Harvestella wants to be a jack of two trades, but a master of neither. Part action-RPG, part farming/life simulation, this combination can be enjoyable at times, but the two genres often clash. The result is a dull grind that’s more likely to repel fans of each genre than bring them together.
As an amnesiac warrior, you wake up on the outskirts of a quaint village, unaware of your origins and purpose. Four powerful, monolithic crystals called celites control the picturesque continent’s environmental stability, namely its seasons. However, a deadly fifth season called Quietus occurs between each of the four normal seasons, wiping out crops and endangering humans. This strange normalcy is turned untenable when the Sea of Light begins behaving erratically, seemingly fueled by the mysterious arrival of Aria, a young scientist from the distant future. Like you, Aria has no idea how she got here, so you partner up to discover your respective origins while combating a global crisis. Oh, and making a cool farm too.
To its credit, the plot is engaging in its absurdity. In typical JRPG fashion, the mystery gradually becomes more grand and disjointed as it is revealed. While most of it is silly, I found some of it boring. A Revelation made me laugh out loud at how bizarre it is, and I can’t help but respect Harvestella’s willingness to take some wild turns while sprinkling in some poignant moments. A sizable band of likable party members, like a smooth-talking inventor, an AI-powered robot, and a talking unicorn, join the primary pair, but you’ll largely spend little to no face-to-face time with them. Let’s spend As such, you don’t often see everyone hanging out together, and when they do, the lack of group chemistry is both noticeable and frustrating. It’s like inviting a group of good friends who know you, but not each other, to hang out.
Harvestella promotes two styles of play but feels more like an action-RPG first and then a farming game. Gameplay consists of running through bland dungeons and hacking enemies, crafting ingredients and collecting materials along the way. A robust job system offers a variety of playstyles, but I only gravitate towards a few of them. My favorites include the nimble, combo-focused Shadow Walkers and the Dancing Floating Blades of the Pilgrim class. Other jobs, like Mechanic and the singing-focused Woglinde, aren’t as fun to use, and the game rarely encouraged me to experiment before settling on my favorites. Even with the classes and attacks I enjoyed, the combat is moderate, and the bosses are either pushovers or extremely cheap.
Farming fans won’t find much unique about Harvestella. You plant crops on plowed land that can be increased in size several times, process food using machines, but you only domesticate two animal species. Farms change with the seasons, which change every 30 days, and some foods can only grow during specific times of the year. The Quietus, which only lasts a day, destroys crops, but I found it easy to plan for, making it potentially less dangerous than intended.
Like warfare, farming only seems viable, but is vital to success. Selling crops is one of the few ways to earn money. You also need a full pantry to make a variety of dishes. Eating keeps you full, which increases your stamina bar. This meter controls actions such as farming, sprinting, and even executing special attacks. Health is also replenished by eating, often in large amounts depending on the dish. However, you can’t eat if you’re full, which becomes an infuriating obstacle during tough battles. Since traditional health potions don’t exist, you’ll be creating all of your recovery items. Doing so takes time which feeds Harvestella’s biggest nuisance: the clock.
Harvestella operates on an in-game day/night cycle that progresses faster than you’d expect, in 10-minute increments. Night starts at 6 PM, and your character goes to sleep at 10 PM, which slows their stamina recovery. Thus, returning home to crash on your bed—and only your bed, since you can’t sleep in many of the inns in the game—is important. Your hero collapses from exhaustion from being out after midnight, sending them back home. Clicking through a single skippable cutscene leads to exhaustion or death at the oppressively steep cost of paying exorbitant doctor’s fees. It’s a disgusting punishment that’s too harsh for its own good.
Since you have to drop everything to return home every night, progress becomes a massively slow grind. You have to stop before dungeon crawling and start again the next day. Getting to a place on the world map consumes precious minutes until faster means of travel open up. Even after finding shortcuts and fast-travel checkpoints, you replay sections of the dungeon over and over again until you reach uncharted territory. Doing so inevitably depletes your food supply, so you’ll need to set aside time to cook in advance. Doing the dishes eats up a large portion of the day, limiting time for adventure. Running out of cooking ingredients means growing more of them, as only a handful of staples can be bought. This means waiting at least a few days for crops to replenish, then making enough food to go back to a dungeon and repeat the cycle again.
This framework effectively makes it impossible for the story to progress for very long. There is often so much work that has to be done beforehand that I was often lucky to have enough daylight to pursue my intended mission. What disappointed me the most was when the plot took an interesting turn, and I wanted to see what happens next. This is a terrible form of gating, because no matter how powerful or well equipped I am, progress is hindered. In some cases, it may take several days of work and preparation to complete a basement floor.
When I didn’t have enough time in the day to complete a story mission, Harvestella offers plenty to do outside of the main narrative and farming. Lots of multi-chapter sidequests await, though most of them involve reading long conversations, completing a basic combat encounter, or running tedious errands. These missions aren’t great, despite some interesting storylines, but the game makes them worthwhile, for better or for worse. Side missions provide lots of cash, important recipes, blueprints, and seeds. To my sadness, getting as much done as possible became a necessary evil. I preferred the party bonding missions, in which I learned about the troubles my teammates were having to help them through unique stories. These quests were at least more interesting and I was rewarded with enhanced physical perks, such as greater strength, defense, etc., practically requiring them to play.
While it runs well, Harvestella also suffers from graphical glitches that feel choppy at times. Specifically, a weird bug where half of the screen sometimes flickered a solid color, whether docked or in handheld mode. The game also doesn’t look great on large screens due to its low-resolution textures and models.
Harvestella’s systems feed together in a way that forces you to engage with almost everything, whether you want to or not. But those slice-of-life activities are mundane and get in the way of you enjoying the RPG elements on your own terms. Maxing out a day’s schedule is sometimes rewarding, but the sluggish pacing makes it difficult to engage for long periods of time. Harvestella forces you to do a lot to accomplish relatively little. At 70-80 hours, it’s one of the biggest I’ve played. It’s unfortunate because the combat, story and characters are good enough that, in a more traditional RPG framework, they would shine brighter. As it stands, squeezing this fruit isn’t always worth its small amount of juice.