Olive Town vs One World: why can’t it be one world?

Harvest Moon franchise is one that I’ve enjoyed playing up to Trio of Towns without so much as a blink, even though the games have always been very uneven. The main appeal has been caring for nature and charming world. As Marvelous forays into more neutral territories in Olive Town, what has happened to the storytelling? Olive Town is a very polished and pleasant experience in which farming keeps you busy, but it lacks the gameplay immersion of the past titles. Indeed, gameplay is simplified, and penalities that strengthened the message of caring for nature (like littering) have been removed, making the newer games more of a shell of the past titles,. I have found it to be a very lazily made game, with lots of areas that weren’t thought through. In turn, Natsume lacks technical and visual experts to make their game looks appealing but “One World” retains some of the feelings of past Harvest Moon games. I don’t regret buying either of the newest releases but I sometimes feel like it would be beneficial for the games to return to one world of Natsume and Marvelous. For the time being, here’s what I thought about the games.

I get excited when I see a Harvest Moon / Story of Season game. I love them because the world tends to be charming and they used to combine good premise about caring for the land (they used to even penalise littering!)- which couldn’t be more timely nowadays – with fun activities, such as foraging, farming fun crops, and dating sim elements. Between Olive Town and One World, Story of Seasons, for me, is a bit of form over content – farming is engaging but questline not so much, and the lack of little details that made older HM games special (littering, husbands with functions like helping at the farm, cooking and eating with the family) make Olive down a simplified version of what HM games can be. I prefer games with complex gameplay and mechanics (Draqon Age), so I prefer HM games that have richer gameplay (Trio of Towns). Gameplay in Olive Town is very simplistic.

One World has a bit more of the charm and feel of older harvest moon games. But in both cases – I was struck by how little I found myself engaged and invested – in contrast to previous games in the franchise.

OLIVE TOWN

Story: Put on your motorbike boots and head to Olive Town that your grandfather pioneered. Help redevelop the town to make it more attractive to tourists. You also take over a farm that’s been neglected for years and has become completely overgrown.

Gimmicky but empty, sad title screen.

CONTROLS / TECHNICAL

  • Production values are great. Beautiful day/night music and sound effects, lovely colour palette – they definitely know how to make their game appealing! I like winter music. There is a lovely weekend variation on daily music too. However, seasons are no longer detailed. I used to love autumn and winter in older games because whole maps changed.
  • Customisation options are pretty extensive. You can shape the look of your character, dress them how you like. Absolutely lovely colours / shades but female character is too flat-chested for me and I can’t get the look I want, while models in older HM games were great. I think this could be achieved by a slider type customisation.
Wedding dress is the only piece of attire that makes my character looks like I want.

EVENTS / CHARACTERS

  • They advertise the game as having over 200 events but the events and plotlines lack charm. Even the story: make the town a tourist attraction, and the goal is to bring in a cruise liner? It departs from the spirit of older Harvest Moon games. Town quests really amount to making the town hall pretty, laying golden tiles (they don’t even look that good), and it doesn’t take all that long, the quests don’t require you to do much, you mostly have everything ready anyway, the questline is perhaps too simple. The premise about grandfather and pioneering promised something heartfelt BUT the main questline turned out to be vapid – a tourist town, really? With golden tiles? That’s not what harvest moon has always been about.
  • The bachelors / bachelorettes are not as interesting or likeable as I found them in older games, there’s little I want to say about them. The interactions are lacklustre, limited and feel like they cut corners on writing them. I don’t feel like they care so much for my character. I feel like interactions in older games were a lot more lovable and enjoyable. They no longer care if you run around in snowstorms or typhoons, a detail which added warmth to the bonding overall. There are heart events for every level and even for post-marriage (that makes me think of Animal Parade) – and that’s great, 6 hearts are “friend events”, which makes it easier to avoid seeing romantic events you don’t want BUT characters are boring, lacklustre and not lovable. The interactions – lines are limited and don’t feel written genuinely, unlike in older games when the lines where really nice. I don’t really have any bachelors I want to marry as a straight girl. Ralph is okayish – I liked some of his events, Ludus has nice events too (but those make me miss him in Lulukoko, I’d rather have him there). I don’t have a favourite bachelor here, unlike in previous games where I tended to have several. Residents and marriage cndadidtates of Olive town are, generally unlikeable, with stilted, boring lines, unlike in a lot of previous games. Instead of getting a birthday dinner, you get some lazy patronising lines. I do like that raising hearts extends beyond marriage but it’s pointless when I don’t enjoy it. It feels as if bots assembled the lines ands that’s it. They definitely cut corners on interactions in this game. I liked a few events but especially the early ones do not really make me invested..plus it’s like they dumped all writing into events, while day-to-day lines are REALLY limited and boring.
  • Clemens and Lars should have been eligible bachelors. Especially Clemens. At least Beth and Lars are a little cute.
  • Lack of special candidates also makes it boring for me, though I suppose exansion pass count as “special” but that’s just lazy, if that’s the case. I want special special like in previous games. Plus, I miss the anticipation connected with some characters appearing later in the game…here you get everyone and that’s it.
  • lack of reverse proposals and dating is no longer a commitment. The confession and reverse confession in older HM games felt special and it was lovely. It’s no longer the case in newer games, and I find that it bothers me. I also prefer and miss reverse confessions – but they aren’t strictly necessary. Animal Parade didn’t have them and yet it remains one of my top favourite HM games in nearly all aspects. I’m also not fond of divorce but at least it’s more like “reverse time” feature. That’s okayish. I still prefer “change generation” mechanics instead (see Animal Parade)
  • Much like marriage candidates, the townsfolk may be diverse but they lack charm, flair, there’s nothing fun about them. hey don’t have backstories or lines that would make them fun. It’s boring and a lot of them are simply unlikeable. They no longer care if you run around in typhoons – a little detail that added warmth to the bonding. I miss it. The mayor and his quests are vapid. I really love characters in older games. Here, they are easy to ignore, I really don’t have a reason to talk to them.
  • I like romantic festivals but they are too short and there are not enough fun festivals like cooking or decorating. There’s little use for your quality crops, aside from doing the gourmet’s quests- which are fun, but it’s not the same as a cooking festival. Moreover, after 2 years in game, the festival announcements should change. They stay as if doing them for the first time – that’s a problem here because they come to your house with elaborate speeches, unlike Mayor Thomas who kept things simple so repetition was acceptable. Here, these lines should change in year 2.
  • Wedding and child event are lazy and lacklustre in this game. I want trio of towns standard – that was great.
  • Expansion passes – bringing bachelors from older games seems like cash grab. Their islands are empty and they don’t come to town / attend festivals and it feels wrong to have them here, even though heart events are quite nice, if not always very believeable. I enjoyed Ludus’ events (and will make a separate article on them later) but that only made me miss him in Lulukoko. I miss Trio of Towns festivals and Trio of towns in general.
Ludus has some fine lines but a lot of the lines are, like for other characters, a variation on how great the Player is…it’s boring. and he belongs in Lulukoko with the other farmer.
  • I like the zoom on characters (camera chat, you can enable it from options). They don’t need portraits…and actually Animal Parade was the same. There were no portraits but the game zoomed on speakers. I like that. The character designs are as always nice.

ACTIVITIES

  • Despite marketing it as a game with “unprecedented freedom”, I feel like there is actually less freedom than in older games. While you can do whatever at the farm, foraging and exploration are limited. You no longer walk to town, you just sort of teleport, it’s not an open world – it feels very hermetic, there’s little to explore. The lands you unlock are mostly for raising skill levels, seasonal farming or playing minigames.
  • time flies sufficiently fast for there to be a challenge to the daily grind
  • You start in a tent. That’s new.
  • House decoration, including shelves for trophies but there’s zero flexibility with how you decorate and arrange your house – you can’t even rotate the furniture to place it where you like. You can’t put things on tables, nor can you buy more countertops to add more decor. In order to put a picture above the fireplace, you have to move the fireplace and then you can’t have the fireplace under the picture. This is NOD done well.
  • many clothes to craft BUT they are as neutral / boring as they could make them and it’s annoying. The wedding dress is the only piece of clothing I’m happy with.
  • mining is ok. It tries to mix mining points and traditional mining. It’s not difficult but the moles in mines will drain your stamina so it adds a bit of challenge. I find it mediocre. I prefer either mining points or mines like in Friends of Mineral town.
  • Camera returns from animal parade and here it combines critter catching and wild animal taming. This is one of the fun things about the game. But shouldn’t there be online features to share the pics?
 you need to meet certain requirements to attract wild animals/insects to your farm. I like it, it helps build the farm while minding biodiversity.
You can always take more photos
Photos of wild critters donated to the museum are transformed into sculptures and house decor.

  • it’s nice that cooking takes time, the dishes are quite nice. I still prefer assembling kitchen. I hate the laziness of this game.
  • Tool bag to hide your tools
  • The farm is nice, a few areas to unlock, with lots of things to do but the world is hermetic, not as open as older games used to have, exploration and foraging are limited. Mounts are gimmicks, there’s nowhere to take them. There’s a new element – scooping water puddles and finding treasures.
  • The farm keeps you busy because trees, grass, rocks respawn fast. You can craft various items to decorate it as well.
Winter doesn’t look like winter though
Rock salt, mussels, clams and oysters are within reach
  • farm animals can be tamed because they are wandering around, but animal interactions are limited, we no longer speak to them. There’sd no reason to breed sheep type animals to level 10. At least with cows / goats you have to think of gourmet’s quest dishes.
  • Upgraded tools are fun to use – chop several trees within a square, or smash several rocks.
  • Makers are a good system. You need to work hard to get best results later on. I like it.
There’s a maker for every byproduct..
  • skills with perks – once you raise the skills, you get bonuses, a bit like in Stardew Valley.
  • There’s a nice reward system for getting new titles and some titles are very fun.
  • New crops can be foraged around the farm, when shipped they will be added to the stores. Flowers as always are a pleasure to find and plant. Some varieties include black roses, primroses, petunias.
  • You will unlock a spirit who live in the forest shrine. The shrine spirit will give you special blessings like unlocking gardens, raising stamina – this is nice.
still, this deity isn’t it.
  • There are a few nice lands to unlock, including seasonal gardens – those are a very nice change from a greenhouse, though you also get a greenhouse to plant crops out of season.
  • earth sprites to help. A backstory with your grandfather. After you unlock them, you will start getting access to special places.
sprite village – gather sprites by doing stuff like farming, mining, assign them to “manager” sprites representing animal care, field care….When they bring you things, you also get sprite points to use in the sprite shop run by the chief sprite. You can get 10 star seeds. It’s a good deal because makers take forever.
You’ll encounter farm animals wandering around. To tame them, you need appropriate level of skill and have sufficient space in a barn or coop.
  • board request quest system – I like those. You can also help the sprites (with the expansion pass). There’s a gourmet in town – you will find requests for dishes in his house. It must have been a last-minute addition, at least there’s some use for high quality crops. Although I like quest board quest systems, they could be a little more involved or rather I’d like to feel more urge to do them. It helps when I like the characters and want to do things for them. Here, I don’t get that feeling.

There are no long-term objectives, like in older games. For me, the game isn’t enjoyable in the same way older games used to be. I feel like they lose sight of the game’s charm, feel, message. The dialogues and quests have lost their spark.

ONE WORLD

The title screen has life, appeal, it promises a lovely world, I love it.

This release is ok but poorly prepared for PC. They didn’t adapt the controls from the console version to PC and I don’t see any way to rebind the keys. You have to rely on XASD and no mouse control. It’s uncomfortable to play. It seems they rushed the release on steam to bring it earlier than Olive Town…I don’t think it did them any service. Still, the game gets too much hate.

Story: The world has forgotten to care for the land, forgotten plants and animals. You run around collecting seeds as you relearn and regain the variety of plants out there

PROS:

  • Keeps more of the spirit and message of harvest moon games.
  • The world is very nice – extensive, with different climate-specific regions. You can move your house / farm around and take it closer to plot questlines.
take your house with you to be closer to the action
fun places with a bit of seasonal flavour
  • added challenge: going into extreme climate areas drains your limited stamina. Though in the winter regions, they’ll make you some clothes.
  • lots of things to do
  • I like the plot and quest lines that focus on caring about the land.
  • Mining is similar to Olive Town in that you return to mines. The bit of challenge is that your low stamina may run out before you manage to find staircase down.
  • The crops and terrain-dependent mutations are fun. If you buy extra content, you get access to the island with paddies – makes farming certain crops easier. And not just such nice plants like lotus or rice. You can also grow certain types of watermelon and others.
careful not to keep your plants in soil for too long – they wither even when the season and soil are ok, it seems.
  • I like the few characters there are, and can easily pick someone to marry
  • Character interactions
  • Day and night music is quite nice, albeit not as polished as in Olive Town.
  • I like the female character model.
  • Mythical creatures to meet
  • sprite wisps – love the idea of collecting / foraging crops.

CONS

  • Vastly inferior production values: textures and art could be improved – the first time I opened the game, I was struck by how out-dated the visuals feel. I get used to it as I play.
  • too many generic npcs with no name or backstory, the communities and towns are very underdeveloped and not very interesting.
  • too much empty space, towns are small
  • It’s hard to upgrade tools because you need to speak to a miner in one of the mines until he tells you about the option..it can be random but I think you just need to raise his friendship.
  • I’ll repeat: they didn’t adapt controls to PC experience, it’s uncomfortable to play
  • too few heart events, but at least I find them rather enjoyable.
  • characters don’t seem to care if we run around in typhoons / snowstorms (although Sami will be strict with you for running into snowland in your flimsy attire) – that added a lot of warmth in interactions in previous games.

Conlusions:

Story of Season’s Olive Town is a polished game that’s pleasant to look at and play but the writing and questline which I feel depart from the spirit of harvest moon make me feel less immersed then I used to be in older games. I feel like it tries to emulate Stardew Valley for some reason – and that’s not necessary. I also note the lack of such fine details as penalising littering – they not only added to the challenge, they reinforced the meaning of the game. Other immersive little things are also missing (cooking for the family, husbands helping at the farm, littering. Interactions and heart events are no longer as lovable as in the past. This game is like you both want to play it because it’s got this polished look and pleasant controls and throw it out of the window because the world is not as open as in older games and interactions don’t feel as fun. I guess Story of Seasons’s glory days are over – they ended with Trio of Towns for me.

That said, the farm keeps you busy, the game is easy to play and has a few fun features but I feel it’s mostly a grind and lacks the charm of older titles – the main problem I have is the questline but also lack of fun festivals like cooking. Despite being advertised as “freedom to do what you want”, this game actually feels more limited than older games that had more of an open world. Olive Town feels sterile and lacks more complex gameplay and attention to little details that made older HM games so nice but you might enjoy it if you like easy, compact games and there are some features even I enjoyed, much as I don’t really like the game overall. Polished as it may be, the game is really not as engaging as the best titles in the franchise- for me that’s Trio of Towns, Animal Parade, and Wonderful Life.

One World offers a more traditional approach with no customisation but it also keeps more of the message of Harvest Moon games (to care about the land, restore it, relearn how to love it, and appreciate its gifts).

I’d definitely wait for a sale in both cases. Each has ups and down, they are both enjoyable in their own ways. Personally, I remain invested in the franchise and am happy to support it, particularly on Steam – HM games still have tremendous storytelling potential when it comes to their gameplay. I love the focus on nature, I think it’s important now more than before (that’s why littering being penalised has always been one of my favourite parts!) I just hope they’ll come up with better ideas next time because these two releases are definitely far from what I’d call favourite releases or what HM can do.

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