There are times when an idea seems sound. Take what we love from monster raising and training games, then combine that with farming sims. Some games already played around with the idea, like Ooblets and Re:Legend. Some might even argue there’s a bit of that in Rune Factory, what with people able to tame monsters in dungeons to act as livestock, assistants, or partners in battle. Monster Harvest is a game that clearly tries. But the lack of balancing, quality of life features, and Switch specific needs means Monster Harvest feels like it needed more time to grow.
Like many farming games, Monster Harvest begins with the player moving to a new, quaint town as a result of a family member. In this case, your uncle is Professor Spark. He’s a scientist who discovered planimals, plant animals grown from crops. You move to Planimal Point, the village named after the new lifeforms, to help with his research. A small, rather empty house is provided for you, there are plots of land to clear and till, and it’s up to you to grow both crops and planimals with special slimes, fulfill requests, and essentially make a life for yourself.
The problem is that right from the start, Monster Harvest feels unbalanced. The stamina system needs retooling. You don’t know how much energy any activity will take until you do it and learn for yourself. And then even when you do know how much it entails, it also means reconciling yourself to the fact that watering a plant will use as much stamina as tilling a plot of land or taking down trees. Yes, the expectation is that every action you take will require energy, but games like Stardew Valley and Story of Seasons succeed by knowing that all actions aren’t equally exhausting. You don’t have to worry about time passing, but running out of energy is an issue. Also, from my experience, it seemed like selling food rather than consuming it was a better use of it, due to how much you’d recover. So until you can start irrigating your crops, it can take quite a bit of time to go from surviving to thriving.
Also once you do start growing some planimals, you also have to worry about keeping them alive. This isn’t a game where you have the luxury of getting attached to your companions. The dungeons might actually be a bit challenging as you’re first finding your way. There is something of a boon to it. If the character actually managed to gain some levels, the Heartslime they leave behind could be used on the soil to ensure your next planimals will be at that level when they grow. But I still felt a bit bad to know a character I went to the effort of growing and raising would perhaps be so disposable, even with knowing my next harvest would be a better one.
Another thing that keeps Monster Harvest from being its best is that it just doesn’t feel good on the Switch. The Switch is a fantastic system for farming games. And plenty appeared on other systems here, but have adjusted or optimized controls and UIs. Monster Harvest… doesn’t. The font is incredibly small and difficult to read in handheld mode. Navigating your inventory is cumbersome, and good luck trying to take one or two items out of a stack of them. The game crashed on me, which isn’t fun when you’re invested and keeping to a schedule. Also, for a game where selling planimals can be a source of money, it would be helpful to have a prompt showing how much you’d get before you committed to the decision.
Then… there are the bugs. For full disclosure, I didn’t get past the second season in Monster Harvest on the Switch because of them. You use blue slime to make livestock, which are supposed to grow up. Except they don’t. There’s a bug keeping that from happening. I stopped playing because my save, which previously was working, wouldn’t load.
Monster Harvest is unfortunately a game that needed more time to grow, especially on the Switch. There are so many problems with it right now. Some of them make things more difficult than they need to be. Others are bugs that make it downright unpleasant or impossible. Maybe in a few weeks or months it might be worth someone’s time. But it needs more time.
Monster Harvest is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.