I know everyone in Halo Infinite and Battlefield 2042 is busy blasting each other, but I am a bit busy now fishing, singing to plants, building libraries, and rubbing cute bugs.
This is exactly the kind of escapism I need now, and I found it in the surprisingly beautiful and stress-free sandbox Growth: Song of Ever Tree. This is a healthy dose of animal crossing and My time in portia, Added a little Zelda element. There are village building and decoration, meeting and happy fools, a lot of small tasks and activities, and a lot of gardening, fishing, dressing up, and even some lightweight dungeon platforms and puzzle solving. You can even mix a bunch of ingredients in a big talking pot to create your own little world.
I will shorten the length of this short story: a group of kind people live in a huge and magical tree of peace in the world. Then the tree got sick, a bunch of thorny vines squeezed out all its life, and everyone was gone. But you are here now, a helpful apprentice, and you need to rebuild the town, disperse the thorns, and slowly bring the world back to life, which will encourage people to move back.
I started to do a lot of gardening. The branches of the world tree need to be taken care of, which means pulling up weeds, cleaning up rubble, planting seeds and watering them to grow. Some plants respond to music, and I can release magical songs and let them sprout. Along the way, I collect fruits, rocks, insects, and other items that can be transformed into magical elements in my cauldron. I can use them to form seeds, and these seeds will grow into new branches to take care of. The handling of all this is very simple, just hold the right tool for the job (each plant, weed and rock will indicate which tool is needed) and click or hold down the mouse button, depending on the task you are performing .
The moment I started to clean up this infected world, people started to return to it, which started half the game of town management. If you like someone, you can build a house for them and they will move in. Build a bakery, library or community garden, and you can give them a job there. These people occasionally do tasks for you. For example, one citizen wants me to find them a pair of pants, and the other wants a shirt. I haven’t found those things yet, so I took off my shirt and pants and gave them to someone else. Now I am running around in my underwear. This is how I want to make these people happy (or just outline their tasks in my diary).
You will be rewarded for every step you take. Bathe on them. If you like to do simple things, like meet an elf or find a book, or change the color of the wall from green to pink, or just go through a specific door, get ready for the marathon. Open your diary, click on the completed goal, and get a small prize, such as a monocle or heart-shaped glasses, or a new hairstyle, or a reward for your plant watering speed. Yes. Yes. Reward me for doing simple things all day long. I am hungry for them.
My town is almost full of houses, shops, and other small buildings, which means it’s time to expand. Fortunately, the elf has a construction company (don’t ask why) and leveled the boulders and ruins, so I will have more room to build. I have nearly 10 citizens, most of which I like, and one I am very wary because he asked me to find his lost underwear. He lost his underwear after visiting a bunch of people’s houses. He is a little creepy. Everyone else, they are very good.
And Grow is an extremely gorgeous game. The world is bathed in a soft light, and plants are pleasing to the eye, especially when they sprout, these creatures are very cute-even bugs. And the game is very gentle. Jump from a rock that is a bit too high, and you will float peacefully on the ground thanks to a huge umbrella. You have a winged mount, you can fly between the play areas, and you can hug it at any time.
The only way to approach violence is to smash the slimy larvae with a hammer. All of this is to remove their stickiness, and then you can catch them with a net (you are told that it will not harm the bugs you catch with it) . Growth is beneficial af.
My only dissatisfaction is some repetitive world tasks that require a lot of weeding, seeding, pouring water cans, and crushing gravel. Before you can ride the bike to the next day, you need to complete a bunch of these chores. It’s not that they take that long, it’s just that they are a bit rough. On the bright side, it is amazing to see this dilapidated and desolate world slowly turning into a lush paradise in a few days.
If any series of tasks become too boring, you can ignore them for now. Go fishing, catch insects, go deep into caves to find treasure chests, decorate houses, or just run around and let the happy creatures of the world rub their stomachs as much as possible.
I’m not sure how long it will take to complete Grow (by the way, it is the full version and not early access, it feels very new in itself). I have been playing for about five hours so far. Most of the map is still covered with prickly vines that need to be cut off. I’m only on the second branch of the World Tree. I didn’t even find a substitute for the one I sent. Pants. I have seen some Steam reviews written by people who have played for 20-30 hours (and one of them has played for 100 hours), so this can keep diligent tree caregivers busy for a while.