STAFF REVIEW of Grow: Song of the Evertree (Xbox One)

Friday, February 18, 2022.
by Peggy Doyle

Grow: Song of the Evertree Box art ‘You are special because your heart is strong. You are special because you chose to care.’ These two lines set off an entire wave of emotions that I wasn’t expecting from this cute game I’d been playing for hours by the time it came up on the screen.

Grow: Song of the Evertree is an open world simulation game developed by Prideful Sloth and published by 505 games. When I first saw the trailer for Grow: Song of the Evertree, I knew immediately it was the same team behind one of my favourite games, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. The style is unmistakable. Grow: Song of the Evertree is a wonderful blend of exploration and simulation, encompassing alchemy, farming, and town management mechanics.

With so much stress in the world right now, I have found myself drawn more often to really relaxed and chill games that have a lighter mood and simple mechanics. Something to distract me and take me away from the news that is so easy to get bogged down in. I knew Grow: Song of the Evertree would fit the bill perfectly. Following the story of a young Everheart Alchemist, you are the last human living in the shadow of the Evertree. Your job is to rebuild the world after it has been ravaged by a disease called the Withering. The Withering takes the form primarily or tangles of thorny brambles.

Guided in your journey by your main friends, a talking spell book and a helpful cauldron, you create seeds to plant on the Evertree. As the seeds first germinate, they are plagued by the Withering. In order for them to grow, you’ll clear rocks and toxic weeds, water plants, and eventually each seed will become its own established world on a branch of the Evertree. You may also need to ‘sing’ to help animals trapped or plants grow. The game is called Song of the Evertree after all. Depending on the seeds you create in the cauldron, using a combination of essences you gather, your worlds can have an unbelievable variety of plant and animal life, as well as its own climate and weather. Flora, fauna and landscape vary immensely.

I had some lush worlds with beautiful flowers and trees, and others that were arid and desertlike. I even had one that looked like it could have come from a Saturday morning cartoon, as everything was pastel and princess like. It even had a glad slipper rock formation. Since the worlds are random and determined by the seeds you create, if you are looking for a particular resource to complete a project, you have to have a world that produces it. That leads to quite a bit of trail and error in creating your seeds and worlds though. This led me to the discord for the game. Spending time in the discord with others who played the game was a joy to see and share the recipes for the seeds we’ve love the most. Helping each other determine what combination gave us the traits we were looking for. What a wonderful community.

Like any open world game, there are a multitude of collectibles. You can fish and catch bugs, harvest plants, fruit, minerals and essences. There is a journal where you can see everything you’ve captured in the game. There are so many slots for items that I am happy there wasn’t an achievement for collecting everything in the game. Once the animals appear in your new worlds, you can befriend them by either feeding them or giving tummy rubs. The animation here is delightful watching a variety of strange animals becoming happier and more friendly. Eventually you can ‘adopt’ them and move them to your main village/world to live in nature sanctuaries, or even as pets for some of the villagers if you choose to.

Speaking of villagers, you have to manage and grow each section of Everheart, and as you open and build each town, people will visit. Sometimes they may choose to stay if there is an available place for them to live. If they stay you need to create more homes, employment and provide other needs for them. Each person you interact with has a distinct personality. They have a preference for jobs that will make them most happy and may also have strange quirks you uncover. You can build a variety of homes and businesses, like motels, cafes, libraries and even creature care centres that are shaped like a cat (complete with ears). You can also customize the buildings, at least the exteriors. You can place decoration and landscaping features around as well. I really enjoyed giving each village a sort of personality or identity. Each village you create will also give you a list of challenges to complete. These could be something like placing a certain number of items around town or having a certain number of people living there. It might also be that you have to do a few fetch quests. Each challenge completed increases the happiness level of the town and gives you a stone for the center of the village. Once you get all the stones for that particular village, you can ‘sing’ to the stones which will remove the Withering from the next section of the map, and you repeat the process with your next village.

Like most simulation games, your days become defined by a schedule of tasks. Wake up and check out the villages. Once those tasks are done for the day, you’ll fly up to the Evertree on your adorable lion/dragon hybrid, jumping between the worlds, gathering resources and maintaining the landscapes. Eventually you’ll hit a mandatory sleep cycle, and you start again the next day.

One thing I would have liked to have seen in the game was an option to skip tutorials. The initial tutorial takes several in-game days and once you learn how to do things like fish, catch bugs etc., you end up doing it all a second time when you go to the world of the Everkin. I’m not sure why the game had you learn things twice.

One of my favourite features of Grow was the stunning art design. Each environment you uncover or create was fully saturated with colour and had amazing unique details. Blades of grass moved in the wind, ripples appeared in the water when fish swam by, the trees, plants and blossoms all were rich in colour and full of life. The beautiful worlds, the relaxing soundtrack and almost hypnotic flow of tasks made it quite easy to lose track of time while playing this gem.

Grow: Song of the Evertree is a great game for fans of simulation and relaxing games as well as a wonderful game to introduce new or young players to the open world genre. Grow: Song of the Evertree has very forgiving mechanics, simple explanations, and no matter how many times you choose to restart the game, you are sure to have a slightly different experience. Especially with the worlds you create on the Evertree.

While some gamers will find the game tedious or menial or won’t capture their attention, I found it to be the opposite. I couldn’t stop playing it. Like I mentioned early in this review, I loved Prideful Sloths first game, Yonder, and Grow: Song of the Evertree was exactly what I wanted it to be; Familiar, but more refined and unique. For friends I talk to frequently while reviewing games, they’ll tell you I wouldn’t stop talking about this one. It was exactly what I needed, and those two lines I mentioned in the opening of this review hit me in a way I didn’t expect, and I loved it.

**Grow: Song of the Evertree was provided by the publisher (Xbox One version) and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.3 / 10
Gameplay: 8.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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