Monster Harvest Review — Gotta Grow 'Em All!
Fans of the farming sim who grew up with the likes of Harvest Moon were spoiled with the release of Stardew Valley in 2016. With the genre reawakened, it only makes sense that indies and larger studios alike started to attempt to hit paydirt with their own revivals—latching onto the success Eric Barone was able to find with the once-beloved genre.
While there are plenty of iterations that play on Stardew Valley's mechanics without shame, copying nearly everything there is to copy, Monster Harvest attempts to take those building blocks and add on something unique by mashing the monster-catching and combat mechanics from the Pokémon series into this otherwise straight-laced farming title.
Although it does add an interesting twist to what could otherwise be called a Stardew Valley clone, Monster Harvest fails to really capitalize on the mechanics found in the Pokémon series by keeping things too simple to be truly engaging, while also staying too close to the game it takes inspiration from first and foremost.
Monster Harvest Review — Gotta Grow 'Em All!
Starting exactly as every classic farming sim has started since the dawn of time, Monster Harvest thrusts a wide-eyed city boy into the rustic farm life when a long-lost family member sends a letter — calling you to your true passion.
This time around it's an uncle who has let their farm get overgrown and in need of some serious elbow grease, where your character must jump in head first with no prior farming knowledge or experience. While your uncle can be found in this world, he's busy with his experiments and has given up the farm life himself (which is kind of ironic).
While the story is as cliché as they come, the twist of being able to raise your own Poké-like friends, known as Planimals, adds something new to an otherwise completely standard farming-sim tale.
The only really new mechanic that can be found in Monster Harvest is the monster-catching mechanics that have been discovered through your uncle's experiments with unusual slimes found in the area. Adding these slimes to basic crops can have varying effects, from mutated crops to farm animals, and the pièce de résistance—Planimal companions who will fight for you in the equivalent of Stardew Valley's mining/caves area.
While you work against an evil corporation looking to use this discovery for pure evil, you'll take these critters into the subterranean to duke it out with creatures found in the tall grass in classic Pokémon fashion.
Unfortunately, that's about where the interesting part of all this starts and ends, as the combat system is bare-bones and features very little in terms of excitement or real usefulness when paired with the game's other mechanics. It stands alone and fails to make a good impression.
Putting the new mechanics aside, and you have a serviceable farming sim that sticks to its roots more closely than you'd want. Looking and operating exactly like Stardew Valley, the cleanup of your farm, the process of farming and upgrading tools, and the system for selling crops and taking part in local events match up sickeningly close.
Besides utilizing the aforementioned slimes, you're playing a subpar version of Stardew Valley through and through. In those places where you'd find similar mechanics, they tend to not work as well as they did in previous iterations either.
Where Monster Harvest does stand on its own two feet is with its well-made visuals and soundtrack. The pleasant tunes found in this world are relaxing and match up perfectly for the sort of casual farming sim experience you would want. While the visuals are similar in their pixelated style, it does enough to look different to not feel like a total copycat.
While a few bugs here and there hamper the experience, it isn't anything that was enough of an issue to really make for a lesser experience. Performance, however, was great across the board with smooth frames and no hitches to be found.
Monster Harvest Review — The Bottom Line
- Great visuals and soundtrack help to keep things fresh
- If you want a farming sim like others you've played, this won't disappoint
- Attempts to set itself apart with unique mechanics...
- ...Those mechanics fail to come through as they feel incomplete
- Clichés and tropes keep it from feeling new at all
- Subpar experiences across the board
Monster Harvest wanted to follow the basic format found in the award-winning Stardew Valley while adding unique monster-catching and RPG mechanics found in Pokémon, and it succeeded in doing so.
The issue is that those baseline mechanics from the farming sim genre lack the depth and nuance you'd want to see for Monster Harvest to really be found among the greats, while also failing to capitalize on the new mechanics by making them lackluster and borderline boring.
For those just itching for another farming sim, you could do worse than Monster Harvest, but for all the potential that this one had, it's unfortunate that the only areas it excelled were in its visuals and soundtrack.
[Note: Merge Games provided a copy of Monster Harvest for this review.]