Ever Oasis comes to us from the studio Grezzo and is Koichi Ishii’s latest project, who you might know as the designer who created the Mana series of action, fantasy-based role-playing games, of which I’ve dabbled in Secret of Mana back on the SNES, own an untouched digital copy of the PlayStation 1’s Legend of Mana on my PlayStation 3, and have no further experience with any other games in the series. Boo to that, boo to me. Ishii is also tied to the creation of those adorable Chocobo and Moogle characters, and the Noots found in Ever Oasis, with their rotund figure, feathery eyebrows, and bouncy walks, are sure to become another beloved trademark. Any way you slice it, there’s pedigree here and a whole heap of ambition.
In Ever Oasis, you play as either Tethu or Tethi, a young seedling, who with the help of a water spirit named Esna creates an oasis after your brother’s oasis falls victim to the evil force known as Chaos. I went with Tethi and gave her purple skin. Your main goal is to find more residents that can help fight these Chaos creatures, as well as create a safe and functional oasis for all to live in. That often requires doing specific tasks for wannabe residents and, once they’re in, setting up shops, called bloom booths, for them to sell their wares and keeping those shops well-stocked. Alas, the story is cookie-cutter basic and far from ambitious, yet the character designs are fun and memorable, and seeing a new possible resident show up in your oasis is exciting, even if the most they can offer you is a fetch quest.
However, it’s not enough to build a new oasis in Ever Oasis. No, no, it has to be prosperous, absolutely perfect. You hit this goal by completing missions in dungeons and caves outside the oasis, in the dangerous desert. Players can form a party of up to three characters and battle a range of enemies possessed by Chaos, but more on that in a bit. Dungeons also contain puzzles and treasure chests full of materials needed to restock bloom booths. Shopkeepers with popular products produce dewadems, this realm’s strangely named currency, which you can spend on various things, like building more booths or crafting new weapons/bits of armor. Bloom booths can also be upgraded by re-stocking them and completing quests for their operators.
Something the Mana games all have in common that is also found in Ever Oasis is a seamless, real-time battle system. One nice option is the ability to switch between any of your three party members at any given time, providing options for weapons and abilities, though I have mostly stuck with Tethi. Combat is a mix of light strategy and button-mashing, with an emphasis on rolling away from an enemy’s attack. You yourself have a Normal Attack, a Special Attack, and unlock combos as you level up. Because you can’t move after landing an attack, you want to ensure you don’t leave yourself open for damage; thankfully, so far, all the encountered enemies have a tell just before they lunge at you, which allows you to time your rolls and keep your HP up. One nice bonus of maintaining a healthy and happy oasis is that your health, when out in dungeons, is extended because of this. As more people swarm to your oasis, it grows and levels up, providing you with new crafting recipes and more safety net HP.
There’s little bits and pieces of things I love very much in Ever Oasis, but they are currently not enough to get me jumping for joy. Like, you can plant seeds and assign an unemployed Seedling to tend to your crops, but this is no Stardew Valley or even Disney Magical World 2. The farming aspect seems ultra basic. You plant seeds, you can either spend dewadems to help them grow faster or not, and wait for them to grow. An oasis of loyal and almost-loyal Seedlings sounds lovely, but this is no Animal Crossing, as they don’t have much to say other than their initial questline and just sort of wander down the road aimlessly. Also, the menus are clean and fine, though I found the section on main quests to be lacking; I want to be able to select a quest as a priority over others and have it drop the necessary waypoints on my map screen or at least see how I’m progressing towards it.
I do worry that Ever Oasis will turn into a grind, something I’m beginning to see as I prepare to throw my first festival, which first requires obtaining a number of stamps from happy shopkeepers. I’ll keep at it for the near future because I simply cannot fall back down the wormhole that is upping my completion rate in Disney Magical World 2, which would basically require me to craft a ton of princess dresses and outfits for girls.