Harvest Moon has been an ocean of ideas — revisited a number of times in recent years — with games like Stardew Valley taking the world by storm, washing over players in a wave of nostalgia and excellent game design.
One such upcoming title coming, which takes inspiration from that classic franchise, is Monster Harvest, a top-down pixelated farming sim that looks, feels, and starts similarly to most titles in the genre. However, it mixes into the formula another notable piece of nostalgia: monster collecting and battling, similar to what you might expect from Pokemon.
Now, Monster Harvest is more closely related to other farming sims, but with an item known as slime, players can stimulate plant growth, turning flora into unique creatures that can help the protagonist around the farm.
I was able to go hands-on with a recent preview build of the game on PC. Here’s what I think of it so far.
Monster Harvest Hands-On Preview: Poke Valley
Waking up from that everlasting slumber known as “the start of every farming/romance simulator,” you’re given the opportunity to take over a farm from your uncle. With this stroke of agrarian luck, you pack up your dreary city life and become one with nature in Planimal Point. With a story as old as time (or gaming, I guess), Monster Harvest transplants the player to a town they know nothing about with neighbors who expect regular presents and pay very little for services.
While I jest about the tropes found in the genre, Monster Harvest does include many of the mechanics you’d expect from a game like this. You start by clearing your farm of the initial debris of rocks and trees before growing crops with your basic tools. That’s followed by slowly improving your farm and tools to allow for smoother daily routines and better quality vegetables.
Where things get unique is with the inclusion of the aforementioned slime that is spread onto crops. Based on the crop that gets oozed(?), you’re gifted a special animal friend that follows you around. You’ll be able to create up to 72 different mutations in Monster Harvest, all of which will help you in the fight against the wicked corporation, SlimeCo.
This twist to Monster Harvest makes things interesting enough to sway you away from the similarities to its genre cohorts, as the story focuses on your fight against this company. While that turn-based battling feels similar to other titles as well, it is an interesting divergence from the rest of the game, even if the auto-battling and slower style of it isn’t necessarily exciting.
For those diehards who are still in the market for their fully-fledged farming simulator, don’t fret — you’ll get plenty of what you’re digging for as well. Crafting allows you to build furniture for your customizable home, as well as items used across your farm. Piping and sprinklers allow for more efficient farms, and all the artisanal crops and products you’d want to work towards can also be found here in Monster Harvest.
All in all, Monster Harvest is coming to a genre that’s exploded over the past few years doing a lot of the things you’d expect it to do. However, it also adds in some new mechanics that make it a much more unique experience than what lies at the surface. There’s still a lot to learn about this one.
Monster Harvest is releasing on August 19, 2021, for PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Check back for our full review around that time.