Title: Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin
Genre: Role-Playing, Farm Simulation
Released: November 2020
Overall Score: 8/10
Most gamers have played hybrid genre games like MMO/shooters and puzzle/RPGs, but Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin presents an unusual new combination. Developer Edelweiss found a way to create a harmonious balance between two opposite genres: a fast-paced action game that has you slashing through monsters is joined by a laid-back 3D rice farming simulator.
It was originally set to release in 2018, Edelweiss pushed back the release date to winter 2020. The decision was made to improve the battle system and adjust RPG elements. The delay resulted in a game that balanced both genres without compromising player experience.
Ancient mythology re-imagined
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a fantastical, surprisingly in-depth and thoughtful tale that brings together a beautifully rendered world with a story inspired by Japanese mythology. The story is about the redemption of a spoiled, harvest goddess who is banished from her celestial home to an island overrun by demons. Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a powerful tale about finding one’s place in the world.
Sakuna, the daughter of the harvest goddess and the warrior god, must prove herself worthy of her powerful heritage in order to earn back her title as a deity. After she is exiled from her life of leisure in the Mihashira Captial, Sakuna, along with a group of outcast humans, and her guardian Tama, are sent to the island of Hinoe . There, she must master the art of rice farming and eradicate hordes of demons that plague the island, in order to conquer the land for the gods.
By building a homestead with her human companions, Sakuna learns the importance of community. The characters strengthen their bonds by helping one another overcome obstacles. Along the way they discover their own identities, forgetting the lives they once lived as outcasts. As time passes, Sakuna grows alongside her new friends, showing improved character development as she forges her new path in life.
The characters are uniquely designed with different story lines that prove even the weakest can find their own strength. The tale of overcoming hardships will warm the hearts of players and have them laughing at the unique story twists within the game.
Small but mighty
An action RPG combined with a side-scroller platformer, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin allows players to experiment with a variety of weapons and armor to take down foes. Chain together quick, heavy, and special attacks using farm tools as one handed or two-handed weapons to deal super effective blows against enemies. Damage and reposition enemies in combat with a magical “divine raiment” that can grapple surfaces to evade danger.
Sakuna’s weapons and ‘divine raiment’ also come with many different attacks that players can choose from to create powerful combos. Farming all that rice isn’t just nourishing! The components you add to rice improves the different battle stats of Sakuna, giving players the option to buff whatever abilities suit their play style.
Preparing your stats and sharpening your weapons is only half the battle, to be successful at taking down your foes timing is everything as demons grow stronger at night. Managing your time wisely is key in this game. Spend the morning tending to your rice and the day exploring the islands wilds, but come sunset you’ll want to head home to eat dinner (to temporarily boost your stats) and rest come night fall (to restore health).
The art of agriculture
Detailed 3D simulation-style farming gameplay combines a beautiful mountain farmland with in-depth, multidimensional, rice farming mechanics. Players learn the true ancient art of agriculture, step-by-step, from preparing the land to planting, fertilizing, and harvesting the rice. The success of the crops relies on the player who has to learn the best farming techniques to produce high quality rice, the old fashion way, through trial and error (plus some tips from characters, later in the game).
The status of a player’s rice is impacted by weather and the effort put in at different stages of growth. By starting from seed, the attributes of the rice are determined by the fertilizer that is made with ingredients gathered from the wild. As farmers, players will need to experiment, combining different materials to create the perfect base for their crops! A good fertilizer needs to be well-rounded with leaves, kernels, and roots to have different effects on Sakuna’s stats.
As the rice grows, offshoots are affected by weather and how much water they get. Don’t worry if there is no success in the first year. As the game progresses so do players’ farming skills and knowledge of how to get the perfect yield.
Through the gameplay, players take a journey of the ancient art of rice farming, experiencing firsthand how much time and effort was spent in the fields. Farming rice may sound boring, but alongside the more intense battle action the slow task makes for a relaxing change of pace between combat.
The beauty and charm of Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin earned a solid 8 out of 10. A few minor hiccups didn’t take away from the detail, but they lost the game 2 points. For me, the main issue was lack of guidance. Players can talk to the NPCs and read scrolls to get tips for farming and fighting, but most of the game requires trial and error to determine where to explore next or how to properly grow and improve your crop.
Overall, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a whimsical tale set in a beautifully designed world that perfectly combines everything fans love about Japanese action RPGs with farming simulators. Fans of games like Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley will love the playstyle. And by trying to grow the perfect rice or taking down another boss, players will tell themselves “okay, one more day” as Sakuna is hard to put down.
Overall Score 8/10