Gleaner Heights is a Harvest Moon-inspired retro-styled farming sim developed entirely by one man, a very basic outline that sounds a lot like the indie mega-hit Stardew Valley. To a point, that's true. During the day you'll grow crops, tend your animals, hunt, fish, cook, befriend the townsfolk, and perhaps even pursue romance. But things take a turn when the sun goes down.
The game begins as you take your first steps toward a new life as a farmer in the charming little town of Gleaner Heights. "Grab your trusty tools and transform your farm into the richest field in town! Over 40 crops await for you to discover and plant them. Tend to your animals, make them happy and collect their produce! Keep them either inside the barn or make fenced perimeters outside to let them graze under the sun," the Steam Page says.
Scroll down a little, though, and you'll learn that your adopted home is not quite as it seems. "Discover the haunting past of Gleaner Heights, from its early days to the terrible events that occurred just prior to your arrival. Confront the supernatural horror that lurks in the bowels of the earth. Break the cycle of destruction... or inherit it."
"Gleaner Heights is an experiment on how people will react upon finding out that their formerly-perceived-as sandboxy, innocent, do-anything-I-want world has consequences," Manolidis said. "In other farming games, if you neglect a sick animal, it will die, vanishing automagically from your farm. Well, not in this game. Here, you'll have to deal with the slowly decomposing result of your neglect."
It's obviously grim in places, and there are combat sequences, but it's not gratuitously violent: Violence happens, but the greater horror is being forced to live with the consequences of your actions. As you wander the streets at night, discovering the secret lives of your friends and neighbors, you can help or hinder them as you see fit. But if you choose to become involved, you don't get to just walk away when it's over. "The ghosts of victims of your vile deeds will haunt you forever," Manolidis said.
And you do have the choice to just leave all that alone if you want. There's an overarching plot to follow with multiple endings, but "people can safely ignore all the underlying stuff and happily plant and water beans and cabbages all year, to year one million," he said. "Who am I to tell them otherwise?"
Gleaner Heights is set to go live on Steam on February 21, and Manolidis plans to continue developing the game beyond that point with new animals, crops, NPCs, and areas to explore. "I also really want to add a colorblind mode, as well as a 'child safe' mode, since the game tends to be a bit violent and unsuitable for children in a (very) few places," he said. "Also, I plan on releasing its soundtrack as DLC, since I'm also the game's composer!"