With Harvestella, Square Enix is tossing its hat into a ring of farming life sims with RPG elements that includes Story of Seasons (aka Harvest Moon), Rune Factory, and Stardew Valley. Which might make someone wonder how it compares. A lot of the gameplay is similar or akin to what people remember. However, there are some things unique to it that help it stand out.
What’s Harvestella Farming Like Compared to Story of Seasosn, Stardew Valley, and Rune Factory?
In general, growing crops in Harvestella will feel a lot like doing so in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, Stardew Valley, and Rune Factory 4 or 5. You till the land. Then, you plant a seed. You’ll get one item, even if more than one show on-screen. (Cucumbles is a good example, as you’ll see more than one growing, but only harvest one each time.) Crops are able to grow in specific seasons, with some available almost all the time and others limited to one specific time of year.
Like other games in the genre, you’ll be able to craft makers. For example, recipes to create animal feed, flour, and juice makers will be among the first you’ll earn. Once you craft one, you can place them out in the open on your farm and use them as needed. Since you can place makers, there is some mild customization when deciding how your farm looks. However, you won’t be able to make personal spaces as detailed as ones in Stardew Valley.
Livestock aren’t as big of a focus in Harvestella as in other games. After you find your first Conellu Doll in Higan Canyon while heading to find Aria with Dianthus and Unicorn, you’ll happen upon a Conellu Doll. This causes the Conellu Emporium to appear in Lethe Village. If you build livestock pens, you can start raising Cluffowls to get eggs or Woolums to get milk. Instead of a horse, you can get a Totokaku to ride.
What’s Harvestella’s Dungeon-Crawling Like Compared to Rune Factory and Stardew Valley?
When it comes to the action-RPG elements, Harvestella can feel a lot like Rune Factory! It’s more advanced, however, with more detail put into players’ avatars. There won’t be any farmland tied to certain seasons in the Harvestella “dungeon” areas, like in some Rune Factory games. Also, while there might be “mining” spots as in Stardew Valley, they work a bit differently. The one thing all three games have in common is that they are action-RPGs once you head into a dungeon.
Like Rune Factory, the dungeons here can have certain gimmicks. For example, Higan Canyon is an autumnal forest with bridges to repair and plant root bridges to walk across. The Heaven’s Egg is a futuristic space with special wind crystals you can interact with to ride currents across gaps and vine barriers that can only be withered with potions found in chests nearby.
Harvestella’s character development is way more advanced than other games. While your abilities and skills passively level up in Rune Factory as you use them, it’s much different here. Your earned experience can lead to your leveling up at the end of the day. Your avatar gains new classes upon meeting certain party members, which affects their attacks and abilities. Three of these jobs can be equipped at once, and you can switch between them on the fly. You earn job points for fighting as that class, allowing you to choose new skills from the skill tree.
Here’s the funny thing about Harvestella… it’s actually a little like Etrian Odyssey! When you are exploring a dungeon, you might come upon a glittering spot. This leads to a text-based event that can net you an item, affect your health, or result in an encounter. There are also the Harvestella FEAR, which is the game’s equivalent to an Etrian Odyssey F.O.E. These monsters are at a much higher level than usual, walk along a certain pre-determined path, and should be avoided until you are strong enough to tackle them.
What are Harvestella Relationships Like Compared to Story of Seasons, Rune Factory, and Stardew Valley?
Okay, first of all, there is a relationship element and some romance in Harvestella, just like you’d find in games like Story of Seasons, Rune Factory, and Stardew Valley. Not every one of these companions will join you as an ally for dungeon excursions. Also, the way the relationship building works, you’ll need to progress through the story and complete character-specific quests to get to know people better. The actual romance doesn’t come up until the endgame areas, so a lot of the game involves building a foundation with other characters. (However, the ones who become your allies will be able to unleash joint attacks with you in battle, just like in Rune Factory 5.)
Harvestella also handles relationships with general townsfolk differently. There are multiple villages your avatar will visit around the world. Each one will only feature at least two characters with portraits, who you will form meaningful bonds with. The other people will be NPC villagers who don’t get their own character portraits or as much development. However, some of them do get their own side-quests. For example, the Lethe village kids Van and Vent worry they upset their playmate Milika. Their sidequest can involve helping to repair the bond. However, that also leads into the discovery that something else is going on with Milika that threatens the trio’s bond. So while not every villager is going to have a portrait and elaborate story, like in Story of Seasons, Rune Factory, or Stardew Valley, there’s still some development for these ancillary cast members. It almost feels a bit more like a JRPG when it comes to interacting with community members not important enough to join your party or get a character portrait.
So really, Harvestella does a pretty good job of defining itself as its own thing, while still relying on familiar staples other farming sims possess. It definitely taps into what made series like Rune Factory and Story of Seasons special. But there are certain distinguishing features that accentuate its RPG-elements.
Harvestella is available for the Nintendo Switch and PC.