Ever Oasis Review: An RPG Baked into a Town Management Sim
Ever Oasis for the Nintendo 3DS is a colorful, cheery town management game mixed with puzzle RPG elements that really make it one of a kind.
It's been marketed as a sort of cross between Zelda and Animal Crossing -- and after spending dozens of hours completing the game, I can assure you that this is only half true. The Zelda inspiration is obvious, but I want to make it clear right away that the town management portion of Ever Oasis is nothing like Animal Crossing -- it's actually rather reminiscent of mobile games.
Since this game is kind of an odd mash-up, let's review the town management and puzzle RPG portions separately, shall we?
How Ever Oasis Handles Town Management
Your main character is a special Seedling that can partner up with a Water Spirit to grow an Oasis, which serves as a safe haven for those that roam the desert. However, Chaos has ravaged the land and destroyed the last of the Oases, leaving you and your Oasis as the final bastion of hope in the face of dystopia.
After meeting a Water Spirit and creating your Oasis, you're dropped into town management right away when a stray Seedling decides to stop by and see what all the ruckus is about. After fulfilling her request, she'll become your first resident.
Since she's a Seedling, she'll be able to grow a unique Bloom Booth to serve as a shop that attracts people to your Oasis. The Seedlings that operate them share a portion of their profits with you, but they require you to bring them the materials needed to create and sell their products.
Materials can be hard to find and maintain a supply of, especially once you plant and level up a bunch of shops. Later on, you gain the ability to assign Seedlings to the Garden to farm certain resources. Additionally, after enough desert folk like the Drauk, Serkah, and Lagora move in, you'll be able to send them on Expeditions out in the desert to hunt or gather for materials found in the regions you've explored.
When you gain more Residents, you'll be able to level up your Oasis, which greatly expands it and even gradually provides benefits like extra health and revivals for while you're out exploring. If you hope to retain these buffs, you'll need to make sure your Residents stay happy -- though in all honesty, you'd have to actually try to upset them.
Eventually, you'll even be able to earn Stamps from shopkeepers, giving you the go-ahead to hold different kinds of festivals. Festivals are cutscene events that empty the stocks of your stores and bring in a lot of sales and the potential for prospective residents. The best part, though, is that it maxes out your Residents' happiness for an entire day afterward -- making it an excellent way to lift spirits in a pinch.
That's about the extent of the town management in Ever Oasis. It's pretty simple and monotonous, though thankfully it's fairly easy to squeeze in between the exciting story and action RPG gameplay.
How Ever Oasis Holds Up as a Puzzle RPG
Chaos is threatening to consume the desert, and it's your job to stave it off. Over the course of your adventure, you'll battle powerful monsters, explore four varied zones, and puzzle through five unique dungeons.
Combat is a rather simple yet thoughtful affair. There are heavy and light attack buttons, as well as a dodge button, which you'll need to get used to if you hope to survive most battles. Each weapon type is powerful against specific enemy types, so it's definitely rewarding to put some thought into each encounter.
You can run around with up to 2 extra party members. Each uses their own weapon types and have special abilities that help when trying to solve specific puzzles. The main character utilizes the power of the wind, while side characters have unique abilities like breaking boulders or turning into a pellet to squeeze through tight spaces.
At any time you can warp back to the Oasis, swap out your party members, and jump right back to the spot where you left off, so you never have to worry about not having the right team with you for the job -- rather, you need only worry about how often you want to sit through a loading screen.
As you're exploring, you may come across people out in the desert who may visit your Oasis if you help them out. There may even be cases where you can't progress unless you find a new resident that has the abilities you need. In fact, the main quest gates you every now and then, asking that you grow your Oasis before continuing -- which was never really that big of a hassle, but it does artificially break things up.
Without spoiling anything, I can say that the main story was an especially wild ride. It starts off dull, cliche, and terribly predictable, but takes an interesting twist after the third dungeon that really builds up tension which ultimately leads to a rather confusing ending. It brings up some profound and thought-provoking ideas that I'm personally a huge fan of, but the game's really not clear about letting you know that there's an extra boss-rush type dungeon available to wrap everything up -- which just makes the ending seem almost anti-climactic.
If you decide to go after Chaos in the final dungeon, the game will end -- and rebooting the file just reverts you back to your last save. There's really not much else to do other than expanding and perfecting your Oasis.
Ever Oasis is enjoyable, has excellent pacing, and boasts an interesting story. If you're a fan of town management games or are simply looking for a good puzzle RPG, you'll probably like this title.
Never did town management feel like a chore, though it did start to stress me out near the end. Something about the rhythm of both adventuring and managing your Oasis had me so engrossed that I would blink and suddenly hours had passed.
The Puzzle RPG and Town Management mix is a unique one, and Grezzo pulls it off fairly well, though there is definitely room for improvement here. Everything on the table feels well thought out -- if only a little shallow.
Ever Oasis is out now on the Nintendo 3DS eShop for $40.
If you're planning on picking up the game, why not check out our Ever Oasis guides? It never hurts to have a leg-up, after all.