Games about escaping to an idyllic country life feel more appropriate than ever right now.
I mean, who doesn’t want to run away from the hellfire of real life to go work on a farm, where your only real concern is when your strawberry cow is going to give birth? Not being an option in real life, however, thank the heavens for Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, where we can do exactly that.
A remake of a 2003 Game Boy Advance game – back when the series was still known as Harvest Moon – Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, like most games of its type, sees you inherit a run-down farm from your late grandfather. So off to Mineral Town you go, where you’ll be planting crops and rearing animals in no time. Or you will, once you get the hang of things.
“You have no specific quests or goals to work towards; your farm is your oyster”
Friends of Mineral Town likes to leave you to your own devices. Tutorial guides pop up occasionally, and you can revisit them at any time, but for the most part, you’ll be figuring things out by yourself. It’s not so much of a problem; the basics are easy to get to grips with. You’ll buy seeds, plant them, water them every day, then harvest them once they’ve grown. You have no specific quests or goals to work towards; your farm is your oyster, and your only objective seems to be earn money and expand your farm.
That’s both a blessing and a curse. It means you’re free to tackle Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town however you see fit; you can work to your own schedule, with only the changing of seasons every 30 in-game days dictating what crops you can and cannot grow. But progress also feels painfully slow. Watering crops is an energy-consuming activity, and you’ll likely find yourself exhausted just by doing that. Then you’ve got animals to care for; talking to them every day and grooming larger animals ensures you’ll eventually form a bond with them – but eventually is the key word here.
“You’ll likely need to play several hours of Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town before you start to feel like you’re making any real progress”
The better your bond with your animals, the better the produce they’ll give you. Chickens lay bigger eggs, cows give more milk, and alpacas give better quality wool. But even after an in-game year, where you’ve fed and nurtured your animals every day, you’ll find yourself having nowhere near a full bond.
The same goes for the townsfolk of Mineral Town. Like Stardew Valley, you can talk to other residents, give them gifts and nurture bonds with them. Eventually, you can start dating, and even marry and start a family. But talking seems to have very little effect. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel like giving away gifts to people who don’t seem to want to get to know me in the first place.
Then again, that’s part of the experience of playing Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town. It’s up to you. You don’t have to give gifts if you don’t want, but in not doing so, you may miss out on key events in game.
In order to upgrade your farm and your farming tools, you’ll need to do more than just tend to your crops and your animals, too. You’ll find a mine close by to your field, where you’ll be able to mine ore. This is necessary to upgrade your tools; for instance, an upgraded watering can allows you to water more crops at once. And an upgraded hammer allows you to break bigger rocks and boulders, many of which litter your farm. Like anything in the game, upgrading and gathering the resources you need takes time.
“You have to work hard for your rewards; just like life on a real farm”
You’ll likely need to play several hours of Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town before you start to feel like you’re making any real progress. Selling a bunch of crops and animal produce for a bit of profit is rewarding, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg of everything that the game has to offer you. You’ll eventually be able to upgrade your house so it has its own kitchen, which will allow you to make your own recipes. But upgrading your house requires a lot of materials, and initially feels like a far-off task. The same can be said for upgrades that allow you to expand your farm buildings.
There’s a lot of joy to be had in Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, but it doesn’t hand anything to you on a plate. You have to work hard for your rewards; just like life on a real farm, I suppose. It can feel repetitive at times; monotonously watering your plants and petting your animals takes its toll, but as you start to reach new milestones and see the fruits of your labour, Friends of Mineral Town takes on a new life. It’s not a game for everyone; it requires patience and perseverance. Progress feels much slower and measured than something like Stardew Valley, but it also means it offers potentially more longevity. If you’re looking for something to sink hours into and enjoy a slow, steady stroll rather than an action-packed sprint, Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town might just be for you.