Grow: Song Of The Evertree - Strong Roots
PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
For many years, fans turned their noses up at the likes of Harvest Moon; the calming zen nurturing sim was riding solo for many years, until the likes of Rune Factory, Animal Crossing, Story Of Seasons, Stardew Valley, and a heightened indie presence arrived to elevate the genre into a place of relevance for a far greater crowd than Harvest Moon ever could. More and more games that don’t quite fit the farming or town building sim genres have drawn more heavily upon these elements too, creating hybridised products that have been better for the inclusion of these elements. Following the warm reception to Yonder: The Cloudcatcher Chronicles in 2017, the team at Prideful Sloth have doubled down on zen with the release of Grow: Song Of The Evertree. Can this title find its spiritual centre?
The dreaded Withering has driven away all the alchemists from the Everheart. The Withering, a thorn-like mass, is choking the Evertree and all that is connected to it, but alchemists have the power to stop it. As a matured alchemist, the task falls to you to restore the land, and force back the Withering bit by bit. The Evertree has seen better days so it should take quite a while to arrest the momentum that the Withering had, but your skillset, as well as the tools at your disposal, grow rapidly, and so it doesn’t take nearly as long to gain your first semblance of control over the horribly devolved situation. The key to your progression is the Eversong, and World Seeds which, become new regions to explore and restore. While the plot itself is a simplistic one, it’s the exchanges with Coppertop, Book, and the growing number of denizens of your township situated at the base of the Evertree hosts, that are the real highlights.
With the inspirations in terms of gameplay immediately obvious, Grow: Song Of The Evertree, still does a fantastic job of bringing these disparate elements and inspirations together to form a wonderfully cohesive whole. As players traverse the Evertree, each region that you move to will be overwhelmed by the force of the Withering; the result is a mess, but the satisfaction that players often derive from first arriving in their Animal Crossing township or Story of Seasons farm, and ripping out all the weeds and straightening up the mess is felt immediately in Grow. You’ve got poisoned creatures to heal, thorns to rip out destroyed environmental objects everywhere and plantlife to nurture from the moment you arrive, and by scrolling between your L2/RB and R2/RB bumpers you can quickly whip out the tool you need for the job. The job can’t be completed in an in-game day though. Multiple visits, usually over the course of about a week are required to 100% restore a location so prepare yourself to revisit locations multiple times as you inch them towards environmental purity.
The other components stem from your township. Just like in Animal Crossing, prospective residents emerge from time to time as you build your town out. These residents (thankfully unlike that lazy bunch in Animal Crossing) are keen to contribute to the restoration project you’re beginning, and will take on roles within the town to make your life a bit easier. The locals will also offer you simple little quests, that usually amount to little more than “Collect 5 units of X” or “Can you get me item Y”; you can even attempt to woo them, but it’s not overly additive to the playing experience. By working with the community, the town grows, and as the town grows further opportunities to explore the world avail themselves. The world plays host to a range of puzzles, expanses primed for a new township to be set up, and much more – all of it leading towards the acquisition of more World Seeds which gives you more on the Evertree itself to do.
Games of Grow’s ilk tend to be slow burns, and we’ve seen with the likes of Animal Crossing and Story of Seasons that people really vibe with that slower pace, but even wit; a simple question of the player asking if they needed any given tutorial really would have done wonders to assist with the on-boarding of new and returning players. At first it can seem like it will be impossible to complete all of the goals, and maintain all of the regions available to you with the limited number of daylight hours you have each day, but as you progress, more and more of the Evertree becomes self-sustaining, allowing you to focus your time elsewhere – until you first see this for yourself though it can be extremely intimidating and could serve as a turn-off to some.
What won’t turn players off, aside from the incredibly writing, is the look, feel, and sounds of the world. Like Yonder before it, Grow is a gorgeous looking game, with the art design shining incredibly bright, and the technical component doing what it needs to to support that. The whispers of the wind, coupled with the soundtrack, and the aforementioned visuals work together to create a zen feeling that few games can accomplish.
With some earlier technical hiccups resolved, Grow: Song Of The Evertree stands tall as a genre leader. There are a few small balancing issues, and the animations for the completion of moment-to-moment tasks can be a bit lengthy, but Prideful Sloth have created the perfect blanket and hot chocolate game, one that you can consume at whatever pace you like, but will feel incredible regardless of how you choose to play.
Grow: Song Of The Evertree was reviewed on a PS5, running the PS4 version with code kindly supplied by 505 Games