Grow: Song of the Evertree is a game that’s clearly bursting with ideas. A game where you restore the life-giving Evertree, grow your own worlds, meet people and build a community, it’s a prime example of what is quite commonly called ‘cosy’ gaming.
The game opens with an exposition dump. Long ago a race of explorers sailed through the cosmos, finding themselves led by a song to the source of all life, the Evertree. There they founded their civilisation and things flourished for a time, but a rot took hold beneath their comfort, the Withering shattering the Song of Myora and casting this people to the furthest reaches of the cosmos once more.
So… hope is lost then? Not quite, one young Alchemist remains at the Evertree and the game opens as they plant a new World Seed on the branches of the Evertree. A moment of triumph soon turns into mild dismay as the seed’s new world fails to burst into life, and is instead filled with mud, weeds and ruins.
From here the game quickly throws you into one of its core game loops. You have to toil day after day to make the World Seed flourish and burst with life away from the Withering, clearing weeds by pulling them out of the ground, cutting down grass, planting seeds and then watering and sometimes singing to them to make them grow.
You don’t have freedom to plant wherever you like, but are instead guided to set points in the small island to interact with them in the particular ways they need. You don’t have much time pressure – in fact, it barely feels like any time is passing at all in the game as you do this – so you can happily potter around at your own pace. It’s easy to learn how to blaze through your tasks, quickly switching between your tools with the shoulder buttons as you need.
Once everything you can do is done, it’s back down to the base of the Evertree for a little kip in your small house. This is where your character grew up in the care and guardianship of Book and Coppertop. Book is a quite literal book, opening up to keep track of your tasks, missions and rewards, but having a wise-looking face on the front and more than chatty enough. Meanwhile, Coppertop is your Alchemists pot, able to convert pretty much anything you pick up into its constituent parts and resources, using them to create new world seeds of different types. They’re a chatty pair and there’s some nice bits of banter between them, but I do wish they weren’t quite so talkative.
Your other companion is a cuddly mythical creature, a cuter type of Griffin that you get to name not long after you’ve created your own character at the start of the game. At any time you can call upon them with a press of up on the D-pad to swoop you up into the sky and fly you between your World Seeds and the town.
That town is off-limits at the start of the game, but as you discover the ability to Sing and encourage the growth of your plants – it’s more of an area of effect pulse than breaking into a sweet-sounding song – you can use this to push back the thick and thorny Withering that took hold. There’s a few ruins here that you can ask diminutive Everkin to help you clear away, and once they repair the docks, your people will start to trickle back to see what’s occurring.
It’s up to you to build this town, and you can do so pretty much however you like. Stepping out from the small bubble of safety that was your home, you’re handing this large green canvas in which you can build homes, shops and more. The build interface pulls the camera out to a top-down view of the world, as you pick the buildings and more decorative scenery and then rotate and place them however you see fit. It’s fluid and easy to do, and you can then change the look of your town even further by applying different wallpapers and other customisation items.
You’ll have to build homes if you want anyone to come and stay, but once they do you can then given them a job at an Inn, Bakery or whatever else you’ve created. For a people that was forced to flee their home, they’re rather choosey beggars and have certain wants and desires before they’ll settle, which you’ll have to figure out by talking to them.
I’ve only scratched the surface of Grow: Song of the Evertree, but it’s clear that this is a game with many facets that will appeal to a whole range of people. These various sides do feel quite separate through the opening few hours, simply by the fact that you need to literally fly to the World Seeds to do farming and then fly back to do town management, but if you’re into slice of life and farming games, Grow is a well worth looking forward to when it releases on the 16th November.