PC, Nintendo Switch
November 4, 2022
Harvestella left a big impression on me when it was first announced during a Nintendo Direct a few months ago, even though a farming sim crossed with a JRPG isn’t necessarily a new idea with franchises like Rune Factory still releasing games. Harvestella caught my eye with its art direction, soundtrack and interesting hook in Quietus, a death season that kills all crops and forces townsfolk to stay indoors.
It’s hard to be a farming sim these days, even ones with an extra gimmick have trouble finding a way to stand out among the crowd. So I was very interested to see if Harvestella would be up to the task and was surprised to find that it is much more JRPG than it is farming sim with many many overlapping mechanics, side quests and grandiose narrative that does a good job of getting its hooks in you and keeping you invested.
Unfortunately, Harvestella opens with a very underwhelming character creator. The only options available are to change the hair and skin color of your character, while also selecting one of two body types. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the game had an option to make your character non-binary, meaning that NPCs will refer to you using they/them pronouns throughout the course of the game. While a limited character creator is fairly standard fare in a farming sim or JRPG, it is still a disappointment and I do wish that you could at least change your character’s clothes.
Where it doesn’t let down is in just how beautiful the world is. From the very beginning of the game, I was struck with just how immersive and vibrant all the locations are. While it is still very cartoony, the color palette and lighting is gorgeous, and the soundtrack only elevates it. I have heard that some other people suffered framerate issues while playing, but I personally had no performance issues at all.
Narratively, there are a lot of unique elements to Harvestella. Not only does it tackle the standard fantasy fare, but it also dips its toes into time travel and post-apocalyptia, especially with the introduction of the Quietus. At the end of every season in the game, there is one day of Quietus where all of your crops die and it is not possible to travel further than the nearby town where all the shops will be closed. My first Quietus was something special; while there isn’t much to do, it’s still possible to go outside and fish during it, and the desaturated colors during this season along with the eerie music is simply breathtaking. It captures a mood between sinister and beautiful perfectly.
The story does suffer a little due to the lack of voice acting though. Even in important cutscenes there are no voices and the only words you will hear from your party members are in ambient dialog. Non-committal lines where they give updates during battle are most common, and unfortunately they are not subtitled which means if you pick Japanese voice acting (like I did) you will have no idea what they are saying. While the game is decently long, and it’s understandable that all the dialog couldn’t be voiced, it is disappointing that the larger scale cutscenes also don’t have any voice acting because giving characters a voice is one of the best ways to help the audience connect with them.
Overall, the combat isn’t especially deep. It’s a real time system with a single button for attack and four special skills available when they aren’t on cooldown. Sprinting, attacking and using special abilities all use up stamina that slowly replenishes, and when it runs out you even lose your basic attack. So keeping track of stamina is essential.
Your character also has three different classes available in combat and can switch between them at any time so long as they are off cooldown. Every time a new character joins your party, the protagonist unlocks a new class, and while only three are available for quick swap, you can allocate whichever classes you want at checkpoints within dungeons. Different enemies have different elemental weaknesses, which makes quick class switching very useful to deal with tougher enemies as soon as possible.
“Jumping in and out of dungeons luckily isn’t as annoying as it sounds, especially once you get into a rhythm.”
Boss fights also range from average to interesting. Each boss can be “broken” by doing enough damage of a type they’re weak to, meaning that you deal bonus damage for a time. It’s also possible to achieve a Double Break by targeting a corresponding weakness thereby dealing even more damage. At their most mediocre, the fights are just with one large enemy and some light AOE dodging, but the most impressive include huge bosses and the need to jump from platform to platform to avoid damage.
Another key element to the dungeon portion of the game is the time mechanic. As Harvestella is still part farming sim, it does have a constantly ticking clock and the necessity to get to bed in time or you will pass out on the floor. Jumping in and out of dungeons luckily isn’t as annoying as it sounds, especially once you get into a rhythm. There are plenty of shortcuts to unlock as you play, and checkpoints throughout that you can use to teleport directly back to the farm. This means that even when you leave part way through, there is no need to walk through the whole dungeon again.
One of the best ways to ensure you are getting the most out of your dungeon trips is by cooking a good selection of meals before heading off. Your stamina replenishes much faster if your stomach is full, and most high quality food will also heal a decent amount of health. It’s a great way to encourage putting work in around your farm, the more crops you grow and the more food you cook, the better you will do in combat. It’s a very clever loop.
As mentioned earlier, Harvestella is much more JRPG than it is farming sim, but the time on the farm available is still very enjoyable and likely to scratch whatever itch you may have. Your plot of farmland is located right outside the front door of your house, and you actually have to walk past the farm in order to access the world map, so it only makes sense to get some farming done each morning on the way out to do some adventuring.
The mechanics for farming are a little atypical and can take some getting used to, but I ended up really enjoying them. Watering is especially fun as you can just hold the button and walk around instead of needing to water each plot individually. At first, I thought that crops grew too fast and that the farming may be underwhelming, but as you gain access to higher quality crops the wait times do increase.
There are other things to do around the farm as well, it’s your center of operations for cooking and crafting, both of which are essential for dungeons, and it also gives you access to farm animals, machines and even different farm biomes as you proceed through the main story. Most seeds are easily obtainable through dungeons too, making the loop of farming, adventuring and then returning home for the night even more routine in the most satisfying way.
As you play through the game, you will also eventually meet up with the fairies who monitor the local Seaslight (giant crystals that control the seasons) and they will join you on the farm. Each fairy has their own set of tasks that can be completed for rewards, including unlocking new farming machines or even increasing the power of your farming tools. Checking these tasks off is very satisfying, especially when you get an exciting new machine for doing them.
- Gorgeous art direction, especially Quietus
- Satisfying gameplay loop of farming and adventuring
- Intriguing narrative that feels grandiose
- Very little voice acting
- Some underwhelming combat
Harvestella is a game with a very addictive loop. With each dungeon leading you to a new plot revelation, and each season giving you new crops to grow it’s like the game is begging for “just one more day” and it can be hard to say no. While I wish that there was more depth to the characters, especially in the voice acting department, and the game doesn’t make any major strides, it is still a decently fresh take on the genre. It is important to know that Harvestella really is a JRPG before it is a farming sim; even though farming is a lot of fun, it is not the main thing you will be doing. Even though both farming and combat are simple, the combination of both manages to make Harvestella feel deeper than it actually is. So if you are on the lookout for a new RPG farming adventure to play after finishing Rune Factory 5, this might be it!