Cornucopia Preview

Cornucopia

Developer: Subconscious Games
Publisher: Subconscious Games
Release Date: Early Access Launch July 31, 2023
Platform: PC
Price: $24.99 USD – Available Here

Ever since the first Harvest Moon arrived in the West in the late ’90s there has been something of a fascination of creating a simple but enjoyable farming life in a quiet town. Getting to know your neighbors and potentially even starting a family with one of them was always an entertaining enough endeavor that kept the franchise going for quite some time, even with a bit of fantasy elements thrown in to mix things up. So much in fact that even with a name change, the Story of Seasons and Rune Factory games have managed to inspire countless indie developers to try their own hands at creating a farming sim of their very own with perhaps the most successful of these being Stardew Valley that has seen its own share of inspired developers taking to make their own creations. As such, when a certain indie farming game called Cornucopia rolled my way, it was worth giving a shot. In early access since it was released on Steam last year on July 31st, Cornucopia is regularly updated, with new content seemingly arriving at least once a month and an active developer, and tries to put its own spin on the farming genre. 

Cornucopia begins with a bit of a twist to the usual style. Rather than inheriting a dead relative’s farm or something of the sort, the player is actually unfrozen from a giant block of ice that was found at the bottom of the nearby mines. Despite being frozen for an unknown amount of time, it seems like nothing wrong has actually happened to the player despite their complete memory loss. Thankfully the townsfolk happen to have a sizable plot of farmland that is being left to fall apart and let the player take over the land while they get back on their feet, leaving players fairly open in how they want to progress from there, even gifting them a chick to go along with their already built chicken coop and barn. Interestingly enough, while Cornucopia does currently feature a plot and story missions, the actual progression throughout these quests is incredibly simplistic to the point that most simply involve traveling to a few different locations, watching events unfold, and then getting the required item given to them for doing nothing at all. This is a bit unexciting but thankfully some of these story quests do mix things up by requiring specific crops be farmed, reaching the certain stage of a mine and slaying a boss, and other things.

While we haven’t seen the entirety of the storyline of Cornucopia at the moment in our early access time with the game, it is worth noting that there is quite a lot to see and do. Almost too much in fact as the game throws a lot at players right off the bat. There is a tutorial of sorts that shows off how various tools work but for the most part, players will find their initial hour in Cornucopia probably quite a confusing one as they try to get a grasp of how much is thrown their way. Perhaps it is simply the way my playthrough started out, but within the first few days, long before I even met most of the town, countless events were tossed my way in the way of cutscenes that can be prompted through the tap of a button, with one of the first being of a pair of Kappa hidden underneath the sea, discussing how there’s no reason to worry about humans thanks to the bridge being out and the nearby spider boss being the only way to actually fix the bridge. This was followed by a wizard appearing on my farm and instantly making all of my initially planted crops grow, most of which were obtained simply from tilling the soil. 

These events are only the beginning of the overflow of information that comes the player’s way at the start of the game as leveling their skills by chopping down trees or breaking rocks trigger clickable stars that when activated give players the choice of three possible rewards. Some of these are temporary like a random skin color, growing crops at a faster pace, or even weaker enemies, but some provide tangible rewards like scratch cards, bombs of various types, random seeds, fruit producing tree saplings, berry producing bush starters, and more. There are over a thousand different items in Cornucopia and many of them happen to appear randomly over the course of simply performing the same actions to the point that things can feel overwhelming until players get the hang of things, which does happen eventually. But some of this does feel a bit like too much fluff and extra circumstances, especially when players are given bombs that all have bonus effects of various types, countless different kinds of fish and bait that seemingly have no effect as fishing without bait will generally prompt the same kind of possible fish, and more. Oh, and speaking of the fishing game, rather than a random chance, it is a Plinko style system instead where players drop bobbers down a board with their reward being the fish/junk with the most bobbers in it. This is a fun little mechanic but does make fishing take longer than usual.

The scratch card system is also both unique and also a bit overwhelming feeling as well. Players can obtain scratch card packs from basically anything, be it visiting a new location, completing a task, opening a treasure chest, buying one, or even snooping through a mailbox. These packs then open up with cards that can simply reward the player with a random item pertaining to a festival, give them a chance to scratch for a reward, or more useful things such as mini-quests like harvesting ten plants, talking to an NPC, or even defeating a monster for a treasure chest. These quest cards share a limited four slot space with buff cards as well, such as faster swing speed for tools, infinite energy, weaker enemies, double harvest chance, and more. These cards are interesting and do add some extra incentive to explore and play different ways and it is also nice that players can dispose of cards they don’t feel like using, though having a random card shift my set birthday season around entirely felt more like a bug than intentional.

Beyond the initial overwhelming flow of information at the start, Cornucopia has a lot of fun ideas going for it, one of which happens to be the way its soil system works. As players obtain seeds they will find that certain plants prefer different types of soil and the mineral make-up of said soil. Sure, players can plant the seed down anywhere they want but to get the biggest yield matching a seed with, say, clay soil with a high potassium value will give just that. This can be done from using rewards obtained through leveling up but most commonly through composting, which makes use of various junk items to craft composting using the game’s many “manufacturing” items that players can craft. Creating something of a loop where players craft crafters to craft items to craft more. Along the way players will also have a pet with them and pet’s can actually have a variety of uses here. Rather than having a chicken or cow that simply hang out in the barn, players can bring them with and have them chop away at trees or even fight enemies, making them useful companions and a way to micromanage a bit easier. This is partially due to the fact that combat almost feels like an afterthought despite the fact that the story currently features a number of bosses to fight at the bottom of mines. Players will level up combat but will just generally use any tool they have (a torch is given but not necessary) to deal damage with no real way to defend yourself or boost your defense outside of having a perk card active.

They pets even serve as useful mounts eventually which is great as navigating the needlessly large map of Cornucopia can be a bit annoying at times, with some NPCs’ homes being so far away from the player they feel entirely useless to try and visit. The NPCs themselves feel decent enough, with Cornucopia offering a massive number of dateable characters and having little events visible for each one. One somewhat odd choice however is how the developer chose to randomize every character’s favorite item and their birthday, making it something of a game of chance when giving gifts and hoping a character might actually like something, though given the sound effects that accompany giving gifts, it is hard to tell either way outside of a character actually getting their favorite gift. That being said, it is also worth noting that the random story progression does appear here as well, with one character dropping the fact that she’s an AI during a festival long before my own character had a chance to even find out that she wasn’t human. 

Cornucopia tries to do a lot at once and it can be overwhelming at first, but once it hits its stride things start to come into fairly smooth motion. There are still some bugs and glitches here and there, with random things such as certain items not being craftable or strange story progression, but given the game’s early access state and how active the developer is, there is a lot of potential here. With a massive cast of characters, charming enough art style that doesn’t reinvent the wheel but does know its audience, and impressive list of things to do, it’ll be interesting to see just how far Cornucopia manages to take itself as it continues to regularly update.

Recommended

Cornucopia may have some rough edges and dump a lot on players at first, but this wealth of content proves to be quite entertaining in the long run and shows plenty of potential for an actively developed early access game.

Travis Bruno
Travis Bruno
After playing games since a young age and getting into anime a bit later on its been time to write about a little bit of everything.