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Sakuna: Of Rice And Ruin

Posted by GG Goblin On November - 10 - 2020

Harvesting rice and fighting demons.

 
Looking at a bowl of rice, it is difficult to imagine how much work has gone into bringing this fairly common grain to the table. It’s not something that most people will ever have to think about. Slaying demons as a lazy goddess is also not something that will cross most people’s minds, but Edelweiss have managed to combine these two very different activities into something really quite special. Welcome to Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin.

 


 
This strange story begins with Sakuna, a harvest goddess who happens to be far more interested in fighting than the complexities of growing rice, confronting a group of humans who happen to have wandered into the realm of the gods. One thing leads to another and Sakuna accidentally destroys the rice stores of a high goddess. As punishment, Sakuna and the humans are sent to a remote island that is overcome by demons, and will not be able to return to the realm of the gods until the demons have all been vanquished and the rice store replaced. This means it is time to settle into a cycle of growing and harvesting rice, while exploring the island and fighting off all of the demons. Shouldn’t be too difficult for a goddess, even a lazy one.

 
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is surprisingly a very complex game, with intertwining mechanics that will leave the player with a fair amount of thinking to do. It is also a 2D action game and a farming game, all combined into one. The action and the farming may be presented separately, but they are so connected that failing at one will likely lead to problems with the other.

 


 
Of the action, Sakuna will head off to explore small areas of the island, with more areas gradually opening up as the player progresses. They will often revisit areas in order to collect resources or crafting materials for one thing or another, but along the way they will have to fight plenty of demons. The combat is well done here and will easily please anyone looking for their 2D action fix. Sakuna has a light and heavy attack that varies depending on the direction, and then there is Sakuna magical scarf. This scarf have multiple uses, from reaching difficult areas, to simply attacking demons or even dodging their attacks. Special abilities will be unlocked as Sakuna progresses, and the materials gathered will give way to new weapons and new gear that can further improve Sakuna’s abilities. However, despite being a goddess, Sakuna will find that things will become more difficult in the job of clearing the demons.

 
Natural progression insists that the demon threat will become more difficult, but things will also become trickier as night falls or as Sakuna becomes hungry. This is one of the excellent ways in which everything in the game is tied together as each night Sakuna and the humans will have a meal, based upon the rice harvest and whatever ingredients Sakuna has gathered through her wandering. This meal, depending on the quality and ingredients, will provide Sakuna with buffs and make her more powerful, but getting hungry will mean those buffs wear off. The main buff her revolves around recovering health and, without any of that recovery, Sakuna will have real problems.

 
And so, we head into the other side of the game. Rather than heading off to fight demons, Sakuna can get busy with growing rice. This is a much more relaxing aspect of the game, but that doesn’t mean it is in any way easy. It turns out that there is a lot to do in the quest for the perfect rice harvest, and Sakuna has little or no interest in the process. This means that Sakuna will have to learn as she goes, and the early game at least will lead to some very disappointing crops. Even going from seed to table is quite the task, with so many variables that can have an effect on the rice quality. From tilling the earth, watering, fertilizing, drying, threshing and hulling, each step in this process is as important as the last to a perfect crop, and the actions required can be slow and laborious.

 


 
However, the perfect rice will be needed in order to head back to the realm of the gods, and it will also be needed to feed Sakuna and the humans each evening. With ingredients that Sakuna has found, and the rice, the evening meal will vary in quality and the buffs that it provides for the following day. The evening meal will also give Sakuna time to spend with the humans and learn more about them through conversations they have, which is a nice touch. The humans can also help out with various aspects of the rice growth, but will never be able to achieve anything as perfect as Sakuna can.

 
So players will have to balance their time in the game, spending one moment on the focussed farming, and the next fighting demons in exciting 2D combat. It is such an interesting combination, and works really well. But at least part of that success has to come down to how gorgeous Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin looks on the Nintendo Switch. Playing in handheld mode looks really nice, but is understandably a little small. Playing on the large screen, everything is clearer and more impressive.

 


 
With a cast of interesting characters, and the most unusual combination of gameplay types, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is an oddity that is surprisingly compelling. There is a certain level of repetition to the fighting and the farming, but it is easy to get into a rhythm. It is not an easy game and there are so many variables to consider that some players will find themselves overwhelmed. However, anyone willing to put the time in and invest in the two different styles of gameplay will find a satisfying journey that will lead to the perfect crop. Packed with charm, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a great fit for Nintendo Switch.

 

 ★★★★★★★★½☆ 



 

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Coming later this year to Xbox One, PS4, PC and Switch.

 

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