Australian-made video games have had one hell of a year. 2021’s been especially good for Queensland developers, and from what I’ve played, Grow: Song of the Evertree is another adorable banger from the Sunshine State.
Song of the Evertree is the latest game from Prideful Sloth, the same Brisbane-based developers responsible for Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles. Yonder‘s whole shtick was giving you a peaceful, vibrant world where you could make relationships, farm the land, look after animals and just generally wander at your own pace. It was specifically designed to be chill, and Song of the Evertree follows in its footsteps.
The game’s publisher provided a preview code for Song of the Evertree, which is due for release on November 16. There’s limitations in terms of what I can talk about, but there was enough content in there to get hands on with the first couple of hours and how the game’s Stardew Valley/town management vibes works.
When you start out, you wake up in a small hut. There’s the voice of a book and Coppertop, a giant jar that you’ll eventually just dump items in to extract crafting materials. These two tell you the initial story of the Evertree and what went wrong. It’d be awfully nice if you could just, y’know, fix all that corrupted evil around the place, so here’s a world seed.
I’ve just woken up, but sure, time to hop on this thicc gryphon-looking thing. My partner called it Marshmallow, because that’s kind of what it looks like.
The first part of the game is flying to these little branches, parts of the World Tree that you’ll look after. After inserting a world seed into its respectful slot, a little area will spawn that’s a bit unkempt. There’s weeds everywhere, some bugs, rocks that need clearing and other gardening-like tasks.
The game is split into a day/afternoon/night cycle, and each day you’ll fly up the World Tree, visit the worlds you create and just generally make them a little better. Pull up a weed, replant a normal tree there, give it some water, and occasionally, sing.
As you progress the worlds get a little bit bigger, you get more tasks to do, and so on. You know the Stardew Valley / Animal Crossing / Harvest Moon cycle by now, and Song of the Evertree adheres to that pretty well — but with more pastel colours, larger kid-friendly anime figures and creatures.
But after you’ve done this for a couple of days, another creature pops up near your hut. It looks like a little teleporting weasel, almost, and so you follow it through a portal. That takes you to the home of the Everkin, a race of builder, farmer and worker-type creatures closely connected with your giant world tree.
After a quick trip here, the Everkin are thrilled: you’re bringing the World Tree back to life, and they’re more than happy to help you along the way. The Everkin give you a fishing rod and a net, but more importantly, it opens up the town management phase of the game.
It’s also a surprisingly funny flex, if only because it just seems so out of character with the peaceful, communal vibe of it all. Song of the Evertree is pretty blunt about it:, too. Now that things are coming back together, you can focus on the next part of the plan: tourism and immigration.
By repairing the airship docks with some of the materials you’ve found — which are all broken down from the weeds and things you forage every time you fix up parts of the World Tree — you’re able to build out a full town. That brings people back into the village, Rollercoaster Tycoon-style, except when they arrive there’s … actually nothing for them to do. Or go. Or sleep.
So, it’s up to you to start building. The interface isn’t completely scoped out for mouse and keyboard yet, but it’s smooth enough, and you’ve got a really good top-down view of where to put things and how to arrange your new-found town.
As people come into your town, they’ll be better suited to different tasks. New recruits have attribute ratings out of 10 for food, creativity, service, wellness and production, highlighting their suitableness for different tasks. Everyone needs a home, so you build one of those, but to do so you’ll need a certain amount of materials.
If you don’t give people a place to stay and something to do, they’ll bugger off and continue whatever it is. Not all the new residents sound like they have a lot going on. Some of them just genuinely look like they’re children who went for a wander, which makes me wonder if Grow would ever approach the ethicacy of child labour:
Eventually you’ll run out of materials, and then you’ll have to head back to your little gardens. Pull out the weeds, bash up some rocks, scoop up some bugs, do a bit of fishing, sing to the plants a bit, and gather materials. Song of the Evertree gives you a little checklist of all the things you need to do on each island, and then when you get back you’ve got another checklist of all the things you can build, improve or unlock in your town.
There’s also a constant string of rewards from the Book for doing basically anything: going to sleep, clearing a certain amount of weeds, completing simple tasks for the Elderkin (all of which take about 10 seconds each) and so on. You get a lot of decorative items that can be used to spruce up your town or your hut, but you can also just grind those things down for more materials, letting you ramp up your town faster.
It all works pretty well, and I didn’t run into any performance issues, glitching, bugs or anything especially noteworthy. All I was left with was more or less what I was expecting going into Song of the Evertree. The Brisbane-based studio has a clear-as-crystal idea of what they want to make, buoyed by the lessons and designs trialled in Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles.
Sure, this kind of chill, slice-of-life simulator won’t be for everyone. But for those who enjoy this form of entertainment, Song of the Evertree is coming along really nicely. I’ll be keen to see how it ramps up the complexity come November 16, especially since it’s not the only Aussie slice-of-life simulator that’s looking good.