Like so many others, I was one of those gamers who sunk a ton of hours into Stardew Valley, the breakout farming sim that revitalized the genre. Having spent about 100 hours in that charming world, I found myself on the hunt for more games that hit the sweet spot between farming routines, making friends, and exploring dungeons.
You can imagine my excitement then when I saw Monster Harvest. A game that combines farming, dungeon crawling, and creatures not unlike Pokemon that you can bring with you for turn-based battles. It’s a winning combination on paper, but does it translate into the ultimate monster mash? Let’s find out.
A Familiar Set of Ideas With a Slow Start
While Monster Harvest combines several great ideas in its premise, it also borrows heavily from the games that inspired it. Upon first starting the game, you can choose from a few character variations, but there’s not much customization to be found.
You arrive on your Uncle’s farm after receiving a letter from him (sound familiar?), but in Monster Harvest your Uncle is alive and well. He’s been experimenting with slime, which is an integral part of the town, and no longer has time to run his farm.
After a simple introduction, you’re sent off to begin the process of breaking rocks, chopping logs, cutting down trees, and the usual first steps in any farming sim. It’s all very similar, but it is possible to get a glimpse of future opportunities as you explore your farmland. Specified locations for various structures give you a glimpse of what’s to come.
Of course, you have al limited pool of stamina, so those early days in the game are going to be short and very similar to one another. When you go to sleep, you’ll have the option to sleep until nightfall and regain a portion of your stamina, or you can sleep until morning.
The reason for this choice comes down to the game’s other half. As part of the storyline, you soon find out that the local slime that’s used for all manner of things also has the ability to mutuate your crops into “Planimals.” Slime comes in three colors, Red, Green, and Blue.
Red slime will turn your crops into Planimals when they’re full grown, based on the plant. Green slime will speed up the growth process so you don’t have to wait, and blue slime will turn your crops into livestock or a mount depending on whether it’s the upgraded variation.
There are a respectable number of Planimals to mutuate and harvest, though again, things start fairly slow. Eventually you’ll be able to take six of them along with you into the dungeon, but you can only enter it once per day and at night, hence the option to sleep through the daylight hours.
Interestingly, Planimals die permanently when they fall in combat, but they do drop a sort of essence that allows you to upgrade your soil, and progress carries over to new versions you mutate, but it’s a darker take on the Pokemon concept for sure. Of course, if they never died then the farming would become less valuable as time goes on.
The turn-based combat and dungeon exploration is basic, but it works, and it helps the game stand out from its other mechanics, which are very, very similar to Stardew Valley, right down to the dropbox on your farm to place items you wish to sell.
Where Monster Harvest falls short the most is the social aspect of the game. The townsfolk are present and it’s possible to get to know them while also earning benefits like in-game discounts, but they don’t have the same detail or charm that you would expect from this type of game.
Presentation Issues Fixed by a Day-1 Patch
Monster Harvest didn’t make the best first impression for me, due to a known issue that has since been fixed in a day-1 patch. Without this patch, the game’s HDR blows out the colors and contrast in a way that makes it very uncomfortable to play from a visual standpoint.
I felt like I was going to get a headache, so I had to postpone a majority of my playtime until closer to launch, which is never ideal. That being said, when the patch hit, the game looked significantly better. The final launch code has great use of color and just enough vibrancy to really help the pixel art pop on the screen. The music is also appropriately relaxing, but not too invasive during long play sessions.
Monster Harvest is one of those games that takes a little too much from the games that inspired it, and while the combination is unique, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve done all this before. Even so, for those who need a new farming sim in their lives, Monster Harvest is sure to scratch that itch.
Final Score: 7/10
A copy of Monster Harvest was provided by Microsoft for review purposes
Article by – Bradley Ramsey
Insert date – 8/31/2021