Although Harvest Moon’s original developer took off with the Northern Sun years ago, publisher Natsume continues to use the once-popular title gratefully. Harvest Moon: One World is another attempt to spotlight the series, promising a brand new game experience. In the end, little of that promise comes to fruition, and the overall quality of this farmhouse sim is downright sub-par.
First and foremost, little of the promised freedom comes to fruition. You can place your farm in multiple locations globally, but that sounds more interesting than the implementation. First of all, the locations are determined in advance and you are limited in your choices. The land that belongs to the location is not expandable, so you can never do more than colour within the lines. Then when you move your farm, your harvest will be left unattended. So you still have to return to maintain everything; otherwise, your crops will wither. You end up hanging on a very tight chain that makes it impossible to let go of your creativity. The freedom that Harvest Moon: One World promises is, therefore, nothing more than an illusion.
That lack of freedom also steers the management of your farm. For example, you cannot buy seeds for crops. You get this from Harvest Sprites, which may or may not be present on certain days. That affects your entire playstyle, from making money to growing important crops for side quests. You are at the mercy of randomness throughout the game, so you never find satisfaction in managing your own farm. That completely goes against the whole fun of farm simulations.
Graphically, the game disappoints enormously. While it is certainly a leap from the predecessor Harvest Moon: Light of Hope, the quality does not exceed the PlayStation 2 standard. Woody animations, lifeless environments, characters without any charm and low-quality textures are the order of the day. Also, the game performs poorly. The frame rate stutters, and even the audio stutters at the least load on the Nintendo Switch. That is technically and aesthetically unacceptable.
The story is also unacceptable. In the world of Harvest Moon: One World, only potatoes grow, and no one has any idea how to grow anything. At the start of the game, you’ll find a mysterious book featuring long-lost farming techniques, so now it’s up to you to add some variety. That in itself is not a bad premise, were it not that it makes no sense at all with the world view. For example, a resident who has been a farmer all his life tells you that he does not know how to provide his adult cows with fresh grass. Besides, the game regularly breaks the rules of its own story, making the whole thing unbelievable and disjointed.
NPCs in Harvest Moon: One World also fail to give the game any charm. The bachelors you can eventually marry are terribly silly stereotypes, with predictable dialogues and without any hint of personality. The rest of the residents are one-liner machines with uninspired names like “Thoughtful Woman” and “Awkward Man”. The dialogue box suggests that you can build a meaningful relationship with anyone. Still, even if you really could with NPCs outside of the bachelors, there is nowhere a meaningful connection to be found.
Even the basic elements of the genre, prepared by games like Stardew Valley and Story of Seasons, are sub-par. The day and night cycle is over way too soon, and even a little bit of walking will already bring down your extremely small stamina bar. You have to spend capital on essential tools, such as a hammer and an axe. On the other hand, you get grooming supplies for your animals for free almost immediately, while you can only buy them much later in the game. Your inventory remains too small for far too long, and the fast-travel options also shine in their absence for too long. Harvest Moon: One World manages to suck all the fun and relaxation out of the genre, leaving only a frustrating game.
Harvest Moon: One World falls short across the board. The game is sub-par and graphically unkempt at its core, with a crucial lack of charm. The elements that make the game unique are unfinished and show even more than the promised freedom is a sham. The fact that the game does not fascinate in any way turns out to be the last nail in the coffin. Harvest Moon: One World sows failure and frustration.
Harvest Moon: One World
Harvest Moon: One World delivers all of its elements below par, leaving nothing to keep the game afloat.