I am developing quite a collection of DS and 3DS games. I read an article about how to be a better game collector, and I went to the local GameStop hoping for a bargain bin of DS games. The bargain bin wasn’t there, but this game was, at a reasonable price. After starting, I soon learned this game is very locked in the tropes of old role-playing games, and I actually like that about it a lot. It also includes more modern ideas, such as delegating tasks like gardening, which you initially do yourself, to other people. I really knew next to nothing about Ever Oasis before purchasing it, but it’s a top-notch title for the platform, although side quests get repetitive.
You start the game in your brother’s oasis, until it is suddenly ravaged by “Chaos.” You escape, and wake up next to a water spirit, who can create a small oasis that shields you from the harshness of the desert. As you progress, you learn Chaos is all that is wrong with the world, and you set out to purge the world of it. It’s a pretty simple good-versus-evil story, but mind you it’s marketed to kids as well as adults.
As your oasis grows, you get residents who can add things of value to the place. The number one thing a visitor does after becoming a resident is start a “Bloom Booth,” a.k.a. a store. You get people who sell scarves and turbans, fruit juice and soup. As far as I can tell, each Bloom Booth opens up four side-quests, which advance character levels, and get you closer to the game’s end. I went on a spree of doing these side-quests, and somehow “World of War-crack” popped into my head. They are optional quests, after all.
I think most interesting is that the oasis is basically the only town. There are other settlements, but you don’t spend the night at an inn as you would in a traditional RPG. You’re just visiting. Part of my getting lost in classic role-playing games is not knowing the last town and dungeon I was in and running around looking for them. Here, if you’re lost, just warp back to the oasis, or even more simple, check your “To Do” list. There is always a main story quest on it. The oasis actually levels-up, and as it does so, it gets bigger and can accommodate more residents. Soon you can fast travel to the desired part of your oasis.
Which leads to an interesting point. The game has taken delegation quite far. A brother and sister set up shop by the entrance of the oasis, and they help you make decisions. Again, gardening is something you do by yourself at first, but the brother-sister duo let you hire gardeners. The garden can get bigger, and they let you plant trees. Meanwhile, the brother allows you to send residents into the field for battle. Aside from leveling-up, they bring back spoils from the location they explored, which can be used as raw materials to make items for sale in a Bloom Booth. There are a lot of unique items, so make sure your exploration crews cover a lot of ground. You can “bulk” supply Bloom Booths, advancing the timeline of the side-quests there. Kind of amazing how the oasis starts to run itself.
At its core, in the field, this is an action RPG. You have attacks, and monsters have numbers over their heads telling you how much health they’ve lost from your attacks until they’re completely defeated. A main story quest shows up as a red arrow on your map, and a side-quest is a blue arrow, and the map is on the lower screen. There are warp points, which take you to desirable destinations almost instantly. There is synthesis, where you create new clothes, weapons, and potions, and of course there is leveling-up for your characters. There are about four dungeons total. I had to consult an FAQ to get through the tough spots. The worst is not having the right character in your party to solve a puzzle. You have to return to the oasis and change party members, then warp back to put their skills to use.
It’s a really fun game, and its core mechanics are rooted in classic role-playing games. Here’s an example: To target an enemy, you press “L.” You stay locked-on until you press L again. This is better known as Z-targeting from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which was released nineteen years before Ever Oasis. I think a valid complaint is not letting you play with three players, which is something even Secret of Mana (another action role-playing game) lets you do with an adapter. Still, this may be a sleeper hit of the 3DS and one of many great RPGs for DS/3DS that I keep hearing about.