The magic of a good farming RPG is that it takes the idea of chores and makes them fun. It’s a bit of design that takes a tight progression loop, satisfaction, and more than a little wizardry to pull off but when it all comes together, there’s no better genre.
Stardew Valley is the golden example of farming RPGs, swiping the crown away from the Harvest Moon franchise that created it all the way on the SNES. Yet Harvest Moon continues to release new entry every few years, despite a legal kerfuffle with the naming rights (technically, the original Harvest Moon games are actually part of Story of Seasons franchise now, it’s weird and complicated), and while the games have undoubtedly been pulling on that original formula… they’re not the fantastic franchise you remember playing.
The latest game in the franchise, Harvest Moon: One World, is sadly yet another disappointing installment that fails to capture the spirit of the genre and fails to provide any kind of entertainment within its barren world and disparate mechanics. If a farming RPG has managed to make chores feel like chores again, then it’s failed at doing its only job.
Harvest Moon: One World kicks off your adventure with the premise that the little town you’ve grown up in is only able to grow potatoes. To solve the problem (or non-problem depending what your stance on chips is) your character will venture across the world with the help of Vitae, one of the Harvest Spirits you need to rescue, and eventually reawaken the slumbering harvest goddess.
Nothing special, it’s a premise used to establish that classic JRPG setting of discovering a range of different towns suffering from some kind of problem and then helping them fix their issue. Frankly, it’s neither engaging nor enjoyable as just about every character you meet has a personality more wooden than the local barn. While they have their own quirks, they’re the kind of surface-level differentiation that makes them feel disposable; they feel like hollow shells that have been painted with a thin coat of emotion rather actual people.
Characters simply stand in one spot and wait for Protagonist McHero to walk into the room and solve the problem only to phase out of existence when they’re finished talking. Half the point of a farming RPG is the characters that occupy the town(s), who go about their own in-game lives outside of yours. These husks feel like they’ve been pulled from a bad JRPG.
When you get into actually farming and building up your collection of crops, that’s when the game shows a hint of promise… right before it takes that potential and forgets to water it for a week. Harvest Moon: One World wants to force players to explore the world which is fine. Cool. I’m used to setting up a farm and building up that home base but I’m willing to go with you on this.
You’ll be uprooting your farm to relocate to the nearest town-in-peril you’ve discovered just so you can be closer to the action but in doing so you lose all your crops. That sucks, I know. So I’ll just pop down to the local store and purchase some more seeds, right? Nope, you can’t actually purchase the seeds for a crop unless you’ve sold enough of it, the number either being rather low or exceptionally high depending on how common it is.
To get seeds, you’ll need to run around the world, which is largely barren, empty, and boring, and find Harvest Sprites to give you seeds. They spawn all over the place at different parts of the day and while you can drop a map marker for the seed you’re looking for, I found this system to be a massive pain.
I understand wanting to turn seed purchases into a reward, a simplification of what you’ve been doing, but it takes a painfully long time to get to that point. Every day you’ll have to use your limited energy to run around the world and hope you managed to catch the right sprite for that seed you need for that one request and because the map is so poorly designed with nothing filling it’s vast swathes of nothing, you’ll become bored with the loop very quickly.
In a farming RPG, purchasable seeds being an unlock late down the progression tree was a poor design decision that removes all the fun in dumping some cash on a resource, growing them out, and them selling them at a major profit.
It’s not just the actual farming that’s been turned into a slog… everything has! Mining is one of the most boring activities I’ve played in a game for ages now as it just involves running around a somehow even more empty mine tunnel and smashing rocks until a hole spawns and you move to the next floor. There’s no challenge involved, it’s simply a past-time that’s seemingly designed to waste your time under the guise of resource collection. Same for fishing, as the only input to actually catch a fish, is a tap of the “A” button followed by a mashing of the same button. It’s tedious and adds nothing to the experience.
I haven’t even mentioned how bad this game looks. Seriously, there are better-looking mobile games out there. In fact, Harvest Moon: One World looks like a game that was meant to release on a mobile phone back in 2014. Textures are just copy/pasted, animations are so basic they may as well be non-existent and to top it all off, this has done nothing for the game’s performance which still drops to a choppy framerate every once in a while all the assets pop in after a quick journey. Every aspect of the game’s presentation feels completely phoned in.
Which I suppose could be said for Harvest Moon: One World as a complete product: Phoned in. Nothing about this game feels like the people behind it actually wanted to make it. The farming is stale, the side-activities are boring, the character and story are wooden and it looks completely out of date compared to modern Switch games. There are much better farming RPGs available on consoles; I mentioned Stardew Valley at the top of this very review. Go and play one of those because One World feels like a game that was made just to retain the naming rights of the game. It’s both painfully disappointing and boring in equal measure.
Last Updated: March 15, 2021