Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin sees you taking on the role of the titular Sakuna, a deity who is banished from her heavenly home after accidentally burning all of the sacred rice. Sakuna is something of a spoiled child, you see. She enjoys her powers, and her privilege, but doesn’t understand the concept of hard work, responsibility, or having to deal with the consequences of her actions.
So she is sent off to live with some mortals on an island inhabited by demons and monsters. There, she will learn the lessons that her parents were already intimately aware of, that life is hard, and times are tough. Luckily, her parents were a warrior god, and a harvest god, giving Sakuna a leg up when it comes to the game’s two main activities, growing crops and planting your gardening tools squarely into the heads of various monsters.
We were initially a little unsure of the dual mechanics. Solid platforming and interesting crop management seem to be pretty far from each other mechanically, but in the brief time we have spent with the game so far, it has been a pleasant surprise. The world of the game is filled with caves and tunnels you will need to explore. They are filled with assorted monsters to fight, obstacles to get around using your magic scarf that allows you to swing from the walls and ceiling, and lots of resources to find.
The combat is surprisingly deep, with various combinations, abilities, and tactics required to deal with different enemies, and it all flows together quite smoothly. You will need to be both quick and calculated to make it deep into some of the dungeons and find all the secrets that they contain. Back at the farm, you need to take care of crops, and also help to look after the mortals that you live with. They need food and resources, and in return can provide you with important features like building new weapons or tools.
The crop planting portion is also quite interesting. We expected a Stardew Valley-lite take on things, but it is actually much more focused and detailed than we could have imagined. Rice needs to be planted with a certain amount of clearance between the plants, and water levels need to be carefully maintained. You have to ensure there are no weeds in the rice field, and when harvest comes you need to dry the rice and hope the rain stays away so it doesn’t interfere with the process.
As a harvest goddess, Sakuna is directly effected by the quality of the rice, and each crop will be rated for yield, taste, aroma, aesthetic, stickiness, and hardness. The better the rice, the stronger you get. It is a very nice way to fuse the two systems together, makes sense thematically, and hints at the level of thought and care that has gone into the design of the game.
So far, our experience with Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is very positive, and we will be bringing you a full and detailed review of the title closer to release. At the moment, it seems like developer Edelweiss is on to a good thing here, but we don’t know yet if the systems are deep enough, and polished enough, to hold our interest throughout the entire game. We have high hopes, however.