I just finished a quest. Along the way, I met a bunch of characters with personalities that ranged from cute to quirky to irritating. They all encouraged me to save the world from a growing darkness by adventuring through a series of puzzle-filled dungeons, defeating larger than life boss monsters, and collecting three magical pieces. Thankfully, I had my trusty sword and plenty of magical abilities and items to rely on. No, it was not The Legend of Zelda. The Legend of Zelda would not allow me to be the mayor of a town, shepherd in new residents, and complete quests and favors to expand my base of operations and earn money for future architectural expansion. I know what you are thinking, and no, I was not playing Animal Crossing either.
Developed by Grezzo and published by Nintendo, Ever Oasis is not either of the aforementioned games, but it does combine the mechanics of the two. If that does not excite you, I honestly do not know what will. That is not to say that there are not a few bumps in this blissfully cute journey, but Ever Oasis does an incredible job at combining dungeon crawling and social simulation, and putting it all into a package that gamers of any age can play.
The Journey Begins
After an expositional opening (that in typical Nintendo fashion goes on for way too long) and the quick choice of picking to play as either the male seedling Tethu or female seedling Tethi, players start in an oasis town huddled in the middle of a huge desert. Tethu/Tethi’s older brother, Nour, is the mayor and he informs Tethu/Tethi that they are destined to one day be the mayor of their own oasis. It is his job to make sure Tethu/Tethi is ready for that day.
Unfortunately, that day comes sooner than planned as a dangerous dark energy, referred to as Chaos, attacks the town, destroys it, and kills Nour. As the sole survivor, Tethu/Tethi awakens at a different oasis, empty except for a young water spirit named Esna. Esna partners with Tethu/Tethi and asks them to help her start a new town, bring life to the desert, and put an end to the Chaos.
What follows is quite possible one of the most excruciatingly long tutorials I have ever played. It is clearly designed to help younger audiences understand all the nuances of a game that has a ton of mechanics that need to be juggled. However, a more experienced gamer will understand most of the gameplay in an hour. The tutorial just happens to be three. Yay.
Manage Your Time
Gameplay in Ever Oasis is divided into two parts: supervision of the oasis and exploration of the surrounding desert.
While inside the oasis, the player will have to manage Tethu/Tethi’s town. Occasionally, other seedlings will visit the oasis. Completing quests for seedlings will make them more appreciative to Tethu/Tethi. Eventually, they will choose to join the oasis as a resident.
Some residents will simply be occupants of the oasis, but others will let Tethu/Tethi know that they have materials, food, or a skill set to sell. If the player has enough dewadems, the game’s currency, they can build a bloom booth for those seedlings to sell their wares. Each bloom booth will pay a tax, depending on the service, to Tethu/Tethi. As the mayor gets more money, they can build more booths, plant more trees, and expand the oasis. This attracts more travelers that Tethu/Tethi can try to convince to join the oasis and set up shop, causing the cycle to continue.
Players will have to be strategic in how they set up their town. Early on in the game, money is tight. Tearing down a bloom booth costs money, so players will have to weigh the pros and cons of where to build certain shops. Items can be placed around the oasis which makes certain shops more appealing, and leads more travelers to visit those stores. There’s a level of strategy to the building. For example, do not build a booth for a seedling that makes soup next to the entrance of your oasis if the items you have placed around the entrance increase sales for someone who builds furniture. An exception would be if you have plans to transform that area into a bustling downtown of carpenters and house decorators, and you are overspending now in hopes of making a lot of money down the line.
As the game goes on, more and more opportunities pop up for making money and getting other residents to help you complete tasks and errands. By the end of Ever Oasis, if the gamer plays their hand right, the oasis should be entirely self-sufficient and expanding and making money without any work from the player.
The Legend of Oasis
There is only so much Tethu/Tethi can accomplish in their oasis. Eventually, they will have to go out into the desert, which transforms Ever Oasis into an entirely different game.
The desert is huge, but is divided into several smaller deserts that are much easier to navigate. Throughout the desert are caves to explore and dungeons to solve. The smaller dungeons are about the size of Breath of the Wild’s shrines, and the largest I have found is about the size of its Divine Beasts. The player will have to solve riddles and puzzles to reach the end of each dungeon. Larger ones will feature a boss at the end the player will have to fight.
Combat is a combination of light and heavy attacks, combat rolls, and character abilities. Strewn together, these actions can perform more devastating acrobatic combos. As Tethu/Tethi level up, new combos are unlocked. Small enemies dot the desert and inhabit every cave and dungeon to give players plenty of opportunities to practice combos and test new weapons. Certain weapons are effective against certain types of enemies, and learning the weaknesses of common enemies will help you deduce the best type of weapon to use against a boss.
If the player does not want to fight, running is a legitimate strategy. In fact, the game encourages the player to pursue this strategy early on. It is definitely something to consider at night, as enemies become significantly stronger once the sun sets. It is much easier to return to the oasis and wait for daybreak.
A Link Between Wild Worlds
The best parts of Ever Oasis occur when the game’s two different sets of mechanics influence each other. For example, the residents of the oasis will share rumors of where to find certain seedlings in the desert that the player can then go out and find. Tribes discovered in the desert, inhabited by the lizard-like Drauk, one-eyed Serkah, or rabbit-eared Lagora, contain traders and merchants that can be invited to the oasis to open up new markets and opportunities for trade between species. The bloom booths in the oasis will run out of merchandise or materials, so the player needs to be on the constant lookout for new stock every time they venture out. Residents can be invited into the desert with Tethu/Tethi to form parties and bring more strategy to combat. This also opens up certain caves and dungeons that require the use of a special ability that Tethu/Tethi do not have. If that resident runs a bloom booth then that booth will close (and stop making money or attracting visitors) while they are out in the desert with you.
Unfortunately, the parts of the game that are solely like The Legend of Zelda or Animal Crossing are lacking in comparison to when they are combined and play off of each other. These parts of the game feel like half of a game and both halves feel incomplete.
The dungeon crawling doesn’t compare to The Legend of Zelda and taking care of the town isn’t nearly as time consuming or in-depth as Animal Crossing. It definitely highlights that this is a kid’s game. None of it is difficult to figure out if you are experienced with video games.
I personally wanted more. If this game had been made for more mature audiences, it could have been a masterpiece. As is, it is the perfect game to bridge kids that play one genre to the other, or get younger gamers to start thinking harder about problem solving and quest management in the games they play. Ever Oasis requires more problem solving skills than something like Pokémon, but not as much as something like Mass Effect on the hard difficulty. It is pretty much exactly in the middle skill-wise. I did enjoy the game. I thought it was a pleasantly cute time suck.
Despite Ever Oasis aiming for a younger audience, the game can and should be enjoyed by every type of gamer. Tethu/Tethi’s dual quests to build a self-sustaining oasis and free a desert from an ultimate evil blend surprisingly well. The game does a little too much to make sure the player knows how to play, and that slow start means I probably will not start a second play-through. However, the 22 hours that followed that tutorial were filled with a colorful cacophony of characters, a decent story, fun combat, and all the town building I could ever want.