, and as you continue to play, more livestock will become accessible. You’ll also be able to express your love for these farm animals by petting and walking them daily. It’s not just an action you have to press a button and imagine yourself; you’ll be able to visually see what’s going on and it’s quite pleasing.
Growing crops in this game can bring a spectacular experience for those who love farming sims. Using the various tools is user-friendly, and the game will guide you well with short mini tutorial explanations. It takes patience and it’ll be tough at the start with the early game tools you’re provided with. No different to similar games of its nature, the daily chores you have to do can eventually become exhausting. The good news is, the developers have implemented ways to help with this in the long run. Craftable tools and upgradable items make it easier to endure continuous manual labor; however, getting to that point is determined by how much you have played.
Pioneers of Olive Town is a game where you’ll have to earn your keep—at least on the Normal difficulty. The amount you can do in a single in-game day is determined by stamina and although there are methods of recovering it, it can sometimes become challenging to maintain (which is good for people who want this difficulty). You won’t be stuck in a loop doing the same thing every day, either. New events do pop up from time to time, providing a fresh amount of content to dive into and distract your mind from the repeated cycle of chores you must comply with.
The amount of customization in this game isn’t just limited to your character’s appearance. As the owner of farmland, it’s obvious that you’ll need to establish farming buildings for your farm animals. You’ll be able to place these buildings wherever you so desire. That is, once you’ve cleared the trees, ponds, and grass that’s been covering the unused land. Even if you happen to place these buildings in the wrong spot, correcting the mistake takes a few seconds without any loss.
The game will start you off small with complimentary buildings after you’ve acquired the required materials to repair them. With the right materials and sufficient funds, these buildings can be upgraded to hold more farm animals. It makes another use for the game’s currency and you’ll be able to house a variety of livestock. Upgrading these buildings in Pioneers of Olive Town doesn’t exactly replace the building itself. Instead, you’ll be setting up a larger building and moving your animals over. This can be confusing to newcomers.
From time to time, you’ll need to store your items somewhere. With a limited capacity pocket, there is only so much that you can hold on-hand. Upgradable pockets do expand the number of items you can hold at a time, but it won’t always be sufficient to keep your items at bay. Craftable storage boxes and an in-house fridge further expand this, where you can let your items settle.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to place these storage boxes in your house or in farm buildings. You’ll be forced to find an area of the farmland where you’ll have to place these storage boxes. However, it’s not limited to only storage boxes. Finding the perfect location for Maker Machines can also be troublesome, especially since you’ll have to set down multiple of them for the most efficient use.
Crafting in the game, whether it be items or meals, isn’t as tedious as it could have been. You’ll have to take the items out of your storage containers to craft them or add them to Maker Machines; however, cooking links the fridge with your pocket to make the experience smoother. It also encourages you to upgrade your house to expand the storage space the fridge provides, besides its other benefits.
The game has several caves which you can explore. There isn’t much to see here except for some scattered rocks and one enemy. You’ll be able to use your tools to collect resources while either avoiding this mole-type enemy or bringing down your hammer upon it. Getting too close to it will deplete some of your stamina, so caution is a must. This mole doesn’t stay consistent throughout the entire game, though. New caves you discover will have different color variations of it, which are tougher than the last. Even though you can attack the mole, Pioneers of Olive Town feels far from having actual combat.
Each cave has a specific number of floors. Your objective would be to go as far as you can, mining ore while maintaining your stamina. What differentiates these caves from one another are the number of floors in each, the variations of the single enemy, and the materials you can gather. Some floors are a bit larger than others, while some milestone-grade floors will have a body of water for you to fish. Getting deeper into these caves didn’t feel gratifying in any way, but the rewards they sprout for your lifestyle in this game make it worth it.
There’s a lot to do in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town. Besides farming and raising livestock, some of the activities you’ll be able to take part in are fishing, cooking, completing requests, donating to the museum, exploring the mines, crafting new items, and photography. New story events usually pop up while partaking in such daily activities, helping with breaking the repetitive chore cycle.
Don’t be surprised as the time flies by while trying to complete these activities during an in-game day. If your stamina doesn’t throw in the towel, the clock likely will at 2 AM, forcing the day to end in its own way. Pioneers of Olive Town certainly is a great game to sit back, relax, and work on your farm while also trying to impress your future in-game soulmate with a banquette of gifts.
The photograph portion is a great addition to find wild animals or bugs to snap the perfect shot of. It can even surpass the game’s objective and be tailored more to personal use for social media posting. You may have to go through some additional lengths to do so, but it’s not as inconvenient as it sounds.
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town has two difficulty modes—Seedling Mode and Normal Mode. The first caters to players who want a simpler, relaxing life in the game where they can afford things with ease. The latter is for those who prefer challenging gameplay without the various bonuses that Seedling Mode provides. You’ll earn more money for items you’ve sold, shop prices will be lower, stamina will decrease at a lower rate, friendship levels will rise faster, and skill experience points will be gained at a much faster rate in Seedling Mode.
While the game does have online features, they aren’t anything worth looking at. You won’t be able to travel to a friend’s farm and help them earn that sweet paper. Instead, you’ll be able to show up as a tourist to other players and they will to you as well. Appearance in each others’ towns is as random as it can be; however, registered friends have a higher chance of showing up.
The lack of an online multiplayer mode might be disheartening to learn about with how much of an amazing game Pioneers of Olive Town is and how well it would have contributed to it. Splitting up the chores and working together to build up your farm with friends would have made the experience much more enjoyable. The current online functions don’t warrant purchasing a Nintendo Switch Online subscription just for this one game.
Graphics and Performance
The graphics are detailed and gorgeous. The character models are expressive and the animals are adorable. There is the lack of an item’s appearance during a gifting cutscene, but it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment you’ll likely have. Only when dropping items to the floor reveals its low-quality side.
Despite the patch, the game still suffers from some lag and long loading screens. Entering your farm from your house or the town area are the prime examples of where you’ll encounter lag. Loading screens usually aren’t always long, but can get irritably long for moving from such a small area to the next. If you do connect to the Internet through the game, snapshots from other players will occupy these long loading screens to help ease up the waiting period.
Soundtrack and Voice
The game’s soundtrack is nice and calming. It’s nothing less to expect from a Story of Seasons game. The music played changes with the time of day and properly fits in with the gameplay. The only thing it doesn’t have is voice acting; however, characters do make a noise when interacting with them.
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is another great entry to the series. It’s a charming game that one can easily lose track of time playing. There’s so much to do and new, additional tasks are added as the days go by. It does sprout some inconveniences such as long loading times and the waiting periods for items to convert, which some players may not like. However, both fans of the series and newcomers will certainly have a great time with this game.
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town gets an 8/10.