Prideful Sloth’s Grow: Song of the Evertree is out now for PCs and all major consoles. We tested it on a PlayStation 4 Pro for this review.
Trees are a mysteriously popular theme in popular culture, from Ferngully to Avatar, and in Prideful Sloth’s new game it’s all about the Evertree which gave life to the Worlds of Alaria. These worlds lived on the tree’s branches, but the fabled tree has now been nearly lost – unable to grow more and support worlds. You’re tasked with taking care of it, as one of the Everheart Alchemists, and what initially feels like gardening duty ends up being an engaging world building experience.
In this fantasy/fairytale-like world, you’re up against the “Withering”, which has caused a malignant growth to appear all around the Evertree, and you’re helped on this journey by a book and cauldron that have the ability to interact with you – though your tasks are surprisingly basic in comparison, letting you plant seeds rather than conjure up magic. Before long, you’re planting your first “world seed” in the Evertree, and the game (and tree) branches out from there.
With your tools, you’ll clean up weeds, plant and nurture more seeds – the kind of busywork that’s somehow so captivating in games like Animal Crossing as well. It’s not just maintenance though, and your world will grow along with the Evertree. This will attract creatures to come and live in the area as well, as you use the newly created space to put down buildings and welcome residents. Together, you’ll push the Withering back further and further from each area, in which a particular item will make sure they don’t return there – capture it, and you can move on to a new location, where the cycle begins anew.
The aforementioned book will keep track of all of your various tasks and objectives, which all lead to progress and/or unlockable items – some of which are purely cosmetic in nature. Things called “essences” – which you can craft by breaking down items – have more uses though, and there are 24 different ones. They’re essentially characteristics of world seeds that you can use to create a new seed from countless possible combinations – which is a ton of fun to experiment with.
Each world you plant and create is unique because of these essences, and the visual range of what you can create is striking. It’s addicting too, but every world you create feels so original that you can’t help but wonder what the next one will look like. And because tending to your newly created worlds also yields items and currency for your community living below it, there’s an ongoing cycle to it all as well – as long as you don’t run out of money or a particular kind of essence that you might be after. This is more of an early game issue though, as resources become more and more abundant as your world grows.
Exploration is also encouraged, with collectible secrets and little platforming and puzzling sections to help break the cycle of “busywork” – which can get a bit repetitive after a while because you’ll frequently be performing the same tasks. Your world and responsibilities may grow, but apart from placing new buildings you’ll largely be doing the same things after twenty hours of gameplay as you were doing after two. This isn’t a major issue as plenty of people have poured hundreds of hours into Animal Crossing as well, but if you have a tendency to lose interest in similar games after a while then Grow will likely also start to feel repetitive to you.
If growing a world and tending to it is your thing, however, then Grow: Song of the Evertree has a lovely visual style that fits great with the fairytale-like vibe of the story and gameplay. It’s not too unlike Prideful Sloth’s work on Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles either, so if you’re familiar with it then you’ll have a pretty decent idea of what to expect here as well. Grow doesn’t revolutionize the genre, but it’s an engaging and enchanting world builder.