PC, Nintendo Switch
September 20, 2022
Arriving from Melbourne developer Studio Drydock, Wylde Flowers is a farm/lifestyle management sim that started its life earlier this year exclusively on iOS as part of Apple Arcade. Now venturing onto the PC and Switch, this pleasantly cosy experience is ready to bewitch many a new player, bringing with it a surprisingly long campaign full of rich character and a huge amount of voiced lines.
Taking on a familiar trope of the genre, game protagonist Tara inherits a family farm from her grandmother that moves her from the hustle and bustle of city life to the more quaint pastures of a humble farming township. Looking after her grandmother in the early stages of the game, Tara gets to know the townsfolk whilst discovering mysteries that bubble away under the surface. If tending to crops, fishing by the beach, and exploring the local mines weren’t enough, Tara also becomes involved in a coven of witches who gather at night on the outskirts of town.
Instant comparisons to games like Stardew Valley can and will be made, though a stronger focus on narrative and dialogue allows Wylde Flowers to really set its own identity. A Fully-voiced cast with a surprising amount of non-repeated lines keeps the charm strong as you get to know the fleshed-out characters around you. Add to this a series of constantly evolving events that move the game into magical new directions, and you begin to see the blueprint of what a really competently designed farming sim could look like if its main focus was story instead of gameplay.
“…you begin to see the blueprint of what a really competently designed farming sim could look like if its main focus was story instead of gameplay.”
The game unravels day by day and eventually season by season as you explore your surroundings, interact with the townsfolk, build new machines, buildings, and plots to help your farm grow, and complete quests. There’s always something to do and much-needed resources to collect, though a stamina bar will often keep you in check and reduce your daily productivity. Unlike Stardew Valley, the change of season is decided by the player, removing any and all time pressures as you get to play the game at your own pace.
The pacing is largely good, with new events, new mysteries, and new narrative beats frequently interrupting the general humdrum of farm upkeep. At times I do wish the game would move faster, with certain resource requirements beginning to act as roadblocks that slow you down significantly. It’s not unusual to head to the mines, collect only a small handful of ores, fail to progress down to the next level of the mines, and then have to call it a day because of stamina restrictions.
Wylde Flowers is a masterclass in the wholesome. The casual nature of the game and a complete lack of combat or skill-based, mechanical interactions means its playable by almost everyone. A removal of time-pressures associated with the changing of seasons and the spoiling of crops merely adds to that casual and accessible nature. It might not be to everybody’s taste, I for one would have loved to have been challenged on occasion, but I can also appreciate that not every game is made with me in mind, and that’s okay.
Equally wholesome is the diverse and accepting representation within the cast of characters. Multiple ethnic backgrounds are respectfully depicted, as are different sexualities. Protagonist Tara’s sexuality can be shaped by the player, pursuing different love interests and even responding to questions from NPCs as you fill in choices about her past. It’s just nice to inhabit such an idyllic and accepting environment, complete with pride flag hung at the entrance of the town hall.
The game will occasionally touch on more serious subject maters, including the death of a prominent character, though it’s always handled lovingly.
“It’s just nice to inhabit such an idyllic and accepting environment…”
The gameplay in Wylde Flowers isn’t very involved, perhaps a decision to keep things accessible or an outcome of designing with mobile in mind. Regardless, players more excited by the simulation side of farming sims may notice a lack of autonomy and depth. The level of control over your production of goods is fairly constrained. It’s not that the game lacks depth, it’s just that it opts to showcase that depth in dialogue and characters rather than gameplay.
Wylde Flowers has impressive longevity. It may not be the kind of game you play over and over again, though tens of hours in and you’ll still be seeing new content. I was constantly shocked when my daily conversation with an NPC brought about brand new dialogue never seen before. Wylde Flowers spoil the player in this regard, with a much more advanced dialogue system than your average game of the same style.
With a whole lot of heart and a huge amount of story content, the game is every bit as enchanting as its witchy premise.
- A beautifully detailed and wholesome world
- Great examples of positive representation
- Surprisingly invovled narrative with fully-voiced cast
- So much to see and do
- Progression can feel slow
- Reduced gameplay autonomy
Wylde Flowers is what you get when you take a farming/life sim, such as Stardew Valley, and focus more heavily on the narrative and characters. A constant shift of events and huge amounts of voiced lines brings this world to life, even if that focus does mean the simulation aspects of the gameplay are reduced. With a lovingly detailed world and equally lovely examples of diversity, you could do a lot worse than spend your week playing Wylde Flowers.