When it comes to VR games, something that seems to be missing is games that are full of wholesome charm, and the early access version of Garden of the Sea really seemed to show this. Now, not only has the game left early access, but it has also been released on the Quest 2 – I have taken in what the games offers, but, did it fill that wholesome void?
The main gameplay loop in Garden of the Seas is farm, explore and build, which plays out like a more streamlined Animal Crossing, but for VR. This will see you start off an island where you learn the basics of the games farming and building mechanics and also sets the quest of collecting all the parts for your boat to allow further exploration.
The farming is a simple but fun process, you will need to hoe the ground, plant the seeds you wish to grow and then water them – allowing them to grow over time. Some of the seeds will also need wooden latts for them grow on, like the beans and tomatoes, which brings in the axe and the option to cut down trees to get more wood or just search for some around the island.
The reason you need to plant and grow these seeds, is the games main crafting is done using the produce you are growing. For example; a sunflower and a radish will make a seed bag and four-pieces of wood and a thistle will make a bridge. Meaning the farming does make up a solid part of the gameplay, and this also leads into the exploration.
Once you have explored the starting island you will have your boat from that quest, this allows you the travel to three other islands – some of your seeds for crafting items or making improvements to your island are only available on these. Also each of these three islands have a quest of helping restore the overseer of them. One will see you completing a maze, one is a puzzle with crystals and the other helping some inhabitants of the island. These quests give you items that help improve the islands with animals inhabiting them, but for me it seems like these could have been more fleshed out to help the game offer a little more.
When it comes the recipes needed to learn to craft items, there are many of these hidden around all the islands and I am still missing a few and plan to go exploring looking for them all – well I need to as I am one item off upgrading my house fully.
This then leaves the game open for just some relaxing fun and world creation – but, this will only suit some players and not all. For me I have spent a good number of hours after the aforementioned quests creating a nice relaxing island. From upgrading my home, building all the possible things for the inhabitants and animals on the islands, however, the main part of my time has been creating my farming area and arranging this. You can also befriend all the animals that inhabit the islands, this is done of course by petting and feeding them and creating homes for them – in return these will give you items to help towards you crafting.
Although, as mentioned this might not be every ones idea of fun and the game will be over quickly for those, but, it’s such a relaxing time and great way to relax outside of the gritty games VR has to offer.
As soon as you enter Garden of the Sea, you are introduced to bright and cheerful colour palate, which sets the tone for what the game is offering from the get go. With each island offering its own theme from overgrown bamboo, snowy mountains and water. Giving each place you visit its own theme, all while sticking to the wholesome and charming feeling the game offers. One thing I was impressed with on the Quest version of the game, with this style it offers a sharp look and also comes with some impressive draw distances, bring the world more to life.
The sound design brings with it relaxing piano-chords to go with the relaxing experience the game wants to offer. Accompanied by the cute noises of the inhabitants and the few pieces of wild-life you encounter in the game, that will react with cute and happy sounds to your interactions. With the final touch being the environmental sounds like the wind, the boats engine and the chirping of insects on the night cycle – keeping you immersed in the charming world of Garden of the Sea.
Garden of the Sea allows for seated, standing or roomscale, and comes with smooth locomotion, teleport, and snap turning options when it comes to comfort – but no option of a vignette for players who find these useful in preventing motion sickness.
Control-wise then main buttons you will be using is the grips to pick up items, the triggers are used the teleport – which is needed to climb. With the A and X buttons loading up your inventory system on the back of your hand. Really simple controls that just add to the relaxing experience the game is offering players.
As previously mentioned this is really going to come down to how much you enjoy the end game, which is more just about managing the island and making the island your home. But, if this does not sound like something you would want to do, the games few quests can be completed in a couple of hours maximum – meaning this is something you need to take into account with the game.
Reviewed using Meta Quest 2
For the purposes of transparency, this review was created using a review code provided by the company or their respective PR company. The use of a press code does not affect my judgement of the product.