Garden Story Review
Is it really the best idea to have a cooped up farmer be the next Guardian?
Publisher: Rose City Games
You play as a cute grape named Concord who has resided over at The Kindergarden ever since he was born, looking over a vine and waiting for a new Greenling to be born, mostly due to the exit being locked. Even if he wanted to, he couldn’t go out and explore The Grove. One day Plum, one of the Guardians of the Grove, decides to visit you and finally notices that you were locked in there this whole time (or well, finally took it upon himself to unlock you as it seems others mention watching you). However, there’s a catch. It seems that The Rot, goopy enemies that threaten to destroy The Grove, has become even more out of control and Plum needs another Guardian to help shoulder the responsibilities.
And from then on, your responsibilities are widened to defeating the Rot and help the towns rebuild. You first start in Concord’s hometown Spring Hamlet, but you will visit the other seasonal themed towns (Summer Bar, Autumn Town, and Winter Glade) in due time. One of your main responsibilities is to help rebuild the four towns and connect them back together. Every day you’ll wake up to a little weather forecast and 2-3 help requests up on the notice boards scattered around the towns. The help requests fall under three different categories (you can only get one from each) ranging from defeating a certain amount of Rot, gathering a certain amount of a specific resource, and fixing something like bridges or fences. These requests takes the whole day (there is a day-night cycle but it won’t switch over to the next day unless you sleep), but completing them will level up that aspect of the town. Which in turn gives you more items and upgrades available in shops. But don’t fret if you can’t complete one (either because you had no idea where to get that resource or because the Rot got you) as it doesn’t seem like you take a hit on incomplete requests other than how it affected the citizens. In addition, some characters also have favors (or side quests) for you to do which can grant you a reward for your trouble.
Though, the help requests do get tiring after a while and it’s really just best to do them when you’re going to be there anyway, when you have to do them to continue, or you want to see what new items and upgrades will appear in the shop afterwards. This is mainly due to the same tasks being repeated, which also will likely have you traveling all over town.
I also did wish that you could see the requests somewhere other than just the notice boards, like maybe have a toggle on the map screen between story quests and town help requests. While there are a lot of notice boards so you don’t have to walk all the way back to the one by your house or by shops, I often did forget where I had to go or do due to being side tracked with other things.
While you’re traveling around or when you’re not doing requests, you’ll often come across the goopy enemies called Rot. When they catch you in their view, they’ll start going towards you to attack. There are different types of Rot, mainly dictated by the time of day and which town you’re at, and their attacks differ from one another and may even have more health compared to their basic Rot. Along with some requiring you to use a tool to take off their protective covering. Not to mention that when defeated, you’ll still have a tiny bit of Rot left behind that can still hurt you or combine with another to make another Rot. Thankfully, you get a weapon early on, a pick that acts as a sword, and will be able to buy other weapons as you progress. As well as getting a jar, with more becoming available as you visit the other towns, that you can fill with Dew that gives you back your health (or give you a little boost depending on the type you filled it up with). You’ll also have a shield that you can block attacks with, though I honestly forgot about them until I met an enemy that launches projectiles. The combat takes a while to get used to, as it does feel pretty clunky at the beginning, which is mostly due to the stamina system. Each swing of your weapon takes a whole stamina bar, each dodge roll takes one too, and the shield you get needs at least one stamina bar to be filled. Considering you only start with 2, it is a struggle. But when you get more stamina to work with the combat does feel better.
Each town will also have their own dungeon and completing them are the last story request for you to do in the town you’re in before you get the blessing to go to the next one or be able to go back to previous ones. These dungeons aren’t that long, but to continue to the next room will require you to solve a puzzle or defeat all of the Rot. And at the end, you’ll be granted with a challenging boss fight. The hardest boss for sure is the first one though, due to not having as much stamina at that point and the extra jars do come in handy as it does give you more Dew to drink.
Here, you don’t really level up, but instead use the systems in place to help you out. When you first start, you’ll notice these strange orbs varying in color, but when you try to interact with it, only a notification appears. This is due to you needing a specific tool or a stronger tool to break it, which you’ll eventually get as you visit the other towns and take the time to gather resources to upgrade your weapons. Breaking them will grant you more stamina, health, or Mind depending on the color and it certainly helps in keeping you alive longer.
Mind, in particular, feeds into Garden Story’s interesting mechanic of Memories. When you lay down to sleep, you can choose to look at the Memories you collected by doing various different things and see what you need to do to get more. These Memories are actually used to alter your stats or grant you a helpful ability or boost. However, a lot of them do have downsides by lowering another stat. So one may give you more health while lowering your luck or you can have one that just flat out gives you a special charge attack. Don’t worry though, as you can freely switch out your Memories depending on what you need at that time and you will get more Memory slots as you raise your Mind stat. Though, I do wish the game showed you the effect your Memories are having on your regular stats, a before and an after, just so you know what effect it’ll have before equipping it.
Other than completing help requests and defeating Rot, there are a couple of optional things you can do. Considering that you’ll be picking up a lot of different resources, there are libraries in each town that have lost their books. You can replenish them by donating resources that its missing, though you won’t know what exactly they need other than a black outline of them. There is also some farming and building here too, but it’s introduced pretty late in the game. The various soil plots you see can be watered with Dew and have a seed planted there, which takes a couple days before it fully grows. It also seems that the seeds will grow differently depending on the town you planted them in. Once you unlock the toolbox, you’ll also be able to build various things that can be functional (like another storage box or a bench) to purely cosmetic (like a glass tank or an umbrella), though you have to contribute to the libraries to be able to build more things. However, I never really got into building stuff past the repair boxes needed to continue and a few other things as you are only able to place things in small designated plots and more often then not, they are already occupied with something else that is more helpful.
In terms of post game, it’ll basically be continuing helping and building up the towns. You’ll be able to get the achievements you missed, figure out and bring items that the libraries still need before they’re completed, help out each town until they’re maxed out, complete the favors you were still in the middle of, or even dedicate your time into buying all the cosmetics and upgrading everything if you want. Or you can just sit back and relax knowing that your work there is done.
Overall, I really enjoyed Garden Story. While it was a struggle in the beginning when I barely had any stamina and the daily tasks to build up the towns got tiring after a while, I liked going through the vibrant world, talking to the other characters, and looking forward to what the next town looked like. I would recommend picking up Garden Story for anyone that wants to fight as a cute grape and want to help these towns rebuild.