The thought of a light farming simulator merged with side-scrolling platform battler tickled me to death. Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin had me the moment it was announced. Kawaii character designs, platforming adventures, and taking care of a farm? It felt like the obvious step up from Stardew Valley. Someone at XSEED has been reading my secret diary.
Sakuna lives in the Lofty Realm, the world of gods and goddesses. A chance encounter with humans from the Lowly Realm leads to a disastrous event. Cast out, Sakuna must care for these humans on the island where her parents first met and clearing the land of the demons that overrun it.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin Review – Working The Land
Every springtime, Sakuna plants the year’s crop. Under Tauemon’s tutelage, we learn how to best space our rice seedlings and where to keep the water levels. Our first crop won’t be the best and that is okay. The harvest will be small but almost double the amount of seedlings available to us the following year. New skills open up as we become more familiar with our farming tasks. The grid overlay that opened up for me one Spring was a godsend. With it I could better plant my crops. They were a bit tighter, neater, and I felt like I was improving.
Every morning before setting out I would check my rice paddy. Pull any weeds that sprung up overnight, start a fresh batch of fertilizer, make sure the water levels during the growing season were steady. Little critters like to spend time near the field, and catching and releasing those frogs and snails helps keep the insect population down. This in turn leads to healthier crops and greater yield. When I return home in the evenings I do another check for weeds and critters, spread the fertilizer if it’s ready, then head inside for dinner. A steady routine to improve the quality of my crops and find time to acquire other materials.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin Review – Warrior Goddess
In between farming tasks it is important to venture out past camp. In that first year alone, Sakuna’s spoils from hunting and exploring Hinoe are how she and her new friends will survive. Meat and herbs are vital and can be consumed fresh at dinner or preserved for longer shelf life. Bring your supplies to Myrthe in the main house for processing, or speak to her to change up the dinner menu. A dinner of natto, broiled fish, and steamed millet sounds very appealing at the end of a long day beating up hares and boars.
Combat in Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin consists of weapon attacks with your scythe and hoe, and using your divine raiment to perform grappling and counters. Scythe attacks are quick and cutting. I’m partial to the quick attack; I like to push up on the d-pad while pulling them off to juggle enemies in the air and for hitting those pesky sparrows. Heavy hoe attacks are slow and powerful. By finding scrolls you can set stronger special attacks that do massive damage with your hoe.
Every area on the map has objectives for Sakuna to achieve. As she crosses them off her list and earns more exploration points new sections will open up. Most of these are platformer areas however some of these new sections are gathering spots where she can send her friends to harvest goods while she’s busy. Each NPC tends to focus on a particular type of resource when sent out to gather. Whomever you sent out for the day will return home in the evening once Sakuna does the same.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin Review – Refined Grains
When autumn rolls around, it’s time to bring in the harvest. Sakuna reaps the fields and hangs the rice out to dry, then it’s time to thresh and hull the grains. She starts off with basic tools; a hand tool for threshing, and a mortar and pestle for hulling. There are advantages based on how refined you make the rice. Brown rice is healthier but white rice increases Sakuna’s goddess powers in battle. I went with brown rice for my first harvest. I wanted the health boost earlier on. Now that I am more comfortable with the combat and have stronger weapons I’ve been leaning toward white rice crops the past few harvests.
As time progresses your friends will come to you with requests. Kinta wants to start a forge, with which he can provide new weapons and farming tools. Yue likes to sew. Building a hut for her grants access to new clothing options. Clothing and weapons can be altered by unlocking the powers within. Each power has requirements; some are as simple as defeating a certain amount of enemies, others need materials. Some gear also has an extra slot that you can assign perks to. All of the additional ones I have so far require Amber to upgrade, the base resource dropped by the demons on Hinoe.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is charming and challenging in all the right ways. Even now, as I sit here spending time working on this review, I wish I were playing the game. In spite of a few frustrating puzzle sections here and there, Hinoe calls to me. Knowing that my rice needs tending to and my pantry probably needs more dried meat so we can make it through the winter is all I want to focus on. That’s when you know a game has its hooks in you. Pretty, addictive hooks that have me all in.
Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin review code provided by publisher. Version 1.02 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4 console. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.