Combining rice farming in a 2D action RPG is an intriguing concept so let's see if Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin offers a nourishing meal.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin was developed by the same folks who created the fantastic shoot 'em up Astebreed so that piqued my interest right off the bat. After playing it for a little while, the thing that struck me most about it is how beautiful of a game it is. The character models are gorgeously animated and colourful and they actually reminded me of the super-underrated PS1 game Threads of Fate. On top of that, you're treated to a lovely soundtrack and wonderful sceneries complete with breathtaking sunsets and plenty of subtle details. Plus, the delightful cast is fully voiced in English which is great and each actor does a terrific job of breathing life into their respective character. It's such a lively and whimsical game world that it completely captivated me from the get-go and kept me engaged.
The story involves the titular goddess Sakuna who's tasked with tending to a family of humans' needs as they're all trapped on a demon-filled isolated island. However, she's quite a bratty deity and is extremely reluctant to do any work. Of course, as the story progresses, she grows and begins to take pride in her work and it's an ultimately heartwarming tale. This actually ties in with the gameplay as it consists of 2 halves: tending to your rice field and exploring dungeons for materials. Doing so allows you and your newfound family to have a scrumptious meal at the end of each day and the rice itself is tied to Sakuna's powers so if you manage to harvest a decent batch then her base stats will increase accordingly. This all occurs on a day / night cycle and there are all 4 seasons, too, which look lovely.
The 2 parts of Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin's gameplay are equally involving but if you don't enjoy one aspect as much then you can actually control the difficulty of both in order to suit your personal preference. I think this is great because if you just want to focus on the action RPG part then you can make the farming aspect easy and just do whatever once it's time to tend to your rice. For the record, I played with both set to normal difficulty and had a steadily challenging and rewarding adventure, especially because there are many facets to increasing Sakuna's capabilities such as creating weapons, unlocking a weapon's full potential, learning new skills, equipping accessories, and eating top-quality meals. All of this comes together to make a consistent sense of accomplishment that'll keep you hooked.
The combat itself is quite easy to master as all you do is mash the attack button and you can also use skills to smash enemies around as well as a grappling move that helps with both exploration and confusing enemies as you go behind them for a quick extra hit. With that being said, the combat gets fairly tedious after a while which isn't helped by the small dungeon areas that can be rather unexciting and don't take long at all to fully explore. This is especially true after you realise how simple it is and how much it depends on your base stats which can only be enhanced at the end of each year and that takes quite a long time. Now that I mention it, the farming component also gets quite tedious after a while. After going through the motions a few times of creating fertilizer, pulling weeds, and harvesting which requires taking part in a lengthy yet easy succession of mini-games, you'll likely become a little bored with it all.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin combines 2 very different genres into one rewarding experience and its heartwarming story is the icing on the cake. It may become a little tedious after a while but the journey is still worth partaking in for those who enjoy unique games.
- + Gratifying yet simple combat and rewarding management component
- + Excellent visuals and voice acting
- + Satisfying character progression systems
- - Both combat and farming can get a little tiresome after a while
- - Most dungeons are small and humdrum
- - Becoming stronger takes a bit too long