Gleaner Heights Review – A Dark Take on Farming That Doesn’t Quite Hit Its Mark
Gleaner Heights is an indie farming title in a similar vein to Stardew Valley and Harvest Moon, but with emphasis adult topics such as murder, alcoholism, and other “sins”. This idea of having a farming simulator that focused less on making one feel good and more on the idea of consequences for one actions really intrigued me, so I ended up picking up the game. Is Gleaner Heights any good? Below is my Gleaner Heights review.
What is Gleaner Heights?
Created by a single developer named Emilios Manolidis, Gleaner Heights is a new take on the farming genre with heavy infusion of the gothic atmosphere of certain 90’s TV shows (Twin Peaks is a major inspiration). During the day, you will spend your time farming, tending to your animals, fishing, hunting, and generally enjoying your time. At night, however, things get much more dark as Gleaner Heights reveals an underlying evil that resides in the hearts of its residents. The deeper into the townfolk’s lives you get, the more dark and sinister things become.
Gleaner Heights as a Game
Gleaner Heights is essentially two games in one. On the surface, you can pretty much spend your time treating it like a normal farming game. You can wake up farm, tend to your animals, go fishing, go hunting, or pursue any other major farming game activity. Beneath the surface of the farming game is a completely other game about the townsfolk and their evil deeds. Since this is how the game is seperated, I am going to be separating my review in a similar manner.
Normal Farming Game
Gleaner Heights is built around the core concepts found in other farming games (very similar to SNES Harvest Moon). You come to Gleaner Heights, inherit a farm and begin to toil away to make your farm profitable. Profitability entails buying seeds from the local shop, purchasing livestock, fishing, hunting, mining, and partaking in other activities to generate revenue. As you earn money you can purchase upgrades for the town or your farm which improve your money making ability.
Having played a good few hours of Gleaner Heights, I can easily say that the farming aspect is the worst part of the game. While it’s usable, it feels pretty outdated in terms of mechanics. One example that comes to mind is that the game lacked an indicator of where your tool/watering can would land, meaning it was easy to simply miss your intended target. Another example is that there was no value of how much crops and items sold for, meaning you had no idea what crops were worth. Another example is how the game handles mining which randomly generates each floor and gives no easy way to return to the surface. Coming off the refined experience of Stardew Valley, playing the farming side of Gleaner Heights felt like a step backwards in many of the farming aspects.
Dark Horror-Drama Game
While the farming aspect of Gleaner Heights left a lot to be desired, I had an absolutely blast with the dark-horror drama that makes up the other half of the game. When you start Gleaner Heights, you immediately realize that something is amiss with the town. There is an evil lurking under the surface that begs to be explored and you will find yourself doing just that.
During the evenings after you’ve spent your day farming, venturing into town will often trigger various NPC events. These events cover a wide gamut of pretty dark topics and have multiple outcomes which can impact Gleaner Heights. Outcomes are classified as being good or ‘sin’ outcomes. Sin outcomes are often the darkest outcome possible and play into the game’s various endings. How dark things get was fairly surprising, but appreciated. How dark things get actually makes Gleaner Heights feel like a real place-with all the messed up stuff that comes along with any town/city in real life.
The dark horror-drama aspect of the game I really enjoyed and found myself wanting to explore and spend time with. My only real complaints would be that the NPCs need more dialogue, there should’ve been more events, and events need to be longer (most events can be finished in a few days).
Having touched on the major aspects of Gleaner Heights, I will be running down any miscellaneous things that stood out to me below.
- Music: The music in Gleaner Heights is solid and enjoyable to listen to. There’s a specific track that plays in the mines which features some incredibly sexy saxophone which I found myself wanting to hear over and over.
- Combat: Gleaner Heights features combat. This combat works fairly well and even includes a number of special abilities you can level up.
- Graphics: The game looks pretty good and I dug the aesthetic.
- Price: At $9.99 USD, Gleaner Heights is an awesome value proposition. I’ve dumped tens of hours into the game and feel like I easily got my money out of it.
- Controls: On keyboard and mouse the game is fairly easy to control. Controller support is pretty lacking though.
- Endings: I’ve seen a couple of them and can say they leave a bit to be desired.
- Dev Support: The developer is really active on Steam and has been releasing a flurry of updates to the game. This kind of support I absolutely appreciate.
Closing Thoughts on Gleaner Heights
The beauty of indie titles is their willingness to try new things. Gleaner Heights is one such example of this as it attempts to put a new spin on the beloved farming genre. While The game stumbles in some spots, there’s enough here to have some fun with. Given the price and experience, pick up Gleaner Heights if you want to try a new take on farming. A darker, more adult farming game that allows you to be evil.