REVIEW : Monster Harvest (XBOX Series X)
Professor Spark, your crazy, eccentric, but brilliant uncle (who looks suspiciously like a person who drives a Delorian), has found how to use slime to transform plants into animals or Planimals. Unfortunately, a town springs up around him due to his discovery, and he now has no time to maintain his farm since he needs to be weird, quirky, and clever. So he’s decided to invite you to help him care for his farm so that he can continue his research on slimes.
Monster Harvest combines three different sorts of games into one. The agricultural simulator is the first. Clear the land, grow a garden, construct a barn, raise animals, sell your products throughout the year, and repeat. Then there’s a roguelike monster combatant. When night falls, take your Planimals and travel through a dynamically created dungeon, mining, fighting, and trying to figure out why SlimCo is so interested in slimes and Planimals. Finally, it’s a giant fighter. Monster Harvest blends a variety of genres to put its touch on them all.
It’s possible that combining three major genres—farming sim, monster collection/fighter, and roguelike—is too much for one game to manage. Yes, it is. They can combine the best features of all three and create something new, but none succeed in achieving the aim. I felt like I was playing three different games simultaneously, with insufficient slime to connect them all. The agricultural sim is most likely the most important of the three.
Slime is the most significant component and comes in three colours. Planimals are created by red slime, which you take with you on your dungeon journey. You can sprinkle crimson slime on a seed after it has been planted. You’ll have a Planimal when the plant is fully developed. Blue slime will turn you into a livestock Planimal, which you can ride about the world like a horse. Finally, green slime matures into a seed when you place it on the ground, allowing you to grow anything right away.
Slime is required to create Planimals, but it adds an unpleasant layer to the gameplay. To make Planimals, I’d have to throw away seeds that could have been used to make money. Another issue was that I couldn’t make too many Planimals at once because my barn only had so much space. But, because Planimals are forever dead once they die, I had to keep generating them. It became a balancing act at which I failed miserably. I’m not sure what would be a better option. However, it does not appear to work.
Exploring was enjoyable, although it became tedious after a while. There wasn’t much to keep me going back night after night once I’d gotten enough resources from the dungeon. The monster fights were also a little contrived. Battles aren’t decided at random. When you enter a new dungeon room, an enemy Planimal may see you and rush towards you, initiating combat. A Planimal begins with only one move, but as they level up, they gain access to more, up to three in total. Early on, conflicts are tedious. Because my Planimal only had one move, I continued spamming it.
There is no way to capture the random Planimals you come across, so every combat is a deathmatch. The roguelike elements aren’t overbearing, and the monster battle sections are…well, there. It’s not bad. They can become an enjoyable element if you reach a certain level, but it takes time.
Another aspect that distinguishes Monster Harvest is death. Other Planimas cannot be knocked out or fainted. You either fight or die. When your Planimals bite the bullet, you’ll get their essence, which you can plant back into the soil to improve the starting level of your next Planimals. I discovered the method of trying to get as far into a dungeon as possible every time because it allowed me to advance my Planimals fast. Permadeath for your Planimals is a good concept, if only because finding more replacing ones isn’t that difficult.
Monster Harvest has a lot of walking and riding to do. It’s far too much. Everything is separated from everything else by a huge distance. To get to the cave entrance, you’ll have to pass through three loading screens. It was wonderful to add a little to the game, but it wasn’t enough. Every night, you must descend into the cave to investigate and then return up when you are through. It takes a long time to walk to the store. The repeated excursions up and down the map didn’t bother me for the first week or two of gameplay, but by the second season, I was tired of it.
It took me a little more than a season to complete the majority of the end-game objectives. However, defeating the big villain, fighting all the Planimal fighters at the rec centre, and growing all the items on Professor Spark’s to-do list all happened in a pretty short amount of time.
In Monster Harvest, there’s a lot of fun to be had. The devs have lavished the most attention on the farming section, which feels like a farming sim with a monster battler stuck to it. The roguelike features weren’t enough to pique my interest in going deeper, and the monster battles didn’t feel necessary because the death of your monsters is a key gameplay mechanic.