I’m not exactly a farming sim aficionado but I’ve definitely played my fair share of them, ranging from terrible to phenomenal. More recently, there’s been several titles that include a magical component; Wylde Flowers is a great example of this. So when Everdream Valley popped up, I was pretty excited to give it a go: it’s a farming sim first and foremost, with a dash of magic thrown into the mix. But does it stand out from the crowd?
The story is a take on the traditional version of “your grandparents can’t take care of this farm, here it is for you.” In this case, it’s summer vacation and your parents drop you off at your grandparents’ farm. Your grandparents are alive and well, though they’re getting older and some of the work around the farm has gone unfinished. As such, there’s lots to fix up – but your grandparents remain there with you.
Your grandparents are the ones to give you tasks/quests to complete. It starts small, like building a chicken coop, but slowly gets more difficult as each task requires multiple steps to complete it. For example, to make a millstone you need to find a goat to unlock the pickaxe, then hack your way into a quarry, then run back to the farm to use the crafting station to turn rocks to the millstone. It’s common that different quests feed into the main ones; sometimes when you’re stuck (like when you can’t build bridges with nails yet) the best thing to do is continue on with any possible tasks. It can be a bit frustrating since it’s not clearly laid out, but it’s not impossible.
The character customisation options are okay. There’s nothing spectacular there, though. I think most of the effort when into making the game’s map, which is freaking huge: hours and hours in, I had barely made a dent in it. I’d argue it’s actually too big: better to make something small great rather than something huge and subpar. And that’s unfortunately what happened here. Things that should come easily are finicky, like chopping down tall grass, but it’s like the developers don’t notice because there’s so much content. As I mentioned, certain areas are inaccessible at first; water tends to be in the way a lot.
The magical bits happen mostly at night, in “dreams.” A talking scarecrow guides you through either a roulette wheel or mini-games. Oh, the mini-games. Don’t even get me started on those. They’re too difficult and honestly feel a bit pointless. In one, I had to guide a goat over planks of wood. I still don’t entirely understand why. In another, I had to chase away wolves, but I was terrible at it and all of my sheep went missing; I had to drag them back one by one from far-off places. That wouldn’t be an issue if you could skip the mini-games, but of course you can’t. So when something required coordination (my biggest issue when playing games), I had to get someone else to do it for me. You can back out of some of them, but you’ll always have to complete it at some point if you want to move ahead.
Memory is another issue for me – I recently learned I have ADHD, which explains a lot, but that doesn’t make things magically easier for me (if only that was the magical part of the game). Sometimes your grandparents say things that would be helpful to be noted, but there’s no dialogue log. There are tutorial screens scattered across the game that are accessible again through the menu, but some of what’s said just gets lost. I still don’t actually know how to use the dog to herd sheep, though it’s an important part of the game. I have to slowly work around it, doing things the hard way because I can’t remember the easier way.
The controls feel counterintuitive. I was surprised when I was several hours in and still clicking on the wrong button to do simple tasks like pick up an item in my inventory and move it – that should always be A. Always. Not Y. Y would be great for moving things to a chest, but not moving things within your own pockets. I feel like it would be more intuitive if the D-pad was used for more than opening the quick-look task log; as it is, the full quest log is a trigger, the map is a button, everything just seems all over the place and I cannot for the life of me remember any of it. I also often find myself picking things up in the world that I didn’t mean to pick up, I just wanted to use; I can’t tell you the number of times I accidentally picked up the sawhorse or the grass drying rack by mistake.
Even the actual farming part isn’t great. You can till in a grid, but the plants? They just go into the tilled soil willy-nilly. They don’t line up in a nice grid automatically, you’d have to spend ages being extremely precise in placement. The nice thing is not having to pick everything individually though: relatively early on, your grandma gives you a magic basket that picks things up automatically. So you just have to run through the garden (or over a pile of chopped wood) and things will be added to your inventory without further interaction. Here’s the cherry on my complaint sundae: the game doesn’t save enough for something that crashes as much as it does. I eventually learned to save every two minutes, but that’s not an instant process and just slowed me down. I found myself wanting so badly to like the game and to be able to say nice things about it, but I really struggle to do so. Instead, I find myself getting frustrated every step of the way.
I’m starting to wonder if I’m too picky about farm sims. I justify that by saying that all I want is a functioning game. I don’t expect some crazy story to bring you to the farm. I don’t expect perfection. But I do expect things like auto-saves to save often enough, the game not to crash, and farming itself to be pretty chill. I experienced none of that in Everdream Valley. I wanted so badly to like it, too. But instead, it feels rushed or incomplete. I don’t doubt the devs had all the best intentions, but it’s too big for its britches. It has potential, it just doesn’t feel like a fully polished game.