The Nintendo 3DS’s newest role-playing game Ever Oasis is sure to pull you in with its colorful, whimsical design and keep you hooked with the developing town and puzzling dungeons. Though it has some shortcomings in combat and customization, this game has depth and charm to spare.
Keep in mind I’m about 15 hours into the game, which is roughly halfway. Look out for Part 2 of my Ever Oasis review in the next week. Some thoughts and opinions are bound to evolve with more gameplay.
In Ever Oasis, you play as an adorable humanoid called a Seedling — a race with nature-related powers. Character customization options are limited to a name, a handful of skin tones, and a few eye colors. Even though you can’t choose hair style, hair color, or face details, your character looks anything but generic.
As a Seedling, you have the power to build your very own oasis in the middle of a desert infested with monsters possessed by Chaos. As Chief, it’s the goal of you and your water spirit companion Esna to develop the oasis to provide a haven for all manner of residents and push the evil Chaos to extinction. What starts out as a barren patch of grass gradually turns into a thriving town with your devoted care.
Growing your oasis involves a few duties: acquiring residents, opening/ overseeing shops, and keeping Chaos at bay.
Residents are visitors who choose to live in your oasis after you’ve “convinced” them they’d be happy there. Convincing them normally takes the form of a side quest, such as finding a lost item, collecting materials, or opening a shop they like. Some visitors show up randomly, and some will only come after you’ve run into them in the desert. Once someone becomes a resident, they can open up a shop on Main Street, contribute to the economy, and join your party for adventuring. The more residents you have, the higher your oasis levels and the bigger it gets.
Shops in your oasis are called Bloom Booths. They’re literally grown out of the earth. Isn’t that the cutest? Once a visitor becomes a resident, their Bloom Booth will become available to build. Of course, you have to have the money — called dewadems — and the space to build the shop first. So far for me, it’s almost necessary to build every Bloom Booth that’s unlocked, either because you need the profits or another visitor wants that particular shop. The system kind of forces your hand with the Bloom Booths, even when you’d prefer to wait for a more interesting shop to unlock.
I do love Ever Oasis’s daily activity aspect of overseeing the Bloom Booths. Once they’re built, shop owners need you to keep their supplies stocked and eventually gather new ingredients for better products. You need to look at your shops’ stock every day and restock when needed. This seems like a lot of extra work, but supplies they need are almost always items you’ll pick up while adventuring anyways. Also, you get paid big dewadems for your efforts. You’ll need that money for developing the oasis and upgrading your gear for combat.
Even at 15 hours in, my oasis feels a bit underwhelming. The only thing expanding is Main Street, and I’ve barely touched the garden area with new plants beyond the berries that naturally grow there. I’m sure a few more customization options will be unlocked soon, but the oasis still doesn’t feel as expansive as I’d like in a game where town-building is half the focus.
Combat, so far, isn’t much to gush about. Press A for a normal attack, X for a special attack, and B to dodge roll. Enemies’ patterns are very simple and easy to dodge right from the beginning. Even the the first boss has a pretty straightforward attack pattern with few surprises.
The interesting part of combat comes with your party. After the first hour of tutorial-esque play, you can have up to two other characters with you in the desert and dungeons. Your party members are chosen from your oasis’s residents, who all have different stats, weapons, and abilities. By pressing up or down on the d-pad, you can play as any of the three characters while outside the oasis. Switching between party members is encouraged, as some enemies are weaker to a spear or a ranged weapon instead of your Seedling’s sword. This adds a layer of entertaining strategy to combat that would otherwise be dull enough to make you set down the game.
Character’s abilities come into play in dungeons, which are series of rooms filled with enemies and puzzles. For example, dig spots can only be unearthed by someone with the Dig ability, and holes in walls can only be traversed by those with the Pellet ability. Often while in a dungeon, you’ll run into a door that can’t be unlocked with your current party members. Thankfully, the game allows you to fast travel back to the oasis from anywhere in the desert, even when enemies are around. You can switch out your party members quickly and then fast travel back to pick up right where you left off.
To fully explore dungeons, you’ll likely have to make a second trip back once you acquire a resident with a new ability. It’s fun to realize you can finally go back to complete the one puzzle now that you have the Paraflower ability in your party.
The design of both the oasis and the desert is gorgeous. You’re constantly surrounded by a myriad of different colors and textures as you explore your world with the day passing from morning to night, turning a once brightly lit desert into a dark, magical expanse of glistening blue sand.
Ever Oasis is a chatty game with plenty of dialogue, but the message is all about love and inclusion and protecting all forms of life, no matter the person’s race or level of skill. And although it has some awkward moments and lackluster features, it’s a charming, lovable RPG with a lot to offer players young and old.
Part 1 Score: 7/10