Ever Oasis released about just over a week after E3, and to little fanfare. With the eyes of the gaming world firmly fixed on all the hottest new game announcements, this title flew quietly under the radar, even though there is quite a name behind the game. While you might not be too familiar with the name Grezzo, who was responsible for the 3DS versions of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask to name a few, Koichi Ishii is sure to ring some bells. Ishii was responsible for creating one of the most beloved JRPGs of the 16-bit era, Secret of Mana. With such a rich legacy behind Ever Oasis, I was excited to get my hands on it, and while it’s no Mana, it sure is something special in its way.
Ever Oasis takes place in a world plagued by an evil force known as Chaos. Chaos consumes all the life around it, turning peaceful creatures into wild beasts. The only respite for the inhabitants are the oases spread across the world. These sanctuaries are slowly diminishing in numbers though, and when one of the last known oases, the home of our Hero, Tethu, is destroyed, you’re whisked away by the current chief who is also your brother, to a new destination where you’ll have to create to your own oasis, together with a water spirit, to combat Chaos.
The story is as by the numbers as you can get. A malevolent force threatens the world and you, the hero, have to save it. Some of the later twists were so predictable that I managed to guess what they would be in the first hour of the game. I wasn’t expecting a spectacular narrative, but I was hoping for a little bit more to hook me in. Ever Oasis’ strength lies not in its story however, but in its personality. Though the game takes place in a desert, the Oasis and those who inhabit it are full of life. I can’t help but want to squeeze each and every one of those chubby little Seedlings, as they’re called. Each character I came across is distinct enough that they stood out in my memory and I became attached to the citizens of my oasis. So while the story fell flat, the characters were there to pick it up.
Ever Oasis is a management sim, action RPG hybrid. There are 2 distinct sections to the gameplay. The first involves the upkeep and growth of your oasis. Initially there’s not much going on, but soon, travellers will visit and open shop. This process usually involves you fulfilling some request to win them over so that they can stay permanently. Once their businesses are up and running, you have to ensure that they’re always stocked as well. If the business does well, you get a cut of the profit which you can use to further enhance your oasis. This in turn also attracts new travellers which could become potential citizens. While the maintenance and management, at times, can feel like a bit of chore, it was addictive seeing my oasis grow and watching travellers flock to my settlement. My biggest issue is not with the gamplay mechanics itself, but rather in the way it’s presented. The game starts off excruciatingly slow, and continues to hold your hand for quite some time. You can communicate with the water spirit throughout the game, and I swear, she’s a reincarnation of Microsoft Office’s Clippy, constantly offering commentary and ‘advice’ on the most trivial of happenings. It took away from the experience at times, making it feel too guided. At one point I was just waiting for her to say “hey, listen”.
On the flip side, the game switches gears when you head out into the wild. Building your oasis is one thing but you have to venture out to not only restock on supplies and fulfil citizen requests, but to combat Chaos as well. Tethu might look like a squishy little bear, but he knows how to pack a punch. He’s able to pull off simple light and heavy attacks as well dodge enemy attacks and as you level up you’ll gain access to more combos. It’s a simple affair but it works, and it never feels too dull. It’s not particularly challenging, but some of the boss fights are quite enjoyable, especially the ones found later in the game.
Some of the travellers you come across can actually join you in combat and when you’re out exploring. Aside from party members granting passive buffs such as reducing damage from certain types of enemies, they also have unique skills needed to progress in dungeons. One character can use a pick axe to destroy rocks blocking your way while another might be able to use a bow and arrow to target distant objects. It’s a great way to make exploration more involved and provides an incentive to experiment with different party members. Sometimes you may not have the correct party to solve a particular puzzle but it’s easy to warp back to the oasis and swap them out. This layer of in-depth exploration compliments the management gameplay by feeding off each other. The better your settlement does, the more you can experiment with party members, unlocking the ability to gain access to more areas which’ll provide you with more ways to enhance you oasis. Both aspects of gameplay hit that sweet spot of not overpowering each other and strikes a balance by getting you equally invested in both.
Graphically, the game actually looks pretty impressive, and not only that, but runs smoothly as well. There is a consistent art direction throughout, from the world design to the characters themselves, it all feels distinct, colorful and fresh. The soundtrack, while not particularly outstanding, does a great job of keeping up with what’s happening in the game, perfectly changing pace to match the mood without ever feeling out of place.
The premise of Ever Oasis is certainly not new. It’s got a bit of Animal Crossing, Recettear and even Zelda In its blood, but it manages to be its own game in the end, creating a wonderful foundation should the series continue. Flat story and extreme handholding aside, this game still managed to impress me. Even though it released in a year full of major blockbusters, this little game ended up stealing my heart.
Last Updated: July 10, 2017