Wandering through the halls of EGX, Gamespace got some time to escape the noise and tend to our own adventure with Grow: Song of the Evertree, an utterly charming new title about to sprout onto PC next month.
Without knowing exactly what we were walking into at last week’s EGX expo, one thing was certain. Grow: Song of the Evertree was already on our to-do list after the initial announcement trailer. This upcoming release from 505 Games and Prideful Sloth first announced itself to us back in June 2021 and planted itself firmly in the wholesome games sector. This bright and ultimately charming new endeavour melds a bunch of ideas from city building sims to slice of life scenarios, all with a sandbox collect and craft system that aims to provide spades of freedom for players who just want to put down the rapid fire grenade launcher for a watering can and cute critters.
Song of the Evertree transports players to a magical world, all centred around the trunk of the Evertree. This realm finds itself under attack by a malevolent force known as the Withering and it’s up to you, a no orphaned alchemist, to venture out into the world and rebuild what was once lost. Thankfully for you, and for this hands on preview, the central protagonist is not entirely alone in this world. Joined by a talking spellbook and cauldron, as well as a few furry critters, it’s time to repair the world of Alaria.
At first glance, the world of this Evertree doesn’t look to be withering away. The last bastion of the Everheart Alchemists is a bright set of oversized objects and stylized 3D characters and definitely owes a little to JRPGs like Atelier series. What it does, however, is soften the edges of the JRPG archetype, adding in subtle shades and whimsical nonsense leaning into something that might be more like slice of life classics, such as Story of Seasons.
The Evertree represents a fundamental part of rebuilding Alaria. The entire title revolves around it and this ancient object towers above the player at almost every turn. In our brief expedition, we tried out a number of newly generated worlds, all perched on different branches of this expanding green monolith. Each environment is generated using seeds, in the literal sense. While Minecraft experts might talk of world seeds in metaphorical terms, developer Prideful Sloth has leaned into the green fingered attitude and asks players to actively generate seeds using in game mechanics. Mixing ingredients in an alchemist’s cauldron, the end result of each seed depends on the components used, with an incalculable number of potential combinations.
What we experienced was an early sampling of the worlds on offer, After jumping on possibly the cutest furry flying thing I’ve ever seen, and flapping up the Evertree, we took to a festering landscape. Small in size but full of activity, the bright daytime of the main player hub is lost among a purple haze. This is the withering and the first part of repopulating the world around the Evertree. In order to nurture nature, players get to use can use a range of in game tools to clear away rubble, squash invasive species, plant objects, and bring some joy back into the world. Carrying out this busy work is easy enough, with a set of tools on hand and a trimmed down radial menu for selection. Interacting with objects is a single button manoeuvre, making Song of the Evertree’s core gameplay loop accessible for most ages.
Crafting and Alchemy
Rewards for this effort come in a variety of forms. As things progress larger worlds will unlock bigger rewards and even environmental puzzles. To begin with, it’s all about sweeping up the loot. Smashing rubble drops plenty of ingredients that come in useful as soon as you travel down the branches to tend to other affairs, crafting new world seeds and growing the town below, providing materials for building, and other associated cosmetics. We didn’t delve particularly deep during our hands on but the potential here really is enormous, and pretty fancy.
Slice of Life
What starts out as a seemingly simple sandbox that relies heavily on cute characters and some great voice acting swiftly shows another side to itself as you begin to push back the Withering. With enough relevant materials, you’ll be able to take a hand in rebuilding the local town too, creating facilities and homes for NPCs to inhabit. It’s down to you how to place these new structures and what to focus on first. Fans of escapist adventures like Animal Crossing will likely love this level of customization and the NPCs that eventually inhabit your fledgling borough all have their own quests, desires, demands, and benefits. Thankfully Song of the Evertree doesn’t ever lose that base simplicity. While players looking to tweak the storage size, NPC sleeping areas, or event the decoration of their new dwellings will be able to lose hours to the task, you’ll be able to largely click and drop thanks to a wonderful balance of adventure elements and sandbox systems.
What impresses most about Song of the Evertree isn’t the magical visuals and the almost innocent touch of wonder Tower of God composer Kevin Penkin has brought to the title with the score. Instead, Song of the Evertree impresses by making everything you do the right way to play. Tutorials are obviously baked in handholding quests, introducing everybody to the different features of this experience and the furry inhabitants that are situated among it. However, Song of the Evertree manages to let go at just the right time. Town building and world creation are player driven activities that don’t have many demands. While you’ll be pointed in a particular direction in order to explore or a town’s needs, there’s no obvious fail state we could find. Instead, you’ll progress the narrative as you see fit, dipping in and out of whichever game mode takes your fancy, all while being gently nudged in a particular direction. If you want to jsut sit back and fish the day away, there’s no reason why you can’t. Nothing in Alaria seems forced. Instead, Song of the Evertree never outstays its welcome and charmed the heck out of us. You can already wishlist Grow: Song of the Evertree on Steam now ahead of its 16 November launch.