Garden Story

There’s been an interesting “chill game” movement going on the past few years. Titles like Story of Seasons are notorious for giving players the opportunity to just sit back and relax with simple tasks like tending to some land or building relationships with NPCs. It’s fun, it’s lighthearted, and it’s a great way to unwind. Garden Story, from the folks over at Picogram and Rose City Games, isn’t entirely a chill game, but it’s definitely semi-chill, offering a task-based, Zelda-lite experience.

You play as Concord, a walking, talking grape who’s entrusted with being the guardian of his island village. As a guardian, it’s your duty to help out other characters (fruits, veggies, plants, and the like), as well as tend to the needs of the community itself. Repairs, resource gathering, eliminating the evil Rot that plagues the land — these are all things you have to stay on top of as a guardian.

These responsibilities aren’t exactly difficult, but there’s still a sense of urgency when taking on jobs that have been posted on the bulletin board each day. Bulletin board requests reset at the start of each day, so if you don’t complete them, you’ll have to wait until they make their way into the daily objective rotation. It’s okay, though, because these tasks are a dime a dozen, and you’ll see different variations of the same ones pretty frequently.

Garden Story

Other missions are given to you by characters. Some are optional and are typically more on the collection quest side of things, while others are directly tied to progression in Garden Story. Characters will ask you to visit dungeons, defeat specific enemies, find special resources, and take on bosses. While not intense, these tasks are more challenging, especially the boss battles. It definitely feels like these missions have a bit more weight on them, but if you get defeated by a boss, fret not, because you’ll just fast-forward to the start of the next day so you can try again.

Combat takes cues from the top-down Legend of Zelda games and is fairly hack-and-slashy. While Garden Story isn’t as tough as Death’s Door or even A Link to the Past, it does require you to play a little carefully. This is because you’ll engage in encounters where you’re surrounded by enemies, many of which spit toxic projectiles at you, so it’s best to tread lightly and avoid getting too reckless.

Unfortunately, the combat in Garden Story can be problematic. While playing the game, the hack-and-slash mechanics always felt a bit off for me. This is especially true for boss encounters, where there’s less room for error. The problem lies in the hit detection, which is really finicky — you need to be in the perfect position to deliver even one hit point of damage, and because enemies move around a lot, your blade swings can often miss their target.

The not-so-great combat sequences were easily my least favorite parts of Garden Story. This is where I’d say the game is the least chill, because fights aren’t all that entertaining. Thankfully, these moments aren’t the focus of the game (though they are prevalent throughout).

I was most entertained when successfully finishing bulletin board requests and helping characters fix bridges and wells. While not exactly exciting, the frequency and ease of these jobs gave me a sense of purpose within the world of Garden Story. It’s like that sense of satisfaction you get from doing even the simplest task on your to-do list — “I walked my dog. Hell yeah!”

Garden Story

One look at Garden Story, and you’ll likely be reminded of Stardew Valley and other farming or life sims. While the community-building aspect of this game is slightly similar to other titles that focus on providing a relaxing experience, Garden Story isn’t really one of those types of sims. That’s not a negative, but if you’re specifically looking for the next Stardew Valley or Deiland, you won’t find that here.

Due to its combat and light leveling system, Garden Story has more in common with RPGs and action-adventure titles than it does with sims. The weird thing about that is obviously the fact that the combat isn’t very good. So what you get is a game that’s definitely not a sim, but those things that it kind of does in a sim-like, task-based manner are the highlights of the overall experience.

Garden Story

It’s those little things, though — the helping other characters and fulfilling requests — that really made it hard for me to put down Garden Story. The game is flawed, yes, but it’s still undeniably charming and really fun to play. It’s the kind of semi-chill game you can play while leaning back on the couch or your favorite chair — maybe you shouldn’t lean back all the way because this isn’t that cozy of a game, but you can certainly lean back a little bit and enjoy the cheery, colorful world it has to offer.

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