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February 2023

Harvest Moon: One World

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Rising Star Games (EU), Natsume (US)
Release Date: March 2, 2021 (US), March 5, 2021 (EU)

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Switch/PS4/XOne Preview - 'Harvest Moon: One World'

by Andreas Salmen on Feb. 9, 2021 @ 9:00 a.m. PST

Fledgling farmers explore an entire world full of new and familiar faces, unique villages, and adventurous challenges while managing their growing farm.

Pre-order Harvest Moon: One World

Harvest Moon is the most recognizable name in the world of harvest sim games, but since its original developer and Natsume parted ways, the franchise was effectively split in two. Natsume continues to release titles under the Harvest Moon series, and the original creators have rebranded to Story of Seasons. With prominent indie newcomer Stardew Valley, the genre has become crowded. There have been a number of mainline titles and spin-offs under the Harvest Moon umbrella, but the critical reception has been waning. The newest game in the franchise, Harvest Moon: One World, looks to turn around that trend and goes head-to-head with the next Story of Seasons sequel, which releases around the same time. We sat down with Natsume for a brief presentation about what to expect from One World when it releases in early March.

One World handles the farming aspect differently. As the name suggests, we are now playing in a larger world as opposed to a single town. The map of One World contains five regions: the grasslands of Calisson, the snow-covered mountains of Salmiakki, the hills of Lebkuchen, the beaches of Halo Halo, and the hot desert of Pastilla. Naturally, that means our farm isn't tied to one place on the map but can be moved to any region throughout the game. Instead of the surprising farm inheritance and building a new life somewhere in the countryside, we are the last hope to recover and preserve the knowledge of the harvest goddess, who vanished without a trace. Before her untimely departure, she left knowledge about different seeds with the Harvest Wisps, which we now must seek out to unlock seeds to grow on the farm and to recover lost knowledge.

Between the five different towns, seeds to find with Wisps, and the ability to freely move around, One World has a clear focus on exploration and is willing to bend a few game mechanics to do so. One World is still a game where you can set goals and spend your time as you see fit without immediate time constraints. The base formula is intact, so you'll plant crops, raise animals, and marry a spouse. The only limit to what you can do has been your character's stamina, the time of day, and money.

This is where the newest entry grants more leeway to accommodate the new focus on exploration. While seeds can still be purchased, Wisps provide seeds for free with the caveat that they appear at specific times in certain places. There's even a handy search tool that shows you when and where Wisps will be available to grab the seeds that you desperately need. Having to search for Wisps late at night or exceptionally early hours also means that time and stamina aren't as restrictive as they used to be. The latter can be more easily recharged over the day, so searching out Wisps at ungodly hours isn't a punishing task. Most importantly, having an option to gain seeds for free encourages experimentation. Different fruit planted in different seasons and climates will eventually grant mutated crops to sell at a higher profit. A tomato nurtured in the desert region may become crimson, while one planted in snowy Salmiakki might yield an ice tomato.

Exotic locales and seeds naturally mean that there's an expanded roster of animals to acquire and care for, offering a bit more diversity. One World takes a more exotic turn with the inclusion of bears, camels, reindeer and tigers, to name a few. Some of them can be tamed and befriended instead of purchased, providing some benefits in return. For example, the camel is an excellent mount to travel across the land. Natsume promises One World to be its biggest Harvest Moon title to date both in depth and landscape diversity. Five different regions mean new animals and new region-specific events. Salmiakki has an Aurora festival, which isn't celebrated elsewhere. Not all events are immediately available to you; some must be revived first.

While One World is still mostly freeform, players must complete the story about the harvest goddess, and unlocking different regions is part of that effort. Essentially, the most significant innovations to the Harvest Moon formula are fast-travel to the different towns, moving your farm to these regions, and the Wisp system to acquire seeds. If you recover the local harvest Wisp, fast-travel to that region unlocks. The new regions also have a male and female bachelor each, so it's a choice of character as well as habitat.

This gameplay choice is intriguing because your field and crops remain stationary, enabling you to grow crops all over the world at the same time — and eventually mutate them to maximize output. The scientist Doc Junior, who you will meet early on, is responsible for the so-called Expandofarm, which enables you to pack up your farm and stable housings and move them anywhere in the world. He's also the trusty source for further farm upgrades and special gear, such as sprinklers, which could become vital given the prospect of handling multiple fields and crops across the game world.

While the short session wasn't enough to get a complete feel of how the new and adjusted mechanics work together, I'm curious to see if it will work out in the way that Natsume promises. Having a much larger world and choice of characters seems like a wonderful and logical next step for the franchise. If it's meaningful, exploration could be a fun addition to the chill gameplay, further rewarding rather than pushing players through the day to manage several exhaustive systems. I'm not sure how much these changes will affect the usual gameplay, but it looks like it's still Harvest Moon, only with a much broader scope. There seems to be more of everything in One World: animals, crop diversity, mines (three in total), region-specific fish, foraging items, etc.

Technically, Harvest Moon titles have usually settled for a cute but low-poly art style. One World moves in the right direction and seems to look visually identical across all three platforms, with all but the Switch running at 60fps (although the Switch version should manage more than 30fps in most scenarios). Overall, it looks decent, but its success is intrinsically tied to how the regions turn out and how much the exploration and free movement system benefit this gameplay style. I'm hoping for the best, and we can take an extended look once the title releases on the PS4 and Switch on Mar. 2.

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