I never thought I would ever complain about a farming game being tedious.
Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns is tedious. This game feels like the developers looked at A Tale of Two Towns and asked, ‘What if we added one more town?’ And from that point on, ‘more’ became the central theme for the design of this game. There are more crops, more stats on crops to increase, more wild crops to pick up, more fertilisers, more food recipes, more item recipes; there are more animals, more items to be produced by animals, more things to make from animal byproducts, more recipes from the more crops and animal produces, more cloths and threads to make, more clothes to make, and more items to put on your farm. If you thought there use of ‘more’ is a bit too much in this paragraph, that is exactly how I feel when I am playing Trio of Towns.
There is a case to be made for having more stuff. You get more content for the $58 you paid! Why are you complaining? But is it though? Are we actually getting more by having more content? I will argue otherwise. Two points. There is little to no dynamism being added to the gameplay of Trio, and the moreness of the extra stuff alongside flaws in game design results in the entirety of the experience being less enjoyable.
First point. Consider you, a young, hopeful farmer starting up the best Harvest Moon game of all time, Harvest Moon 3D: A New Beginning, and you have 3 different crops and 2 different kinds of flower to grow and harvest in the first year of Spring. More are coming in the next year, bumping up the total to 5 crops and 3 flowers. Cool. And then you play its sequel and they bump up the number of crops and flowers. A tad boring, but the mechanics are a little more polished, and harvesting is sped up, so that’s fine. Then you play Trio, and they bumped up the number of crops and flowers. ANB introduced trees that do not need watering and they produce fruits during specific seasons, and there are 9 kinds of fruit trees in total. Trio has 16. ANB gave us water paddies to grow rice, lotus root and wasabi. Trio has sticky rice that grows in paddies too. ANB gave crops a star rating to make producing and using fertiliser a thing, and created a similar system for animals to produce better byproducts with treats. Trio has 11 kinds of fertilisers, 4 kinds of treats and 4 additional fodder/chicken feed types to imitate the effect of treats. Crops still grow the same. You still brush, milk, shear or pick up eggs from your animals. Fertiliser is thrown the same way, or you can wait an extremely long time for liquid fertiliser to be made so that you can… pour that on your plants just like how you do watering. With all the new things, nothing much has changed since the first Story of Seasons, which was a more restrictive but well-polished version of ANB. Why this may be enjoyable to anyone escapes me, but let’s just say when tulips in Stardew Valley bloomed into different colours randomly I was very impressed. It felt like the designer decide to include a crop to mean something. Like how corn crops in Stardew Valley could survive from Summer till Fall, a mechanic that the HM/SoS series has not thought of after 20 years. 1 point for Phil Fish it seems.
Second point. I do love the writing in all these games Marvelous put out, even after the translation work (or especially because of the translation work, I won’t know). However, because there are so many characters from the additional town, there are more dialogues, more events, and definitely more characters that are given less attention which I absolutely do not care about. The Bachelors and Bachelorettes are outstanding; Iluka, my lovely girlfriend, dropped me into a pitfall trap so that she can save me because I helped her that one time and she doesn’t want to feel like she owes me anything. Later, she dresses up as her twin sister to find out why I am not angry at her for it, and calls me an idiot with poor taste, which means that we were getting together a month later. Wayne is the town’s handsome boy who is nice, witty, smooth-talking, but has a strange weakness for yogurts. The cutscene for that reveal was both hilarious and memorable because of the writing and how it helped shape the character’s personality. Amongst the rest of the villagers are great ones like Ginjiro and literally nobody else. Miranda’s personality is that she is a shopkeeper and she sings. Alma’s personality is that she is someone’s daughter. Brad cooks stuff. Marco fishes. Omiya… goes to the tea house on certain days…? Then there are cutscenes and events with these zero dimensional moving polygons which are unskippable and drains a good chunk of your time in a game where there is already not enough time to water the ever-increasing number of crops and fertilise them with one of the 11 fertilisers. On top of that, because there is now so many lines of dialogue to translate, many have slipped under QC resulting in missing sentences, missing letters and missing fullstops And every time I walk into my East or West Farmlands I see the logo saying ‘Prince (my farm’s name) East Far’ or ‘Prince West Far’ popping up because they didn’t realise typing in 6 letters as a farm name will screw up that logo with a missing M at the back. I miss the extra farmland given to me as a result of good storytelling and not just dumped on me because reasons. There’s more writing, but there are less emotions, less meaning and hence I cared less about the story. I miss Eda.
I had wish for a new SoS game with never mechanics that are fun like how producing honeys, teas, fruits, fishes on your ANB farm was fundamentally different from traditional crop raising and animal rearing. I applaud the team for giving us more customisable options again in this game, but the farmlands are structured in strange ways that restrict on how farm layout can be creative and fun, because there are 13 unique non-pet animals to raise in the game and you need exactly 1 large coop, 2 large barns and 2 small barns to store one of each for their byproducts. And lo and behold, only the East Far(m)… has enough space for exactly 3 large coop/barns and 2 small ones. You cannot even add additional coop/barn to the map because the game just does not let you do that. And despite having more items to place on the farms to ease the boring fertiliser tossing process, the biggest plot of land given to you is in your cellar, which is not customisable.
I can go on, but unlike the devs, I actually have word limits on my reviews, and it will feel like going through similar points over again, much like planting crops that you interact with the exact same way just that now you have 10 more types in a single season which required so little programming because all they did was swap out the picture and that’s it. If No Man’s Sky made us sick of this More-dom in gaming, I dare say SoS: Trio of Town serves just as another warning against blatant moreness, in exchange for well thought out, handcrafted experiences.