Rainbows in the desert
The bright, rainbow-filled Ever Oasis is a delightful and friendly townbuilding/adventure game for casual players.
EVER Oasis is a bright, colourful game that’s all about growth: you’re growing a vibrant oasis town in the middle of an unforgiving desert; you’re growing friendships with the various townsfolk and adventurers who’ll aid you on your town-building journey; and you’re growing your character into a hero who’ll be able to stop the threat of monsters encroaching on the land.
The best thing I can say about this action-JRPG (Japanese role-playing game) title is that it’s a very welcoming game – if you’re a casual gamer who’d like to try her/his hand on a mix of an adventuring game and a town-building sim, then Ever Oasis is a delightfully simple game to get started with.
However, if you’re a more experienced adventure gamer, I have a lot of other things to say, so let’s put on our sun-proof adventuring hats and journey on into this review.
Paradise for newbies
In Ever Oasis, you play as a young seedling (a cute little sprite/fairy) who escapes into the desert when the forces of Chaos invade your home. Out in the wilds, you meet the water spirit Esna, and together you fight back against the darkness by growing an oasis – a magical place of shelter in the harsh desert. In time, you’ll turn your little oasis into a thriving town, attract residents from the various fantastical tribes of the land, and eventually uncover the mysteries of the desert so you can protect everyone from the looming threat of Chaos.
The fantastic, unapologetically magical world of Ever Oasis is one of the game’s greatest charms. The game’s aesthetics are a curious mix of fairy tales and Egyptian designs, and despite being set in a harsh desert landscape, the game is full of colour and wonder. It’s easy to be enthralled by the sight of a gargantuan magical urn pouring sand into the desert, a mysterious Aladdin-like lamp sunk off the coast, or your sparse oasis gradually turning into a lush paradise as it levels up.
The gameplay consists of two parts: first, there’s a fairly standard actionadventure game that sees you running into the desert, attacking monsters in real time combat, collecting resources for your oasis, and traversing a few dungeons with some fairly simple puzzles.
Second, there’s a very simple townbuilding sim where – as you attract more people to become residents of your oasis – you can set up Bloom Booths (shops/ houses) throughout your oasis, which generate dewadems (money).
If you’re interested in Ever Oasis’ magical setting, but are fairly new to games that feature actionbased combat and exploration, then here’s some good news: Ever
Oasis is very gentle to players, and it holds your hands as you play, guiding you across the most basic of interactions and even spelling out solutions to some puzzles.
Honestly, there’s so much hand-holding that it can actually be irritating to experienced gamers – for example, when I tried to attack a monster for the first time, the game halted as Esna warned me: “Be careful! That’s a dangerous monster! Press A to attack it!” Yes, I know, that’s exactly why I approached this wild animal with my sword drawn out. Did you think I would accidentally invite it to a tea party?
Little too easy
Unfortunately, as you can guess, my enjoyment of Ever Oasis was greatly dampened by the expectations I brought from other similar action games and town-building sims.
My main frustration with Ever Oasis is that – for a good chunk of the early story – the gameplay doesn’t ask me to make many interesting choices, and this is a problem for a game that bills itself as a title about exploration and town management. My daily schedule should be inundated with important decisions, from choosing what equipment I should craft next to planning the layout of my lil’ town. For example, the action/combat portion of the game sees you running around the desert in a team of three, two of whom are controlled by the game’s AI. Usually, the choice is a tough one – do you take a healer for safety? Or do you take a warrior and a mage for an all-out blast-everything approach? However, in Ever Oasis, this is often a no-brainer – some of the puzzle-laden dungeons need exactly two abilities to proceed (whether a hammer to smash rocks, or the ability to roll into a ball to go through holes, or etc) and there are exactly two people in your town who fit the bill.
The town-building portions also suffer from this “no-brainer” approach. While finding ways to attract seedlings to join your oasis is quite enjoyable – they each have their own personal story and side quests to complete in order to become a resident – once they’ve set up shop, there’s rarely any incentive to plan your town any further. Do you place the balloon shop or the toy shop first? Should you place the fruit shop next to the juice bar? Do you close down one seedling’s shop, so she can be assigned to work at the garden instead? Trick questions, because it mostly doesn’t matter! The game is, unfortunately, a little too easy.
If there’s one major saving grace to this, it’s that the game gets much more interesting the further you get. A lot of features – such as the ability to grow resources in a garden, send out expedition parties and start festivals – are only unlocked after several hours of playing. When I said this is a game that’s all about growth, I wasn’t kidding – even the gameplay grows along with your oasis. These later changes introduce a lot of the challenge and content that are missing from the early portions of the game, and while I’m enjoying the game more now than I did at the start, I have to admit it was quite a grind to get here.
Casual, happy oasis
At a personal level, I’m rather disappointed with Ever Oasis because I was expecting a game with much more challenge – a game I could get absorbed into as I juggled the dangers of adventuring life with the survival of my oasis and the needs of the residents under my protection.
Instead, I found a game that’s both welcoming and forgiving, one that’s designed for newer or more casual gamers. It’s a game where – instead of giving you challenges to overcome through ingenuity and skills – you’re simply asked to take your time to enjoy this magical world that’s been lovingly crafted for you.
Obviously, my personal feelings don’t mean Ever Oasis isn’t a good game – in fact, I actually recommend it to anyone who wants to try their first actionadventure game, or their first JRPG. I may not find Ever Oasis exciting, but I can say it’s absolutely delightful – the game is a small oasis of joy and magic that invites gamers to settle down and relax with it.