There hasn’t been a franchise in the farming game since Story of Seasons, known as Bokujo Monogatari in Japan (and formerly known as Harvest Moon in North America). The series celebrated its 25th anniversary and developed a formula that inspired hit games like Stardew Valley. But in recent years it has struggled to stay relevant with fresh ideas. History of the Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town seeks to keep the flame alive by developing a city and providing fun features (like a photo mode and museum) to fill it with discovery. The loop is fun, but the rewards aren’t satisfactory enough for the investment it takes to get them.
Like its predecessors, Pioneers of Olive Town begins with you ending up in a small village and starting a new life as a farmer. Olive Town is fighting, and the Mayor is asking for your help in reversing it. You will get development projects where you will need to collect the right materials to improve key elements like streets, benches and the town hall. It’s worth watching the city transform with each upgrade as more tourists come to the area and Olive Town looks a lot more attractive. Don’t expect much control over the city’s redesign, however. You get questions as if your opinion and direction are important, but all the answers lead to the same place and it quickly becomes a chore to do one retrieval quest after another.
Even so, the core loop of turning a farm into a successful operation from scratch is still entertaining. I looked forward to every facility upgrade, new animal, or crafting recipe I was able to unlock. Now you can also tame wild animals and farm them as you wander the wilderness, meaning you won’t always be spending money on new cattle. Money can come easily, but it’s the materials you need for the crafts, city dwellers’ inquiries, and building improvements that bring the challenge. At first I didn’t mind; Breaking stones for ore, chopping trees for wood, and cleaning puddles for clay is easy enough. However, these items must be processed in machines, and each machine has a specific purpose, from converting milk into cheese to converting wool into yarn. The problem? Not only are there far too many of them for every little thing, but pasting in the required materials only creates one converted item. So if you need 50 of a certain type of wood (and you will) it can take a crazy amount of time. You can build more than one type of machine, but it takes up important space.
My journey through the pioneers of Olive Town has been one of ups and downs. Things were either too simple, like soliciting the townspeople of my choice, or they took too much effort, like unlocking some farm facilities. I was impressed with how much there is to be done, but everything comes at a price. I felt like I could never spend time exploring certain aspects, such as: B. Creating clothes or starting cooking because they take up valuable time and feel insignificant compared to your other tasks.
The areas of Olive Town seem small at first, but as you build bridges to new areas, meet Earth Sprites that lead you to special locations, and search various caves with treasured floors, things expand significantly. You are constantly improving your skills as you complete the basic tasks of tilling the land, cutting trees, breaking stones, and this in turn opens up more craft recipes to provide you with things like automatic feeds for your livestock or decorative furniture. This gives you a satisfying sense of your character’s progression and new things to always look forward to.
I also enjoyed the fun little touches like being able to ride a motorcycle or using the different mounts to get around. Festivals are a hit or miss, some are more interactive than others. The game also features a museum similar to Animal Crossing where you can donate your treasures, fish, and photos of wildlife. Furniture and house upgrades are also in abundance, even if your house feels a little limited in where to put things. You have this spacious layout with just one selected, smaller area that you can really decorate as your own.
For those interested in the social aspects, there are regular new scenes as you walk around town talking to the villagers. So I wanted to take the time to visit her. I looked forward to these scenes to learn more about the people of Olive Town, but overall I didn’t find this cast memorable or exciting. No one is downright annoying (except maybe the food critic Lovett), but the villagers simply fulfill their roles as shopkeepers and members of the community and don’t offer anything unique beyond that. The events as you move forward in a romance fare much better as they really capture the chemistry and growth in your relationship.
I’ve mostly had a good time with Pioneers of Olive Town, but it’s not the most tech-savvy game. Patches have further improved my experience, but expect some annoying load times, frame rate issues (especially stuttering), and the occasional game freeze. Nothing made me stop playing in frustration, but be aware that this is still not the smoothest experience.
Pioneers of Olive Town is a decent addition to Story of Seasons, but it’s no more than that. I was still intrigued by the core formula of improving my farm and loved making new discoveries while exploring. I have a lot of things that I like about this game, but I’ve come across just as many that didn’t hit the mark. I can’t help thinking, shouldn’t this series make bigger leaps forward and make a stronger impression after all this time?
For more info on Pioneers of Olive Town, check out these five quick tips from the director!