Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town Review: Getting Back on the Horse
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town was in an… interesting state when it was originally released on the Nintendo Switch back in March. While structurally sound in a technical sense, and most definitely fun, the game still felt like it was missing something. Fortunately, I wasn’t the only one who thought this, as Marvelous eventually started releasing patches hand over fist in order to make Pioneers of Olive Town a more enjoyable and well-rounded experience. And, I’m quite happy to say that it worked!
I’m honestly impressed with how quickly Pioneers of Olive Town started to improve after its initial release. Going from playing a pre-release Switch version to the PC version (which I suppose is technically still pre-release) with all of the updates included from the get-go made things smoother and more fun overall. At the end of the day, it may still pale in comparison to previous entries in the series, but, hey, at least it’s fun—and easier to jump into than ever before.
The Pioneering Protag
As per the norm in Story of Seasons games, Pioneers of Olive Town begins with your city slicker of a character moving into your dearly departed grandpappy’s farm after yearning for a change in life. The good news? You were able to inherit all of your grandpa’s farmland for free, and are also located right next to the friendly little Olive Town! The bad news? Your farm is, like, completely in shambles. It’s nothing but trees, rocks, weeds, dilapidated buildings, and wild critters as far as the eye can see—and it’s up to you to clean house! …Er, clean farm!
Being a game that fits snugly between the realm of life sim and farming sim, you might not expect Pioneers of Olive Town to have much in the way of an actual story. And that’s good, because it doesn’t! But, hey, it doesn’t really need one. Story of Seasons games are about your personal growth as a player, and this game isn’t any different. Sure, there are events scattered about town, but the real story is what you want to make of it. Kind of ambiguous, I know, but if you’ve played these games before, you know exactly what I’m talking about, I’m sure.
Turnips, and Chickens, and Corn, oh my!
When you think of the Story of Seasons franchise, what’s the very first thing that comes to your mind? Obviously, if you’re a normal person, there’s only one answer that’s going to come to your mind—that, of course, being
marrying cute girls farming! And it’s a good thing, too, because Pioneers of Olive Town has plenty of activities for you farming fanatics out there to enjoy.
Mechanically speaking, there isn’t much about Pioneers of Olive Town‘s farming mechanics that stand out from any other Story of Seasons game (which is a good thing, in my opinion). All of your staple SoS tools are there, and, as always, you’ll need to chop, dig, and water your way to a happy and healthy farm one land tile at a time. Admittedly, I was a little disappointed in the simplification of the crop grading in this game (the special stats from Trio of Town are gone), but it’s not so much of an issue that it ruins anything.
Animal raising is also once again an important farming feature, and Story of Seasons gives players a nice variety of critters to care for. Alongside the more traditional types of livestock like cows, chickens, and sheep, players can also raise more exotic(ish) animals like rabbits, buffalo, and llamas, and as well as variants of each animal such as silkies, brown cows, and pink rabbits. Most of these aren’t exactly “new,” per see, but it’s still nice to have options!
A Regular Farming Machine
Most of the mechanics in Pioneers of Olive Town are the same that you’d find in any other Story of Seasons game. There’s one addition, however, that’s entirely new—crafting. While previous entries would allow players to do things like save up materials in order to make big purchases for their farmers, and Trio of Towns kinda-sorta crafting thing going on, Pioneers of Olive Town takes resource gathering and utilization to a whole new level.
Thanks to the updates that have been quickly rolling out since this game’s initial release on the Switch, crafting isn’t quite as tedious as it was before. That said, however, it still takes up a sizable bulk of the gameplay. While I’m not against making the player gather materials here and there, I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that Pioneers of Olive Town‘s crafting craze was an attempt to piggyback on the wild success of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. I understand why they’d try to implement something so successful into their game. I really do. But it just doesn’t work all that well, in my opinion. The cycle of gathering, processing, and using materials takes up so much time, and it really lessens the focus on Story of Seasons staples, like bonding with the townspeople and, you know, farming. Even with the improvements implemented, the heavy emphasis on crafting makes this game feel somewhat removed from the rest of the series—and not in a good way.
Struttin’ Your Stuff
Jumping back into familiar territory, Pioneers of Olive Town carries on the Story of Seasons tradition of placing as much of an emphasis on relationship-building as it does farming (and I suppose crafting this time around, too). To that extent, things, once again, shouldn’t feel all too different, as all players really need to befriend the citizens of Olive Town is talk to them every day—and, if you’re so inclined, lavish them in gifts.
Believe it or not, the townsfolk of Olive Town were actually cause for concern during the game’s debut. Not because they did anything bad, however, but because they didn’t do much at all. Fortunately, things are better now. While I still can’t say that Olive Town’s cast is particularly memorable in any way, I can absolutely attest to how much livelier they are. The additional dialogue for each townsperson really helps to flesh out the existing characters, and even smaller touches, like the more dynamic facial expressions, enhance immersion considerably.
All in a Day’s Work
Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town isn’t the best game in the series, plain and simple, but it’s still plenty of fun. Whether you’re new to the series or have been playing Story of Seasons games since the days when the SNES reigned supreme, Pioneers of Olive Town all but guarantees an enjoyable time for those who are willing to put in a bit of hard work.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Switch ; Publisher: XSEED Games ; Developer: Marvelous Inc. ; Players: 1 ; Released: September 15, 2021 (PC) ; ESRB: E for Everyone ; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher.