Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town was revealed back in October last year and it is just a few weeks away for Nintendo Switch in the West. The newest mainline Story of Seasons game and second entry on Nintendo Switch following the excellent remake Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town brings back some features from earlier games and adds its own flair. In the lead up to the Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town Nintendo Switch release date in the West, I’ve been playing it for preview and here’s what you need to know about the first new Story of Seasons game built for Nintendo Switch.
In the 20 hours I’ve played across two save files (trying out both difficulty options), there’s a lot to like in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town but also some aspects that have been disappointing so far.
When it comes to your own character, Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town has a lot of customisation options and much more than I expected for a game like this. Once I created my character and settled into the farm in Olive Town, I was surprised at how big the area around the farm was and how much freedom you get right from the get go as you settle into your own routine.
Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town was one of the most relaxing games I’ve played on Nintendo Switch and Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town manages to follow that up well albeit with some technical issues I’ll get to in a bit. Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is a big step up when it comes to visuals with many parts of the game looking gorgeous while some feel a bit inconsistent with the rest of the aesthetic.
Barring the nice character creation options, I really like the fishing minigame in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town. Fishing is a very important part of most games for me and I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more time fishing than just about anything else during my spare time here. Fishing has always been relaxing in games and my only complaint with fishing in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town is the lack of rumble or vibration feedback which also applies to a lot of other areas of the game.
One surprising change here is how you can almost ignore farming altogether if you’d like to which feels weird considering this is a Story of Seasons game. In giving players freedom (to some degree), Marvelous has made it so you can focus on just about anything you want to here as long as you mine and cut trees. Mining and cutting trees are by far the most important parts of Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town early on as you need a ton of lumber and ingots to progress through upgrades and unlocking new areas.
That leads to the next focus of the game, Makers. Makers are little furnace-like things that process various raw materials or ingredients into ingots, processed food, lumber, threads, and more. You definitely need to focus on these right from the get go if you want access to more locations near your farm. The problem with makers is that you can only craft or process one item at a time which makes the routine feel like a chore when it shouldn’t. I ended up having about 30 makers on a part of my farm to just be able to upgrade tools and make a good amount of money at a steady pace.
Interacting with people in the town is a joy thanks to an excellent English localisation so far with even some nice voice snippets. The characters are charming and I haven’t gotten bored of talking to people after a few hours like in Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
While I’ve enjoyed many things about Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town, the biggest problems it has right now are to do with performance, load times, and using tools. Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town ran at a near locked 60fps all the way. Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town struggles to even maintain 30fps with it stuttering even in the early parts of gameplay when you don’t really have a big farm or a lot of makers. Once I had built up a decent number of makers and planted a lot of crops on the farm, the game constantly ran badly (even on the newest update version 1.0.2) near my house. A lot of the performance issues remind me of those seen in My Time at Portia when it comes to the stuttering and loading.
Barring the performance issues, load times are the biggest problem. Going inside and outside your house or to town from your farm has a longer than usual loading screen. Even dealing with items in the museum will have you sit through multiple loading screens. I hope these can be improved closer to launch or in post-launch updates because having to go back home to bring something to town or to a shop is annoying when you have to sit through multiple loading screens on the way there and back.
The lack of precision movement or hitbox uncertainty with tools is also an issue. You can only aim and move with the analog stick and there’s no way to lock your direction while you move back and forth to plant or water in a specific line like you can in other games. It also doesn’t help that I often end up using a tool 1 square away thanks to how the analog stick behaves. I had this problem docked with a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller and handheld on a Nintendo Switch Lite. I never had trouble like this using tools in any Story of Seasons or Rune Factory 4 before. I really hope this eventually does get fixed.
The music in Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town so far is catchy and perfectly suits the game and the characters. There are some upbeat tunes but I’m very pleased with what I’ve heard in the time I’ve been playing it. Even some of the events and character themes are much better than I expected.
While the lack of any sort of rumble feedback is disappointing, I appreciate Marvelous adding in touchscreen support for the interface. You obviously can’t actually play Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town with only the touchscreen but it is a great addition for when I played in portable mode on both Nintendo Switch and Nintendo Switch Lite.
Overall, after 20 hours played across two different save files, I can’t wait to play more of Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town despite the aforementioned issues. I’m hopeful that things improve with patches and that some of the glaring omissions when it comes to quality of life features are addressed because this has the potential to be the best Story of Seasons game. I’ll have a full review of Story of Seasons: Pioneers of Olive Town closer to release but for now, I’m going back to the mines while my makers ready up some rubies for me.
A copy of this game was provided to us by the publisher for this preview.