Platforms: PC (reviewed)
If you enjoyed last year's Story of Seasons, or fancy yourself a Harvest Moon fan and are ready to dive back into the farming sim realm, you're in luck. World's Dawn doesn't really go out of its way to reinvent the genre — which I imagine would probably be a very difficult thing to do with this particular genre — but it still manages to deliver a compelling experience for folks who are on the market for that exact type of niche experience.
There's nothing original about the setup of World's Dawn. You're a farmer arriving to a new town, so you're given a place to stay and are told to get acquainted with everyone. For anyone who's played a Harvest Moon game (or Animal Crossing), that introductory task will be all too familiar. There are 32 NPCs to meet, and the map isn't terribly huge so you could accomplish this menial task within the first two in-game days.
One thing I appreciate about World's Dawn is that it doesn't force you into a weeklong tutorial like Story of Seasons does. I'm going to assume that developer Wayward Prophet figured that anyone playing this game is already a farming sim fan. That's not to say that the NPCs will completely fail to explain things to you, but rather than dragging you through a fixed, lengthy learning sequence, World's Dawn is a bit more relaxed about how it teaches you the basics.
All About That Farm Life
Your life as a farmer doesn't start out fast and hectic. After you customize your character by selecting a gender, hairstyle, and name, you begin to get acclimated with the world. As you talk to more characters, discover shops, and explore the town, you slowly obtain resources that will help you build your new life. At first, it's all fairly slow-paced, but once you earn some money doing odd jobs (such as manning a cash register at a shop for a few seconds), you'll be able to buy a few necessary tools and some seeds for you to plant.
Like any other life sim, creating a routine is absolutely pivotal to your productivity. A stamina meter makes it so that you can't just sprint everywhere, but a good night's rest or a tasty homemade meal will give you the energy boost you need to do more throughout the day.
Once you've created a routine that works for you, it's not long before you're planting seeds, watering crops, harvesting produce, and, eventually, tending to your livestock. If this all sounds a bit too familiar, it's because it is. World's Dawn isn't going to win any awards for going above and beyond what's expected of this sort of game, but that doesn't make it any less fun to play.
Hey, Let's Interact a Few Times and Get Married, Yeah?
Another aspect that fans of the genre will instantly recognize is the focus on relationships and finding a mate. Like every other game of its type, World's Dawn requires that you talk to characters repeatedly if you intend on winning their hearts. If you’ve guessed that you'll eventually have to give your romantic interests gifts to further convince them that you're the one for them, you would be right. Again, World's Dawn isn't going for gameplay evolution.
One thing that is fairly interesting is the fact that your character can fall in love with someone of either gender. While creating your farmer at the start of the game, you can choose whether you want to be able to pursue someone of either gender or both. It's a nice touch that adds a hint of diversity to the experience, and it's an inclusive choice that's definitely admirable.
World's Dawn mirrors a lot of what Harvest Moon does in regards to its social aspect, but I'd say this title wins out due to a better script. NPCs won't bore you with never-ending text bubbles, but they do say things that can be useful, interesting, or just fun to read. You really feel like you're getting to know the NPCs due to the writing steering away from generic territory. One thing to note is that every character can be a bit too nice, which is kind of weird, as it all feels far too happy-go-lucky.
RPG Maker Beef (Because Cow References)
My main beef with World's Dawn — yes, that's a cow reference pertaining to a farming game, and, yes, I'm sorry — is that it sometimes feels tied down by RPG Maker constraints. For the most part, the game looks really pretty. The pixel art is bright and colorful, and I'd argue that this is one of the best-looking RPG Maker titles to date. On the flip-side, certain assets look generic – namely rain effects and environmental objects. The game also suffers from a lack of widescreen presentation, which is a bummer in 2016.
Another issue I encountered was the lack of controller functionality despite the game's Steam page listing "partial controller support." I plugged in an Xbox 360 controller, and it just flat-out didn't work. I was forced to use the keyboard to play, which functioned properly but is hardly the ideal way to play this sort of game. Once again, that just makes it all seem a bit generic despite World's Dawn being genuinely pleasant to play.
A Farm Sim for People Who Love Farm Sims
Presentation issues and control quirks aside, World's Dawn is more than just a functional game — it's a straight-up fun farm sim to play. There are various characters to interact with, the farming is fun, and taking care of your animals is a joy. There are even seasonal festivals that you can take part in.
World's Dawn won't do anything to convert people who don't like these types of games, but I honestly don't think it was created with that purpose in mind. This is the type of game that will appeal to genre enthusiasts looking for yet another farm sim to jump into and relax with. World's Dawn is fun, serene, and joyous. It's not revolutionary, but it doesn't have to be to deliver a worthwhile farming routine.