By Michael Fontanini / September 17th, 2021
|Publisher||Rose City Games|
|Release Date||August 11th, 2021|
|Genre||Indie, Action, Adventure, Role-Playing, Simulation|
|Platform||Nintendo Switch, PC (Steam)|
|Age Rating||ESRB: Everyone 10+|
Garden Story tells the story of a grove inhabited by fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, their world is being consumed by the Rot. As the situation grows increasingly dire by the day, a young grape named Concord ends up in the middle of everything. The secluded grape lives in the grove’s central village, Spring Hamlet. Previously a gardener, Concord soon rises into the role of a full-fledged guardian. With that, just one question remains: will our unlikely hero be able to protect the grove, or is it already too late?
Concord’s adventure is a mix of gathering resources and helping villagers, with RPG elements added in. At any point in time, Concord can stay in one of up to four different villages depending on your progress. Each day, tasks will be posted on the boards in the town you’re in. Whether or not you complete them is up to you. Doing so is worth your while, though. You see, tasks come in three types: combat, maintenance, and resource gathering. Each town also has three corresponding stats that can be leveled up by completing these daily tasks. The length of in-game days can be changed in the options, and you can sit on benches to speed up time. Anyway, leveling up a town’s stats unlocks things like new items in shops. They can be tool upgrades, cosmetic items for Concord to wear, and more. Of course, what happens depends on the stat that leveled up.
Early on in Garden Story, Concord will get his first jar. This can store several uses worth of Dew. You can use it to heal yourself, and refill it at wells like the one shown above. The basic type is called Tap Dew, but there are more varieties. This stuff also has a few additional uses besides healing yourself, like watering special dirt patches for farming. You’ll need to unlock the seed pouch before you can farm, though. In general, combat is a pretty simple affair and the basic enemies don’t pose too much of a threat to our hero. During your quest, you’ll unlock a number of weapons and tools, most of which can be upgraded numerous times. However, don’t assume nothing is dangerous in this world, or the bosses will be a rude awakening.
As Concord’s quest unfolds in Garden Story, you’ll unlock memories. At the end of each day, you can change which memories are equipped to the slots you’ve unlocked so far. Each one has its own unique perks that it bestows upon Concord. While browsing the memories in your diary at the end of each day, you can see the requirements to unlock each one. This interesting mechanic allows Concord to use the inspiration from said memories as a driving force to keep pushing forward. You won’t find yourself changing equipped memories very often, though. There’s just not too much incentive to do so most of the time.
Each of the four towns also has a library somewhere. Unfortunately, all the books have been lost, so guess who gets to restore them. That’s right, you! You’ll need to collect a set of materials for each library. As you do, you’ll restore some of the books. This in turn unlocks blueprints so you can build new things in the towns. You’ll have to unlock the toolbox item before you can build, though. There are preset areas in each town where you can construct various things, including decorations, task boards, town storage access points, and more. For example, you can make life more convenient when the original task boards or town storage chests are too far apart. Conversely, you can just spruce up the place with various items like lights to make it look nicer.
The gameplay of Garden Story is very chill and casual. However, some of the resource gathering can feel somewhat tedious on occasion. It’s one of those games that’s perfect for when you just wanna have fun, rather than be challenged too much. While the gameplay is fairly simplistic for the most part, the bosses you’ll meet in the dungeon of each town are a different story. They are the exact opposite of casual, which makes them seem out of place in a game like this one. If you really don’t want to mess with them, the game has an option that disables death. So you can have unforgiving bosses, or be an immortal boss-killing machine guaranteed to win every time. There is no middle ground here, oddly enough. As far as the general gameplay, there are a couple of minor flaws to discuss. Items do not stack in your inventory, which will inevitably annoy you at some point. Secondly, in the town storage, each item can stack to 15. The counters (see above) make it look like there are upgrades because of the grayed-out 0 on the left side. However, if there is an upgrade for any of these, I didn’t find it.
The soundtrack is enjoyable, relaxing, full of charm, and doesn’t get old. It has a peaceful, gentle vibe to it matching the vulnerable, yet defiant, state of the grove. For example, Spring Hamlet has a catchy, upbeat tune that plays as Concord goes about his work of making the world a better place. Meanwhile, the sound effects do their job pretty well too, like when you smash a resource node to bits.
I have enjoyed my 25+ hours with Garden Story for Switch so far. While I have cleared the story, there are still a few upgrades I don’t have, and more cosmetic unlockables to get for Concord to wear. The game is a very chill, relaxing adventure, aside from the bosses which are more hardcore for some reason. However, casual players can still enjoy it using the option to disable death if they so choose. I prefer not to use such an option unless necessary, but it’s a nice inclusion if you want it. The game is marred by a few relatively minor flaws, like the previously mentioned inventory issues. However, it’s a rather unique and enjoyable little journey overall. You can nab Garden Story on the Nintendo Switch eShop for $19.99, and it is also on Steam. Can you help Concord, the unlikely grape hero, restore peace to an ailing grove?
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Garden Storynintendo switchPicogramReviewsRose City Games