Friday, September 22, 2023

New ‘story of the seasons’ is ‘Animal Crossing’ for life after lockdown

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When he came released last march, Animal Crossing: New horizons was the ideal game to deal with a pandemic: It provided new levels of digital connection when people felt incredibly distant from each other. Every day there were new stories about the events within Animal crossing (I’m still sad Elijah Wood never came to my island). The Slack and Discord communities have sprung up to allow people to exchange recipes, barter furniture and other household items, and find the highest turnip price every week. One of my friends even held virtual book events in the game.

A year later, many people are still struggling with Covid-19. For the most part, everyone exists in the socially remote status quo. But despite what it seems, things are very different in March 2021. The world is feeling a little less out of control, many of my vulnerable loved ones are vaccinated, and I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I always find the style of Animal crossing relaxing, but I need a little more complexity in my gameplay now. Hence my obsession with History of the seasons: the pioneers of Olive Town.

If you haven’t played a History of the seasons game (or Stardew Valley, because this game is based on an old installment of History of the seasons), it’s a bit like Animal crossing, but with more depth. Like AC, Olive Town pioneers that’s what you make of it, but unlike this game, there is so much to do. Once you have completed the main storyline of Animal crossing, you can upgrade your island and interact with your villagers, but there is no forward movement anymore. It’s up to you to make your own story; it’s not really meant to be played in frenzy, but rather in small doses over several days, weeks and months.

History of the seasons: the pioneers of Olive Town, on the other hand, begins with you, the main character, inheriting the old overgrown farmhouse from your grandfather. It’s your job to get it going – this includes planting crops, repairing barns (cows! Alpacas! Chickens!) And repairing old bridges to access new parts of the farm. But wait, there’s a lot more – your farm is adjacent to a fairly large town. You can not only go shopping, have a drink at the cafe, buy new clothes and have your hair cut, but you can also make friendships and even get married.

I can’t stress enough how much there is to do in this game – and that’s why it’s perfect right now. Yes Animal Crossing: New horizons defined the pandemic and the end of life of 2020, then History of the seasons: the pioneers of Olive Town is the hope game of the 2021 reopening.

One year ago, Olive Town pioneers would have felt overwhelming. It wouldn’t have worked for me because I needed something to calm my nerves, and the possibilities would have seemed too much unending. Now that’s the perfect amount of commitment. I’m still anxious (it’s my secret, I am always anxious). I’m not saying that everything is Well but it is slowly improving. I have the energy and the ability to get a little more involved in my game and handle more complexity.

Also, History of the seasons: the pioneers of Olive Town can be as much or as little as you want. Animal crossing emphasizes reveling in creativity, and it’s amazing (and necessary – glad it’s like that), but not everyone’s brain finds satisfaction and relief in it long-term. At one point, I needed more than the game could offer. Olive Town pioneers Anticipates that.

I should also add that sometimes Animal crossing I felt like a busy job – having to check in every day, show up to buy turnips and then sell them (why were my prices always terrible?), Grab those Nook Miles. I did not like to feel attached to the game by the tasks. Olive Town pioneers is compulsively playable – I wasted a lot of time on it, in a good way – but the time spent in the game is unrelated to real life. I can pick it up and put it down as I please, and whether I’ve spent a day, a week, or a month away from me, no one is giving me a guilt trip for being gone (and my pristine farm is not overrun by cockroaches).

It doesn’t mean that History of the seasons is better than Animal crossing– they’re two totally different experiences, and it’s up to you to find the one that works best. But if you run out of things to do Animal crossing and you deeply miss that contentment that you felt when you played it, if you need more of a sense of accomplishment in your entertainment then History of the seasons: the pioneers of Olive Town just might be your favorite game of 2021.

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