E3 First Impressions – Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin

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You had to have known we wouldn’t get through E3 2019 without at least one first impression that involves a game with a farming mechanic. What I didn’t expect is I would find it within a title that combines side-scrolling action and deep crafting with rice harvesting.

I picked up and played Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin on a complete whim as I explored the show floor at E3. I have always been a fan of XSEED’s titles, especially Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons and Rune Factory, so I was caught off guard about a title I hadn’t heard of.

The game was developed by the two-man team at Edelweiss that created the indie title AstebreedI would be lying I said my interest wasn’t piqued by a developer saying, among many things, that there is farming in the game, but it would be disingenuous to say the farming is what pushed me towards this Best of E3 nod.

The farming is just one aspect of the game in which you play as Sakuna, a spoiled harvest goddess banished to a dangerous island with a group of outcast humans on a journey of self-discovery and understanding, incorporating rich Japanese history and legend.

“As she explores the beautiful, forbidding environments of the island, [Sakuna] will also find a home in a mountain village, proving herself worthy of her title by harvesting rice and bettering the lives of humans,” Developers said. “In addition to being a fresh take on Japanese mythology and a love letter to action games, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin is an ode to rice and an engrossing simulation of the craft behind the agriculture.”

In the opulent celestial capital of the Lofty Realm, the spoiled harvest goddess Sakuna whiles away her life in luxury, resting on the laurels of her late parents. Below, in the Lowly Realm, a vicious mountain bandit chases a group of desperate humans to the edge of a cliff. A bridge between the two realms appears, and there the paths of Sakuna and the humans cross.

In the commotion that follows, the goddess and the waylaid humans cause a great explosion that earns them the ire of the celestial ruler. She exiles them to Hinoe Island, a place situated at the border of heavens and earth that Sakuna’s parents once called home, and commands them to reclaim it.

As the daughter of a warrior god and harvest goddess, Sakuna must rediscover her birthright in this wild place by fighting against both the elements and monsters, and by cultivating the soil. And by helping her, the humans banished with her may yet find the reason to live that had been stolen from them in the strife of Japan’s Warring States period. Together, these unlikely companions must join hands and tame both the soil and the demons of Hinoe Island.

Sakuna can use farm tools as weapons, chaining together three types of attacks to take down animal demons in addition to mastering to magical “divine raiment,” which is crucial to learning advanced combat techniques such as grappling platforms and enemies.

The game includes your base of operations in the village, but I didn’t get a chance to play through this aspect of the game, but some of the mechanics are showcased in the game trailer above. 

Within your village, you will be able to craft weapons, cook food, and farm rice and players will have to follow detailed steps from planting to harvesting across the seasons to master cultivation and develop your character.

Additionally Sakuna crafted her way into my heart, hence my nomination for Best of E3. The game launches this winter on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PC.