I’m going to start this by being very upfront: before playing Wylde Flowers for PC, I played it through on Apple Arcade. Twice. I legitimately spent dozens of hours in the cozy world created by Studio Drydock. Despite that, after booting the new Switch version up and seeing the camera swooping over the town I still feel my excitement mounting all over again. Immediately, though, I noticed something that wasn’t in the game the last time I played it: small dandelion floofs floating around. That’s when I knew that what the developer did to update it for PC and Nintendo Switch was going to enhance it.
Tara is starting over in a new town, with the intent of helping her grandmother run the family farm. It isn’t long until she discovers a secret coven of witches – and then that she is one too! Every town has its secrets, and Fairhaven is no different; the coven is just the tip of the iceberg. Wylde Flowers is the story of an entire community, not just Tara and Gramma. The characters are all very much unique. Each has their own personality, preferences, and reams. Food favourites often relate to their backgrounds and family traditions.
Some of my favourite townsfolk (and it’s difficult to narrow down) include Violet, who owns a flower shop and cares for her younger brother following their mother’s disappearance; Kim, who owns the butcher shop and struggles with people using their proper pronouns; and Shelby, a mysterious elderly man who lives in the woods.
Unlike many of life/farming sims, Wylde Flowers doesn’t have many customisation options for the protagonist. Rather than you playing an avatar to represent you, here, Tara is Tara, and she always wears the same thing. Other than the basement, you can’t decorate her grandmother’s house. Buildings cannot be moved. But you know what? It has zero impact on how I feel about the game. It doesn’t matter in the slightest.
Various aspects often included in farming/life sims are here: farming, crafting, relationships, fishing, tree chopping, and mining. No need to switch tools, ever; the game does it automatically for farming, fishing, mining, and chopping. This is one of those games when I end up with a bunch of spreadsheets printed out to help me keep track of fish, favourite foods, that kind of thing. I squeezed every ounce of fun from it: I caught all the fish, mined all the gems, cooked every recipe, and upgraded all available shops. I also married (and divorced) all romanceable characters.
Oh, and before anyone asks, yes you can pet the kitty.
Before starting to play, I think it’s important to know the day speed option under settings (the pause menu). I generally keep it at relaxed so I have more than enough time to do everything I want in a day. Other options are normal and challenging. When it comes to the timing of the game itself, I find its progression to be perfectly paced. I was rarely left wondering when I’d, say, gain access to a new area or unlock a new tool.
Farming is as expected. Plant crops, water crops, wait for them to grow. Different seeds can be purchased and grown every season. Caring for animals gives players resources based on the animal (the chickens give you eggs, etc). The same goes for most elements of the game. Mining results in ore than can help upgrade tools. Chopping down trees gives you wood. The crafting element has an added stop to it; basically, you craft an item from a blueprint, and then use that item to actually craft resources. For example, use a blueprint to construct a paper press, which creates paper (from wood) that can be used to make spells.
One difference from traditional farming/life sims is that the seasons aren’t timed, they change when the story needs them to. It’s never a surprise, as it is Tara that triggers the change. It’s always possible to finish farming what you need before the season ends; I often play ages after the point I could go to the next season, just to stock up on produce. Tip: there is no inventory cap, so collect everything. Another difference is the need to really maximise gardening space: using planters, composters, and beehives can be a bit tricky, but once you’ve got it growing things becomes so much more streamlined.
As you progress, you unlock spells and potions. Some of them are for story purposes, but others are just to make life a little bit easier – like the one that automatically picks up resources from the ground. I don’t know what I’d do without it. Some of the story-related spells and potions can only be crafted once, but most can be used repeatedly and crafted infinitely as long as you have the ingredients.
Relationships are another aspect where there is little surprising in the how. Talk to characters every day and give them gifts to increase their hearts. Only some characters can be courted, which makes me very sad because I’m in love with Violet. There are two different maximum heart levels, depending on whether or not they can be courted, and whether or not you’re already married. Divorcing spouses is easy: don’t talk to them for several days, then they’ll ask if everything is okay and the option to break up appears.
There are always little icons on-screen to remind players how to open menus. THANK YOU, Studio Drydock. I’m super forgetful and it’s really helpful. I haven’t quite figured out when the game saves though, all I know is that you can’t do it manually which is a bit sad to me. I like control.
As a further nice touch: trees go invisible when you run behind them, which I find to be very helpful in navigating around the world, and something that many other similar games neglect. There are a lot of these in Wylde Flowers. You can tell it was crafted with thoughtfulness and love. And humour, as evidenced by the “gross!” message that pops up with new fish information. It makes me laugh every time.
This is not an infinite game, and that is perfectly okay. It ends during the second spring. For completionists, this can be tricky as you need to be sure you have enough forageable items for future recipes. But the good news is that crops can be grown in any season by the end of the game. A lot of fans are begging for more content, and based on what I’ve read it’s likely to happen in the future. It’s great that people love Wylde Flowers that much, but it needs to also be okay for games to have a legitimate ending. Wylde Flowers doesn’t need more anything (except maybe a full sequel).
Nothing is perfect, and for me, Wylde Flowers has a whopping one problem: purchasing chickens, cows, and sheep. You can only buy one at a time, and when you do you get transported to the farm. Then you have to wait for Marty to slooooowly stroll back to his farm before purchasing another animal. Depending on the time setting, filling up the barn and coop can literally take days. Setting the time speed to relaxed wastes less in-game time, but it’s still extremely tedious.
The developer uses the term “cottagecore” a lot to describe Wylde Flowers, but I feel that reduces it to just being a trend. Wylde Flowers is so much more than that: it’s heartfelt, inclusive, clever, and witchy. It’s the kind of game that makes you feel at home, and the kind of game you want to come home to. It’s a must-play game that I’d recommend to anyone, and that’s darned impressive considering it’s Studio Drydock’s first game (but not surprising if you go to its website and read about the resumes of people behind it).