Ever Oasis review: Rainbow connections

Credit: Grezzo, Nintendo
Credit: Grezzo, Nintendo /

True to its name, Ever Oasis is a spring in a desert of low content releases on the Nintendo 3DS, enthusiastically melding sim, dungeon crawling, and adventure gameplay.

Developer: Grezzo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: June 23rd, 2017

Until Ever Oasis showed up, my poor Nintendo 3DS had been gathering dust as the Nintendo Switch enjoyed pride of place as the new portable gaming device for my household. Hard as Nintendo may try to tout its support for both systems, just as the Wii U suffered under the 3DS, so too is it now the 3DS’s turn at the bottom of the wheel. But in spite of this content desert, Ever Oasis has bubbled forth just as its titular oasis does to breathe a bit of life into the system once again.

After a disaster destroys your home oasis, you are the only known remaining Child of the Great Tree in the great desert, and you just happened to drop right in front of the last water spirit. With a devastating force known as Chaos encroaching into all the safe places and destroying every oasis, it’s up to you and your new watery friend, Esna, to create and protect the desert’s last oasis. To that end, you’ll balance the sim gameplay of building and maintaining your oasis and the happiness of your residents, and the dungeon crawling adventures that will fund your oasis and bring new travelers and powers back to protect this new home.

ever oasis
Credit: Grezzo, Nintendo /

Ever Oasis exists on an in-game clock in which all activities revolve. You’ll awaken in the morning to check your garden for new crops, introduce yourself to new oasis visitors, and check on your Bloom Booth for sales. Bloom Booths are your primary source of income and sign of prosperity–any Seedling who becomes a resident of your oasis can grow one with you, and from it, they will sell items to attract both new visitors and the game’s currency, Dewadems.

Your oasis is constantly growing…with an addictive loop that will have you endlessly stepping out for just one more adventure.

Your oasis revolves around those Bloom Booths, and the game will gradually give you more and more tools to manage their growing numbers more efficiently. At first, you’ll need to stop by each one to restock their supplies with materials you acquire on adventures–later, you’ll be able to do it all automatically from one menu. Further on, you’ll be able to send non-Seedling residents out on excursions for the materials you need.

Managing your oasis might be compared to the commonly spotted mobile games of this decade that involve building up buildings and waiting on timers, except Ever Oasis is actually fun. As your oasis grows, you’ll get to know your residents through quests and dialogue, and new booths will attract even more visitors. Plus, since all your residents double as party members, your hard work wooing them to your side will net you new exploration and combat abilities for your next excursion into the desert.

ever oasis
Credit: Grezzo, Nintendo /

It’s this balance between two very different, but very compatible styles of gameplay that keeps Ever Oasis constantly bustling. You’ll embark on adventures to new locations in the desert (or old ones, to unlock new paths with new abilities), but you’ll always return to new characters, wider avenues, and new stories and quests. Your oasis is constantly growing, rarely staying stagnant for long, with an addictive loop that will have you endlessly stepping out for just one more adventure.

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These adventures take place both on a wide desert overworld riddled with monsters and in dungeons tucked away in corners, rife with traps, puzzles, and enemies. You’ll take two party members with you to assist in battle, each with a unique combination of weapon, battle, and field abilities. Most enemies have weaknesses to certain weapon types, and you’ll gradually level up your skills to grow your combat from mere A-button mashing to actual combos and skills using multiple buttons.

Field abilities stand toe to toe with combat abilities, and maybe ever have an edge when it comes to progression. You may have one character that can pull high-up switches with her spear and mine for ore, while another can slice open webbed over doors or use magic to illuminate rooms. Core to Ever Oasis is the character-swapping mechanic where you can freely switch between your three party members at any time in the field or dungeon, allowing you to focus on an enemy’s weak point or solve a puzzle using a character’s specific abilities.

ever oasis
Credit: Grezzo, Nintendo /

Some adventures will necessarily require certain party members, and you may have to switch your team up mid-dungeon. It’s here that I hit one of my very few qualms with Ever Oasis–the game can’t seem to decide how it wants to handle its party. It’s obviously designed around being able to swap your team on the fly, but the nature of your oasis necessitates that everyone else stay at home while you travel. You can warp back instantly via an Aqua Gate, then return to the spot you left off, but you still have to visit a booth to swap party members. Essentially, a very basic action you can perform anytime, anywhere takes about a solid minute of menuing to pull off. While it sounds like a minor qualm, you’ll be changing up your team so often that you’ll quickly grow exasperated with the way this breaks the flow.

The weird menu management doesn’t end there, either. In Ever Oasis, you will always have one main quest at any given time, and you can also activate exactly one sidequest at a time as well. If you want to pick up a new sidequest, you have to drop the old one and return to the quest giver later on if you want to pick it up again. Sometimes, that quest giver may not even be around anymore, and you’ll have to wait for them to visit the oasis again. This particular decision seems to have been made to keep people from insta-warping to finish a bunch of quests at once via Aqua Gate, but I can’t help but grow annoyed anytime I waste a minute or more running around looking for someone I talked to already twice before instead of actually playing the game.

ever oasis
Credit: Grezzo, Nintendo /

Those two weird, specific quirks are mere drops in the oasis when compared to the grand adventure I went on with Esna, the Seedlings, and all the rest. There’s certainly some emotional weight to it at points, though you’ll by and large need to be prepared to embrace a tale almost as light-hearted as its artwork. Though not without heavy beats, you’ll spend a good chunk of the dialogue in Ever Oasis delighting adorable Seedling friends and being besties with Esna. Depth comes in small doses, but rocking your emotions to the core isn’t exactly the intended goal for the majority of the game.

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But that’s okay. You’ll be too busy trekking your way over the next sand dune to notice. Both halves of the gameplay complement one another fully, allowing players who enjoy one genre the opportunity to easily embrace the other. Rewarding systems and plenty of hidden secrets encourage exploration both at the oasis and abroad, while increased challenges lie hidden away for those seeking deeper complexity.

8. Ever Oasis can be categorized firmly as a feel-good title for almost all stripes: cute characters, compelling gameplay that can be toned down as necessary for an easier, more relaxing experience, or explored to the extent of its combat complexities and challenge dungeons. Supplemented by a beautiful score and packed with sidequests and replayability, Ever Oasis proves a sorely-needed bit of refreshment for 3DS owners waiting for a title they can get lost in.. Grezzo. . Ever Oasis

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.