04/01/2021

๐ŸŒพ๐Ÿš๐Ÿ› Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin | Review | PS4 | "Rice has never been this much fun" ๐ŸŒพ๐Ÿš๐Ÿ› @XSEEDGames #IndieGames #GameDev

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I dived headlong into Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin with no preconceptions of what I was about to be in for and it didn’t take long for its charms to win me over and its depth to pull me in.

A title that pulls off quite an astonishing balancing act that all holds together and feels not only rewarding but vital to the narrative.

Banished to the Isle of Demons and forced to fend for herself for the first time, Sakuna is a childish and impulsive goddess who takes up residence in an old hut atop the Isle, along with a ragtag bunch of humans who she initially has nothing but disdain for but has been tasked with not only caring for but also providing for, which she does…. Albeit reluctantly and with some Grade-A level whingeing.

Running at an incredibly smooth 60fps and powered by a sweeping, addictive soundtrack, Sakuna: of Rice and Ruin will see you not only making your way through various cave systems and dungeons through a 2.5D Metroidvania style combat system, where killing enemies isn’t only vital for progress but is the only place you can get precious meats and items to store or cook up for evening meals with your motley crew. 

Whilst the combat begins as simple light/hard attacks with your melee weapons and raiment, like the rest of the game, the subtle depth gradually reveals itself the deeper you go, with different weapons and abilities being unlocked and mapped to direction and button combinations- admittedly in an initially slightly unwieldy manner – which really comes in handy on the mini-boss sections which end up giving you some seriously saucy loot upon victory. 

The game isn’t all hacking and slashing, between exploring and diving into these levels, you’ll also need to grow and maintain your rice and food storage and I mean EVERY aspect of it. 

From planting the seeds, adding ‘the magical ingredient’ from your very own outhouse alongside supplying the correct amount of water to farming, drying, storing and eventually harvesting the rice, each section of this process is broken down into a tiny mini-game that is oddly rewarding, especially when your crop is eventually scored. 

Beyond the rice (possible sequel title?) you can also cook up the various meats, herbs and vegetables obtained from your dungeon dives and plan out meals of multiple courses which you and your party will eat in the evenings, each giving their thoughts on your concoctions and gently advancing the narrative as well as bonding with each other as they do so. 

It was these sections of the game that I found oddly warming, it’s endearing to hear the cartoonish chatter as they munch through your food and, if they love/loathe it, it gets you ramped up for the next day when you can explore further afield and get new ingredients to see what impact they have on your stats as well as your friends. 

When someone has a dig at your rabbit stew and sake starter, you find yourself grumbling in real life, thinking about the effort you’ve gone through to get that pesky rabbit and now it’s being dismissed after a single mouthful, what do THEY know!? Fine then, tomorrow it’ll be bread and water.

I can imagine that there are some players that would rather a certain aspect of the game be more involved at the cost of the other, say, the farming element be a touch lighter with more weight given to the combat but I felt that the overall balance of the game felt right and there was enough going on that it didn’t feel like a grind as I bounced between everything that needed to be done on the island, with progress coming at a solid pace.

Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is a game that fans of mixed genre titles should really get into, the mix of combat and farming is charming and ties into the narrative and overarching gameplay in a really solid and endearing way. 

Dozens of hours can be sunk into this title and, whilst some people may find the voice work overdone and irritating, I found it good, silly fun, although I think I’m impervious now after listening to The Shady Part of Me for so long. 

For me, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin will be staying on my hard drive for a good while yet as I love dipping back in for a quick twenty minutes every now and again, after all, that rice isn’t going to harvest itself!


8.5/10

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