I actually watched a YouTuber (ProJared) play a bit of this game before the console launch. One of the main reasons I wanted to buy it was because of the relationships system. I just thought it was really unique, and despite my numerous criticisms of the game’s console launch I have to compliment the creators for coming up with it. IMO it makes the characters interesting in a way that other games like Stardew Valley or Harvest Moon don’t. I’m mostly crediting the play/dates and the relationship networks systems for that.
I do wish there was more to do on the dates, but I give it a pass because I’ve never really seen a game do something like this. Rune Factory 4 maybe, but not to this extent. It makes the characters feel like they’re actual friends that you go and hang out with, and it definitely lessens the “bribing them into liking you” feel of other Harvest Moon style games.
And the relationship networks just make sense. I mean, why wouldn’t befriending Gust also make his family like you more? If you become friends with Arlo don’t you think he’d introduce you to his other buddies? It really adds a lot to the game. Plus it gives incentive to befriend characters other than your chosen spouse and learn their stories. Honestly it’s so obvious of a feature I can’t believe none of these farm-and-friend type games have done it yet.
And there’s just lots of little touches like not learning what a character’s birthday is until you’re buddies with them, or having them come to you in the morning to ask to hang out instead of you always asking them. Way better than the occasional heart event and slightly more friendly dialogue.
I will say I wish there were more personal side quests (for all characters, I’m led to believe some have more than others?). I’m currently pursuing Arlo and I’ve gotten almost no events with him… Meanwhile I got several random Gust events (including walking QQ! AKA the best thing ever!) and I’m seriously regretting my choice.