Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns - Review  

Chicken, Nuggets, Tender, Wings
by Sam Wachter

40-60 Hours
+ Wonderful art direction
+ Solid gameplay
+ Lots to do
+ Repetitive quests
- Uninspired townsfolk
- Same old Story of Seasons
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   Story of Seasons, and its prior incarnations under the Harvest Moon moniker, is a comfort series for me. I find that once I start playing, I lose track of time doing all my video game chores while also trying to woo the digital equivalent of my actual husband in game. You would think given how much "I love to do virtual chores" that it would translate into real life, but let's be honest: it doesn't. This latest instalment Story of Seasons: A Trio of Towns might be the biggest game to date in terms of both size and scope, but does it innovate the series? That's tough to say.

   Players begin their journey as a young socialite who dreams of a simpler life. However, her father is concerned that the life of a rancher may be an unreasonable goal in life given her inexperience. In spite of that, our hero(ine) decides to make a go of it as a rancher, instead of moving to a new city with her family. Her father seems less than thrilled with the idea, deciding that if she cannot successfully become a farmer, she must come home to be with her family. Hoping to show that this is the correct path for her life, our hero(ine) moves to a ranch near her Uncle Frank and studies to become a farmer, while also learning to befriend the trio of towns in the surrounding area who are in dire need of her help.

   Much like previous iterations, Trio of Towns focuses on tending to the player's farm, while also assisting in the development of the three neighboring towns. This comes in the form of animal husbandry, farming crops, trading items between locations, and performing part-time jobs for villagers in each town. By doing these tasks, the player is raising their relationship with each town. There is a Town Link that can be checked in the main menu to provide a sense of the player's status with each location. Once the player has hit a specific point in that relationship, the town will "lock" until specific tasks have been completed, such as rebuilding a town's bridge, shipping precise items, or performing key tasks. This is a great system in terms of keeping the gameplay engaging, as it gives the player's goals a lot more meaning than other instalments to the series. Players also have a handy notebook that can be accessed in the menu, it's easy to see the kind of progress being made with each town. The tasks never feel overwhelming, though some of the jobs are season specific, so if the player is in the wrong season once they've triggered the town lock, they could be waiting a while before the objective can be completed.

Look at them melons! Look at them melons!

   Players can also visit Connection Island via Wi-Fi, where they can chat, fish, or trade items. This can negate the problem caused by needing specific items during certain seasons, but the problem is finding someone to trade with online. I personally didn't have much luck finding people online to trade with while I was playing, so I had to wait nearly a full season to complete a specific objective. This game also returns to players the shipping bin, the tried-and-true method of trading. It was sorely missed in the previous instalment.

   There is a glut of things to in Trio of Towns. Interactivity is key in this instalment, as the festivals and part-time jobs are much more in depth compared to past titles. The only downside is that the choices for festivals and part-time jobs get repetitive, as there's only a handful of them in rotation, meaning players will be performing a lot of the same actions over and over. This isn't entirely a negative given that this is a farming simulator, but having the same handful of jobs without a lot of variety does get to be dull after a while. One can only chop wood for so long before the A button starts to feel loose.

   Still, there are also the standard SoS responsibilities such as caring for animals, raising crops, fishing, shipping items, mining, and crafting items. These tried-and-true methods are still the main ways to make bank in the game, and the core gameplay for these tasks is still very solid. Trio of Towns has also included some other goodies such as new animals to care for and ruins to excavate, so there are also more remodeling options for the player's farm than ever before. These are some nice pluses to the core gameplay, and building towards the heroine's dream ranch is surprisingly rewarding.

A budding romance. A budding romance.

   While there's a lot that is rewarding in Trio of Towns, it still suffers from being the same old Story of Seasons fare, with not enough new content. While this isn't a bad thing, it's difficult to praise the same game for doing the same thing it always does without really pushing the series further. The quests get repetitive, and when the townsfolk aren't the most inspiring bunch, it makes wanting to chat and interact with them more draining. While the localization is solid, the characters in Trio of Towns are missing the spark of some of the previous games in the series, as they all feel very similar to one another, with no real outstanding quirks. It makes the player desire a bit more from the series and at this point it plays it safe instead of trying to compete with games like Stardew Valley, which are changing the farming-sim genre for the better.

   In terms of the music, Trio of Towns has a decent soundtrack. Many of the tracks fit the different locations, and there's a sense of serenity, making the game relaxing to listen to. Meanwhile, the visuals are a bit of a mixed bag. The art direction in the game is gorgeous, and there is a lot of attention to detail. On the other side of it, the actual in game visuals are serviceable and colourful, but they lack finer detail in terms of how characters and environments look.

   While there's tons of new, little things to enjoy in Story of Seasons: Trio of Towns, I wish more had been done to innovate the series. We've seen newer games go onto the market that offer so much more, and it feels like Story of Seasons does need to catch up. While this is a great instalment with tons to offer the player, there is a part of me that wanted to see this series grow and change. Trio of Towns is a solid entry into this long running franchise, but this series needs to get with the times and stop playing it safe.

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