With the endless releases of Action Role-Playing and Battle Royale-type games in recent memory, XSEED Games and video game developer, Edelweiss, took an interesting approach with their latest release, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin by combining a unique hybrid of side-scrolling combat action platforming, with a 3D virtual farming simulator that delivers an interesting and refreshing combination to the video game genre.Image Source: XSEED
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin follows the story of central character Sakuna, a spoiled harvest goddess banished to a dangerous demon-infested island with a group of human outcasts as punishment for a triggered series of mishaps and events. These occurred back in the land of the gods between Sakuna and those humans, eventually leading to their unfortunate predicaments.Image Source: XSEED
Fortunately for Sakuna, being the daughter of war god Takeribi and harvest goddess Toyohana, she is able to put her inherited abilities of skilled combat and rice harvesting to use. In the side-scrolling combat action platforming portion of the game, Sakuna battles and slays the various demons and monsters lurking around, ranging from pig beasts, skeletal warriors and evil flocks of birds to large mystical beasts as she explores the beautiful yet forbidding environments of the island to gather meat and resources. While the 3D virtual farming simulation component of the game is where you deal with Sakuna having to also tend to the meticulous artistry of rice cultivation in the small rice field situated within the compounds of her new home.Image Source: XSEED
When it comes to combat and exploration, gameplay is basically your standard side-scrolling combat action platformer that fans of similar natured games like Hollow Knight or Muramasa: The Demon Blade would appreciate.
Sakuna has several components to her combat mechanics, with her main attacks consisting of one-handed attacks that are fast but weak, or two-handed attacks that are slow but powerful, along with an array of special attacks with a consumable gauge that opens up possibilities for some serious damage against her various demonic targets. In addition, the divine raiment that Sakuna wears around like a scarf is an interesting addition to the combat mix, as it allows Sakuna to perform special manoeuvres against enemies for some additional damage, making room for countless fun attack combinations and tricks. That’s not all, as the divine raiment is multi-functional, you’ll also find that it doubles as a valuable manoeuvring tool for Sakuna to vault and grab onto areas that might usually be out of reach, driving the platforming aspect of gameplay.Image Source: XSEED
Due to the slight complexity of the combat mechanics, the controls and mechanics were initially a little hard to grasp and took some time getting used to, especially since the keyboard controls were fixed and unchangeable, so it does take a bit of practice and familiarisation.
Furthermore, its linear structure of progressively and consistently fighting one demon after the next does invoke a sense of pure repetition as you go through the same rinse and repeat combat cycle.
In addition, combat gameplay is also limited by the day’s timings, as demons and monsters become more powerful during the night, rendering your previously decent attacks during the day barely effective against the buffed-up enemies throughout the night, forcing you to cut your efforts short and retreat back home. Perhaps this was a deliberate move, because when else would you actively remember to cultivate your rice?Image Source: XSEED
Titles like Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley or Rune Factory are usually what comes to mind when talking about the conventional standard of virtual farming simulator games, but Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin has raised the bar and taken that to a whole new level. This is clearly reflected in the game’s meticulous attention to detail to the artistry of the traditional rice cultivation process, closely emulating the realism and steps of the actual process almost down to the grain. The detailed rice cultivating system involves factors including surrounding temperature that changes with the seasons, weather and timing of the day, fertiliser choice, water level management, space management, rice field maintenance and even the post harvesting process involving the hulling of rice by hand. The purists would appreciate the developers’ attention of going so far as to include even the traditional Japanese techniques of using mud to sift out bad seeds.
Despite having undoubtedly done a fantastic job of designing a well-crafted rice cultivation process, the game definitely missed out on a crucial aspect, which was to also implement an equally well-designed and detailed instructional system or directional guide that would effectively guide you through the rice cultivation process. Unless you are an expert in the art of rice cultivation or a general rice fanatic, most players start the game with probably zero prior knowledge about the rice cultivation process. This does result in a sense of cluelessness or ambiguity in game direction as you are thrown off the deep end into the unfamiliar craft, which definitely affected the overall player experience.Image Source: XSEED
It still can’t be denied that the game does an overall amazing job of capturing the essence of the rice cultivation process through a generally immersive and charming gameplay experience that really helped me learn and gain a much better understanding of the rice cultivation process, providing a newfound appreciation for the laborious efforts of rice farmers.
The game’s visuals far exceed all forms of expectations and is nothing short of impressive for a game of this nature. The game’s stunning and captivating landscapes, the attention to detail, and the use of rich, vibrant colours throughout the game’s elements really make the world pop with a lively and beautiful aesthetic. With clear nods to Japanese influences also generously implemented – a brilliant touch to enrich the immersion.Image Source: XSEED
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is the epitome of a game genre mashup done right, with its unique mix of fast-paced combat action platforming that satisfies your adrenaline-pumped side, balanced with an appreciation for the intricate artistry of growth and life itself, offering the fulfilment of a dynamic and rewarding game unlike any other.