The ‘cosy gaming’ movement is more popular than ever, with games like Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon and Stardew Valley being at the forefront. I’m a big fan of the genre, so Grow: Song of the Evertree appealed to me from the moment I saw the box art. I tend to go through phases of playing them relentlessly or not touching them for months, so I went into Grow with slight anticipation, but I have to say, I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this game.
Grow: Song of the Evertree is the second game to be developed by Prideful Sloth after the success of their breakthrough game Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. It’s a beautiful and quirky sandbox adventure that allows players to grow their own worlds through the use of alchemy.
At a glance, the concept behind Grow: Song of the Evertree is simple enough. The playable character hails from a community of alchemists with the ability to utilise The Song – a power that deeply connects them with nature and, by extension, the Evertree. These alchemists were responsible for tending to the Evertree. When the withering began to take hold, infecting the tree with its darkness, all but one alchemist fled. Players take up the role of this last Everhart Alchemist. It is up to them to restore the Evertree to its former glory with the help of their friends, Book and Coppertop.
There are two key elements to Grow: Song of the Evertree’s gameplay, and they go hand-in-hand.
The first is the management of your town. At the beginning of the game, you are the only resident, and large areas are cordoned off by thorns brought by the Withering, so you’re limited in where you can explore and what you can do. The first thing to do is repair the docks – Coppertop and Book will talk you through this and periodically offer their advice throughout the game – so visitors can begin to arrive. Build a few houses, and you can have these visitors become residents and run any of the businesses you construct. You’ll have the opportunity to help your residents too – they’ll frequently approach you with requests or problems for you to solve, and doing so will earn you rewards. The goal is to raise each area’s happiness level to 100%, something you’ll accomplish through things like constructing new buildings and placing decorations around the town.
As you progress through the game, you’ll be able to push back the Withering and access more areas of the map.
The second element is the the creation and growth of your worlds. You begin with one world and can tend to it by pulling weeds, planting seeds and watering plants until it grows into something beautiful. Using The Song will speed up the process, but it can only be done when the option appears. You can then harvest the plants you have grown and other objects you find around these worlds into Essence. Once you have sufficiently grown your first world, Coppertop will introduce you to the concept of World Seeds.
You can plant world Seeds on the branches of the Evertree to sprout new worlds. To create them, you’ll need to use the Essence you have been gathering up to that point. Essence provides the building blocks for your worlds by determining its characteristics. Combining different Essences allows you to create worlds with different aesthetics. For example, I combined “Icy”, “Sparkly” and “Cute” to create a wintery utopia, completely different from my starting world. There’s something truly satisfying about watching your worlds grow from barren wastelands to prospering utopias. It’s just a little disappointing that you don’t have all that much control over the growth of your worlds. The mounds of dirt where seeds can be planted are predetermined, so most of the time, you’re just tending to the world rather than actually designing them.
As someone who doesn’t have much of an eye for design, this suited me just fine. I found going through the motions of weeding, planting and watering incredibly therapeutic, almost to the point of obsession. Much like Stardew Valley, Grow: Song of the Evertree runs on an in-game clock where you end the day by going to sleep, so I fell into the mindset of “I’ll tend to just one more world” or “just one day”, and before I knew it, I’d been on my console for hours. Even when I wasn’t tending to my worlds or my town, I was exploring because there was a surprising amount to see.
As you tend to your worlds, you’ll come across a number of cute looking creatures that you can play with and pet. Give them enough attention across several days, and you can adopt them, assuming you have somewhere to keep them. You can take a selfie with them too. Each world also has a variety of fish and insects you can collect and then either sell them or break them down into Essence.
Visually, Grow: Song of the Evertree looks and sounds great. The cutesy art style and the tranquil music by anime composer Kevin Penkin add to the serenity of the game. The game could have run a little smoother though. I didn’t encounter any real issues, but I found that if you switched tabs in the Town Planner menu in quick succession, the icons became blurred. There were also some instances when the game made a strange whirring noise – usually when I was doing something like opening a chest – but this didn’t happen very often.
All in all, Grow: Song of the Evertree is a charming game full of character. The repetitiveness of its gameplay might not be for everyone, but I enjoyed being able to just relax, go through the motions, and watch my worlds grow. There was plenty to do and the freedom to take things at my own pace – to tend to my town, my worlds, or to simply just explore – was something I appreciated. If you’re a fan of Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon and similar games, Grow: Song of the Evertree has the potential to be your new favourite.
Developer: Prideful Sloth
Publisher: 505 Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Release Date: 16th November 2021