REVIEW: ‘Monster Harvest’ Lives in the Shadow of Giants (Switch)

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Monster Harvest - But Why Tho

Monster Harvest is a farming sim with some twists by developer Maple Powered Games and publisher Merge Games. You arrive in a quiet town where your grandfather has been researching the effects of Slime on crops to create planimals. You farm and forage to make a living while learning more about this phenomenon and the sketchy corporation that has moved in next door to exploit this discovery.

Monster Harvest wears its influences strongly on its sleeves. Clearly inspired by Stardew Valley and PokèmonI’d be remiss not to say upfront: this game lives in the shadow of giants. The whole premise, arriving in this small town and farming on your family’s land is straight out of Stardew while the rogue-like dungeon and planimal collecting and fighting elements are certainly Pokèmon-like. But unfortunately, neither aspect of the game is fully realized or unique enough to make this game stand out. Monster Harvest isn’t bad by any means, but it feels like I’ve done this all before.

On the farming side, it’s a simple and familiar pattern. Every day you have a set amount of energy to use in chopping wood, mining minerals, building things, and tending to your crops. An efficient player will go back and forth from your farm to the town, separated annoyingly by a park of sorts in between, buying up seeds as frequently as possible to plant across your vast tract of land to keep up a revenue stream as well as increase your planimal army.

Planimals, so-named because they are plant-animal hybrids, are born when you imbue different plants with different types of Slime, as acquired by slaying Slimes that have escaped from dungeons. Once they’re fully grown and harvested, they’ll follow behind you and jump into battle on your behalf when you go spelunking in the game’s rogue-like dungeons. The addition of the planimals mechanic does indeed add an extra element to your farming routine, which helps since the routine is somewhat monotonous until you level up and unlock means to automate some of the growing.

The dungeons start off very difficult. Only one planimal can fight your battles at a time in a one-on-one fashion akin to classic Pokèmon battles. You have a few moves you can command them to use, but all but the first have to be unlocked by leveling up. There’s no strategy really though to these battles. It just turns quickly into a mashing of buttons quickly until you either win or lose and hope you gain enough experience along the way to level up, heal, and survive another encounter. It does get easier as you level up, but that takes time and patience. The dungeons do provide opportunities for finding all sorts of material for constructing and decorating your home, which gives an additional incentive to exploring beyond plot progression.

The game’s biggest asset is its visuals. The pixel art is gorgeous, especially for the environments. The trees are colorful and the buildings feel lived-in. I only wish the character sprites felt the same way. Some of the people you meet are alright too, but your own sprites feel underdeveloped and a mismatch for the gorgeous world you inhabit. This extends to the townspeoples’ personalities as well. Perhaps there may be more exciting dialogue much later in the game, but for a game with a Stardew or Animal-Crossing-like friendship mechanic, none of the townspeople particularly interested me in either their visuals or their dialogue.

If you like farming sims with a slow on-ramp and some unique additional mechanics, including monster collecting/fighting and home renovation/decorating, Monster Harvest is certainly going to be enjoyable for you. Especially if you’ve overstayed your time in the games that offer their greatest influences to Monster Harvest and are looking for something new. Its mechanics and worlds are set just far enough apart that you won’t entirely feel like you’re retreading the same paths. But if you’re looking for a new experience that shines on its own and has sharp and fully realized mechanics, this is probably not going to be it. It’s a decent game, but if you’ve ever spent time playing its predecessors, you’re going to have a hard time not constantly comparing it to them given just how closely nearly everything about the game resembles them.

At the end of the day, Monster Harvest is a good game that a little too closely resembles Stardew Valley and does not execute its Pokèmon-like mechanics cleanly or uniquely enough. Fortunately, it’s mostly visually beautiful with nice music and more than plenty to do.

Monster Harvest is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.


Monster Harvest
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

At the end of the day, Monster Harvest is a good game that a little too closely resembles Stardew Valley and does not execute its Pokèmon-like mechanics cleanly or uniquely enough. Fortunately, it’s mostly visually beautiful with nice music and more than plenty to do.