I love it when games blend genres. It’s something that’s pretty common in other media, but for video games I feel it can have a more transformative effect than it can in other works. That’s because game mechanics can fundamentally change how you interact with the game’s world. But sometimes, the game mechanics between two genres are so close, I can’t help but think, “damn, why hasn’t anyone done this sooner?” That’s the case for Monster Harvest, but despite its multi-genre potential, it ends up being a hodgepodge of poorly developed ideas.
Monster Harvest is a farming life and monster collecting game, a sort of mash-up between Stardew Valley (or Harvest Moon) and Pokémon. The concept had me immediately excited: and to be truthful, it still has some potential. But the execution in Monster Harvest leaves a lot to be desired. There are two basic components to Monster Harvest: the farm sim, and the monster collecting and fighting. While it definitely has a Pokemon feel, I’d say that Monster Harvest leans more towards Stardew Valley—but a basic, pared back version with none of the charm.
Most of Monster Harvest revolves around your farm. You grow crops to sell so you can upgrade your house and your player’s inventory, and buy better tools—all of the staples you would expect. It even starts you out on a plot that’s full of rocks and trees to trim down. Except everything in Monster Harvest feels incredibly grindy, and it does little to ease you into the game. You can almost immediately see the high dollar signs and the long grind ahead. On top of this, your character runs out of energy so quickly and has to rest so often, especially in the first few hours, it’s just not fun. I thought that the farming sim, then, was just going to be a means to collect your monsters.
Instead of collecting monsters—called planimals—you have to grow them, enhancing your crops with different types of slime. There are different seeds to collect, some of which are only able to be planted during one of Monster Harvest’s three seasons, with different seeds yielding different plants and therefore different monsters. You can mutate each of these plants with different slime for different results. These different planimals work a little bit like Pokémon, inasmuch as they follow you around and will battle monsters for you. But the battle system is extremely simple, and disappointing.
Monster Harvest can be occasionally frustrating to play, too. I loathed the UI. It’s useable, but intrusive and ugly. In fact, most of Monster Harvest is a tad on the unsightly side, but I try not to hold a game’s graphics against it unless it impedes gameplay. The UI, on the other hand, is ungainly and manages to give too much information while also not giving all the info I’d want. It’s also nearly unusable with a controller at times, making me switch between using a mouse and keyboard and controller. Neither control scheme felt right.
Monster Harvest is a game that has a ton of great ideas, but should have released in Early Access. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just rough around the edges, and sometimes painful to play. It suffers from having too many ideas, with none of them implemented in an entirely satisfactory way. This isn’t a game for people who love Pokemon, nor will it satisfy someone who wants to play Stardew Valley. It ends up sitting between the two in terms of appeal, being unable to make it worth playing on its own merits alone.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review.
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