June 24, 2017
As the last of the Children of the Great Tree, you are the sole being who can be responsible for the last safe haven in a dangerous desert world. With help from a water spirit named Esna and an assortment of creatures seeking refuge, you must make your oasis flourish by recruiting new residents, finding resources and providing shops for profit. The more residents, the more the oasis spreads across the desert; however, the evil forces of Chaos are threatening to overtake what little you have.
Ever Oasis is a spiritual successor for the Secret of Mana series, but unfortunately it is too true of a successor in that it falls into every hole and issue that Mana does. It’s a solid action RPG with clever mechanics and moments of creativity, but it is all hampered by an experimental gameplay structure that just drags the entire thing down. I am all for trying new things with games but understanding the balance, especially in a genre like RPGs is so important. When they’ve been honed down to the purest of gameplay simplicity, games need to remain fun across all levels.
The dungeon aspect of the game consists of exploring deserts, caves and ruins with allies, with unique abilities and stats to help you traverse areas, solve puzzles and battle evil chaos monsters. This is all fairly usual for an action RPG, as your victory hinges on twitch controls, grinding, leveling up and creating new equipment. However, unlike most other RPGs which move through maps onto new towns to simulate progression, Ever Oasis focuses on a single base that evolves with the game, growing with your character. As you adventure you can even find lost sentient creatures who may be invited to reside in your oasis, where they will open shops along the roads to create currency in return. This soon becomes a huge time sink, eating up more hours than traversing outside and actually adventuring – the things that are actually more fun. Micromanaging each shop and filling up their stock for some currency and happiness, which really doesn’t account for much in the world system, takes up too much of the gameplay. This can be a real annoyance but is by far not the biggest issue with Ever Oasis.
While promoted as an RPG Ever Oasis is actually more of an ARPG, where swapping between a party of three members with different weapons, skills and strengths will slow down all momentum the story attempts to create. Where the game’s combat is its biggest strength, with locking on mechanics, dodge rolling and striking all working really well for the 3DS system, the party system and reliance on other characters is the weakness. During battles the AI is strangely hesitant to join the fray, choosing instead to stand around and watch you be mobbed by various creatures.
“…you are constantly forced to turn around in a new room when you should be feeling a sense of progression.”
Swapping between characters is the most time consuming element of the dungeons. These sections usually contain more than three different types of interactive objects that require more skills and character specific abilities than you are allowed to have in your party at once. This means that in order to complete a dungeon, even ignoring all extra resources that may be gathered using skills, multiple trips must be taken back to your oasis to swap out members to solve one puzzle at a time. This kills all sense of flow when you are constantly forced to turn around in a new room when you should be feeling a sense of progression.
On the plus side, the dungeons themselves feel very Zelda-like, which is a pretty big compliment. This makes sense seeing as the development studio, Grezzo, was responsible for the remakes of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask on the 3DS.
The lack of any sort of tension or surprise can really cause a lack of motivation to keep going, especially given its so repetitive in nature. The dungeons largely feel the same, and the oasis stuff is always the same; the 10 minutes of clicking and busywork you have to do to keep up the garden maintenance, restock the shops, and collect the cash between outings quickly becomes tedious.
This gives the game a strange feeling of imbalance, where as a player and hero of the story you tend to lean towards preserving and building your town instead of traversing the desert to save the world, which is far more appealing in my opinion.
- Rewarding quest system
- Fun combat
- Creative character designs
- Swapping system is annoying
- Boring environments
- Repetitive gameplay
- Flat story and writing
Unfortunately Ever Oasis is far too bland to be a classic title or memorable in any sense, with repetitive gameplay and slow progression. While the game looks impressive with a new theme and setting that hasn’t been done before, it tries too hard to be two things at once: a town sim like Animal Crossing and an RPG like The Secret of Mana combined. In doing so it fails to be either super successfully, however this doesn’t make it a terrible game – it makes it an “okay” one. The combat is really fun, if not repetitive, and the idea behind the oasis city system clever. Working on your Oasis and building a community can be really rewarding and a lot of time can be sunk into completing all the dungeons and attracting all the residents. Depending on what you put into this game is really what you will get out of it.