Farming Simulator games capture many players’ imaginations. Whether it’s the ultra-realistic Farming Sim franchise or the cutesy Harvest Moon type game, there is something for everyone. I admit I regularly get swept up in the hype surrounding these types of games, so I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to play Monster Harvest. It’s a hybrid of Stardew Valley, Rune Factory, and Pokémon, so in theory, what’s not to like?
Developed by Maple Powered Games and published by Merge Games, this is a cute farming simulator. Set in a colourful world, you must run a farm, grow Planimals and battle your neighbours and wild creatures.
Monster Harvest has a very generic plot.
Chances are that if you are reading this review, you’ve already played many of the market-leading titles. If that is the case, you’ll be disappointed to hear that Monster Harvest comprises a very generic storyline! You control a boy or girl who must turn around the fortunes of a rundown farm. You will clear the land, till the soil, plant seeds, and run your newfound business.
So, nothing new there! However, this is the moment of the grand reveal….your uncle (a mad scientist) has harnessed the power of slime. This wonderful discovery allows people to grow Planimals (plants + animals, you see what they did there?). He wants you to spend your time working the farm whilst also investigating the local slime company, Slimeco. This is Monster Harvest’s overarching plot in a nutshell. It may be well-trodden, yet, let’s not write it off because it lacks originality.
Cold interactions and the usual town setup.
This genre is renowned for the many interactions you have with the locals. This heartwarming mechanic makes you feel part of the community and creates additional side quests. However, none of that is true in this title. Conversations with your neighbours do build rapport, but there is no indication that it changes the gameplay. You are never presented with gifts or love, and there are certainly no additional tasks. Subsequently, the time spent in the village feels cold and heartless. This was truly disappointing, as I enjoy building relationships, yet, sadly, this key element was missing.
Another element that appears too generic and safe was the ‘normal’ selection of shops. Purchasing goods for everyday use was only a click away, but it never wowed me. I hoped that the main concept would evolve beyond its safe limitations, but it never did. You’ll purchase food and seeds to keep you going throughout, yet this is more out of necessity than a desire to be the best farmer. A vast selection of seasonal seeds can be selected and grown to sell, eat, grow hybrid plants, or cooked once you get the relevant tools.
Turn-based combat and no daily timer.
Growing Planimals should have been Monster Harvest’s saving grace, yet it never takes off. Sadly, this is because the combat is unrewarding, mainly. Arena-like battles take place in a five-floored dungeon and against three locals every Friday. The latter eventually leads to the main fight that isn’t worth the effort. The dungeon that is far too small to be the centre of all the action does at least offer some challenge. Each turn-based fight asks you to take on wild creatures with your homegrown talent. Victory rewards you with resources, XP, and seeds, and little else. Defeat, however, results in you losing your beloved Planimals. Subsequently, the small amount of effort isn’t rewarded, and you are left feeling deflated.
Where Monster Harvest stands out against its peers is the bizarre choice to remove the daily countdown. You can spend as much or as little time as you wish on each day as long as you have stamina. Theoretically, this is an excellent idea, but in reality, removing this restriction gives you too much free rein. The developers had an all-or-nothing attitude, and this proves that less is definitely more.
You can mark your progress with festivities and the aforementioned weekly fights. Less said about the fights, the better and probably the same can be said about each seasonal event. These limp affairs will pale in comparison to its peers, and you’ll be wondering how the developers missed the mark so drastically.
Monster Harvest looks retro, cute, and colourful.
For all its shortcomings, Monster Harvest has excelled in its visuals. I loved its cool retro style, pixelated imagery and vivid colour palette. This is exactly what I hoped to experience when I saw it first advertised, and I wasn’t disappointed. Sadly, though, for its great style, the gameplay is loaded with bugs and glitches. I had performance issues galore and the game repeatedly crashed. For a title that isn’t hardware heavy, I expected it to be much more stable.
The audio is also presented as expected. The calm and serene music allows you to calmly work the fields. However, it increases with pace and aggression during battle scenes. I enjoyed the change in tone and style and this helped to keep the standard gameplay from becoming boring. I liked the sound effects and the basic yet effective noises matched each action and weather front.
An easy to control farming sim.
With many tasks to complete, this had the chance to be complicated. Fortunately, a well laid out set-up and responsive buttons make Monster Harvest easy to play. Sadly, what isn’t so easy to understand are the additional mechanics such as the Planimals. These elements could be easily overlooked by new players to the genre and the developers should have made the basics clearer.
This genre usually oozes replay value and you’ll struggle to put down a moreish title. This can’t be said for Monster Harvest, as the story is short and the core concept doesn’t evolve. It’s a shame, as it has plenty of potential, but it fails to deliver on what should be an excellent title.
Monster Harvest isn’t bad. It simply can’t compete with its peers.
This review has a negative vibe, and this isn’t because Monster Harvest is bad. No, it simply can’t compete with its peers. It fails to highlight its unique selling point, and this damages its potential. It has so much going for it, yet it’s comfortable to never excel in any area. There are better examples from the genre, and I don’t recommend this one. However, if you want a copy, it can be purchased here! Run your farm, grow your crops, and defeat every Planimal you encounter.