Developer Prideful Sloth and 505 Games presents a new relaxing hybrid game entitled, GROW: Song of the Evertree. Coming from their previous game, Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles which released back in 2017 this new game offers a similar approach but a whole lot more to boot. Where Yonder focused on helping people and farming the lands of Gemea, GROW provides players with the tools to rebuild an entire community. Is it any good though? Read our GROW: Song of the Evertree review for the full picture.
To begin, players select an avatar, where there is some limited, but welcome customization available. Hair style, colour, skin tone, body shape etc. Once done, within the first hour of play the gameplay loop is explored and explained very well. Initially, players dive into their first created world from a starting seed given to the player as part of the main story branch. As time progresses, players get to create their own worlds with their uniquely created seeds.
We felt the pacing at the start was a little on the slow side, and to be frank a tad dull. On the first world, players smash rocks, pull out weeds, plant saplings, and then water them – It drags its feet. You return home for the evening, rest-up and then do the same thing the next day, and so on. However, you do get a sense of accomplishment as you witness your little space develop and grow each day. Eventually it flourishes and requires no more input from you. It’s here where the game opens its doors.
There are three main gameplay areas to GROW, the first the aforementioned tending to your world, the second building your community by way of unlocking buildings and freely placing them in your town or village. Lastly, exploring the surrounding areas of your town solving puzzles whilst unveiling a greater sub-plot for the main story element (which we won’t spoil here).
With the world creation, players snag all sorts of items in the field which can then be converted into buildings, decorations and other items for your community or used as world building seeds. What is neat here is how elements are fused together. Players have a fair amount of choice in how they mix-and-match to get a desired result, but careful placement of items will net varied worlds to nurture. Your choices here affect the overall tone such as icy, watery or desert like, but the other essences you place into the mix has an effect on what flora and fauna will reside in your world. It’s an easy process and one you can either spend time trying to perfect, or just go with the flow and randomize your components. Once you have a seed, you plant on the branches of the Evertree and then repeat the task of nurturing it as it grows into something far greater. There are mini side elements in each world such as befriending animals and exploring caves but generally players utilize the same actions of breaking stones, chopping down plants, breaking junk, planting seeds, pulling weeds, watering etc. The hook here is simply seeing how your world pans-out, and gathering the resources required to build the community on the ground.
The community aspect offers more player accomplishment where you place housing, businesses and decorations as you see fit in your expanding town. The build mode is pretty easy to use so there is little fiddling about with sliders and menus. Each building is customizable, so you’re able to create some unique looking villages if you have unlocked the right parts. Things like coloured rooftops and interior wallpapers, alongside decorations help create some visually appealing buildings from their default looks. Acquiring new parts is fairly organic, as it’s tied to the tasks you’re naturally completing through progression of the story. Once people start moving in, players then manage the populace by giving them homes and work. The people (who can come in all sorts of human and alien forms) have their own happiness, wants and desires and will often offer a side-quest where you can either gift them an item, hunt it down or craft it. The town is divided into districts which you can freely explore at any given time. Which brings us to the third gameplay loop of exploration of the surrounding areas.
Aside from your districts, there are plenty alternate areas to explore as you clear pathways to new zones through story progression. It’s here where the underlying meta game of exploration of caves and caverns offers new gameplay mechanics. Players will operate switches and solve puzzles to unlock the story’s secrets and to be fair, it’s a welcome change of pace from the rest of the game. However, what really has to be commended is the fact that aside from the opening section, you’re pretty much free to do as you please without being shoehorned into specific activities by time limits.
Visually, GROW looks very pleasant with its animated characters and vibrant colour palate. With a day-and-night cycle as well, the game simply oozes a distinct quality offering far more detail than Yonder. The game runs smoothly too in 4K but for those with lesser systems will be able to tweak the settings to find the right performance balance. We even managed to run the game in 8K using our RTX 3090 (see video below). Aside from the wonderful visuals, the game’s soundtrack from anime composer, Kevin Penkin is awesome. Take special note to listen to the main menu track which puts you in the right mood for the rest of the game.
GROW is a long relaxing game and as mentioned might take a bit of time to get started properly. Don’t be discouraged by the rather mundane introduction, as once the game expands its delights, becomes far more engrossing and personal. Expect to pump plentiful hours here, and due to the nature of no time limits it’s a game you can dip in and out of at leisure without penalty. In this day-and-age, that’s a breath-of-fresh-air.
To conclude then and ultimately advise whether GROW: Song of the Evertree is worth your time and money. The answer is, if you enjoyed Yonder, then you will love this. If you never tried it, then sure there are several games that offer similar approaches, but the combination of ease-of-play, excellent audio/visual fidelity and the wonderfully relaxed pacing makes this a joy-to-play and well-worth checking out if you haven’t dived into this type of non-combat gameplay experience before.
Score – 8.5/10 – Review code supplied by publisher.