Game Review: Pioneers of Olive Town
I am no stranger to farming sims, and I consume them with vigor. I’ve noticed their popularity rising over the past few years, with more titles released on PC and Nintendo Switch than years ago when the original Harvest Moon games surfaced. My absolute favourites boil down to Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life (AWL), which was released on Nintendo Gamecube several years ago, and the slightly more recent and well-known Stardew Valley, developed by Concerned Ape. When it comes to the newer revamp of the Harvest Moon franchise, Story of Seasons (SoS),I can’t help but find it devoid of the same maturity and charm that the original titles possessed. Pioneers of Olive Town, or PooT, is the newest addition to the lineup, and for the first time in a while I found myself pouring hours into this addicting farming sim. It combines many of the fun elements of the previous SoS games, while adding more dynamic and addictive gameplay. It still doesn’t top the originals, but I can happily get behind it.
Compared to the more recent Story of Seasons games, Pioneers of Olive Town has a more fast-paced nature while still keeping that “island farm feel” present. I was able to make a decent amount of money even in the first season, but the fun factor was still present and there was a daily routine to the process. The grind for money in this game keeps it addictive, with a huge amount of craftable items available early on as you level up your skills. There are tons of character cutscenes throughout the game that reveal more about the quirky townsfolk of Olive Town as you become closer to them. However, the depth and emotions so far have not come close to Stardew Valley and AWL, which both touched base on darker subjects such as alcoholism, abusive relationships, life and death and deeper character insecurities which made the games so much more memorable and relatable.
The daily grind in PooT is one of the cornerstones of the game. One of my favourite tasks is creating “makers” to hoard materials. I quickly learned that this is the key to moving forward in PooT, as you require an abundance of wood, ores, and other materials to expand your farm and town, a mechanic similar to previous titles. I do miss the soundtrack quality from both Stardew Valley, and A Wonderful Life, and I’m finding myself playing PooT with the background music nearly off so I can experience the sounds of nature in the game rather than the slightly bland soundtrack.
The animal and pet designs in PooT are beyond adorable, and is one of the aesthetics that appealed to me in the game trailer before it was released. Having your pet go on “walks” with you is a surprisingly satisfying experience. There are also more ways to interact with your pet than ever before, like giving treats, playing with a toy ball, and more. With the farm animals, you no longer have to purchase additional shears and milkers for your cows, sheep, and other wool-bearing animals, which I found refreshing and is part of what makes this game a little more fast paced, leaving room in your bag for more items. You can also store your tools on hand in a separate tool bag, allowing you to forage the landscape to your heart’s content.
Would I say that Pioneers of Olive Town is my favourite farming sim ever? I would have to say no. Part of what makes me love A Wonderful Life and Stardew Valley is the deeper subject material, moving soundtracks, and overall maturity of each game that pairs nicely with the grind of farming. I still feel nostalgic remembering my gaming experiences with each one. That being said, PooT is still super addicting and fun to play, and I can’t deny the many hours I have already invested. PooT has familiar game mechanics with an updated pace that keeps you wanting to level up even further and keep playing, and the pets are beyond cute. For what it is, PooT is a great title that combines all the fun of the previous SoS games with its own quirks. Definitely give it a try if you love passive style games like Animal Crossing and previous farming sims.