E3 2018 Hands-on: Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin

At last year’s E3, we had the chance to go hands-on with an early build of an upcoming game being published by XSeed, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin. Despite the short and sometimes obviously beta demo, it became one of my favorites from the 2017 show.

This year, Sakuna made a return to XSeed’s booth in the form of two separate demos. One featured similar gameplay to last year’s, being a side-scrolling action platformer with some acrobatics thrown in. The other was brand new and showed off the other half of the game: a farming simulator.

Of course, I had to try my hand at the farming sim first, as it was a brand new part of the game they were showing off to the public. True to the game’s name, the farming aspect focuses on one crop: rice.

Sakuna has you playing as a the game’s namesake, a fledgling harvest goddess, and as such, you have to learn how to grow rice in the most efficient way possible. The demo focuses on Sakuna’s first time cultivating a crop, and takes you step by step from seed to finished product.

This is all presented in essentially a series of minigames. You begin by tilling a field, flooding it and then planting rice cuttings…which I apparently firmly failed at, as the game told me I planted them too far apart.

Luckily, my failure there didn’t seem to affect the crop too badly, as a few moments later (the game time-skips through the crops growing) I wound up with a respectable crop. From there I played through other short minigames to harvest, dry, thresh, and dehull the rice, and managed to wind up with a decent finished product.

This demo ended at this point, so I moved to the other station to try out this year’s platformer demo. It was a different level than last year’s demo, but the mechanics were pretty much the same. The focal mechanic is still Sakuna’s scarf, which you can use to attach to both enemies and the environment to navigate acrobatically.

If anything, the game’s controls felt much smoother and more refined than last year’s demo…which makes sense, since it’s had another year of development. Swinging around enemies using Sakuna’s scarf is such a simple yet fun mechanic, although in some situations it made the game feel a bit too easy. The boss fight at the end of this demo in particular became simple when I could just use the scarf to attach to the boss and swing around all of its attacks.

Regardless, though, the platformer sections still feel just plain fun to play. The farming sim portion seems to be interesting as well, although it didn’t hold my attention nearly as much. The PR rep that was with me during my demo mentioned that this portion will change and evolve throughout the game’s full playtime, which assuaged some of my fears of repetition.

Overall, Sakuna: Of Rice and Ruin still seems to be shaping up into a great title for XSeed. The demo was, once again, one of my personal highlights of E3. The game is expected for release in winter, but no firm date has been given yet.

Screenshots courtesy of XSeed Games