Garden Story hands-on preview at PAX South 2020

What can a plucky grape do to save the world of vegetation? Quite a bit when they gather friends together. We played Garden Story at PAX South 2020 and helped bring rotting villages back to life.

1

Adventure and questing games often seem to have a similar spiel to them. You are the hero, the world needs saving, and you have to do it by yourself. Never mind all the able bodies present in the failing world around you. They’re busy, you see. It’s kind of funny that nobody really asks, “why? Why do I have to do all of this by myself?” Nobody should go it alone on such a daunting task, and that’s kind of the heartwarming core of developer picogram’s Garden Story. I got to play the game at PAX South 2020 and chat with publisher Rose City Games about how this adventure of a concord grape to unite the vegetation of the land against a destructive evil came together.

A garden in ruin

Garden Story picks up in the midst of a world being eaten away by a force known as the Rot. It creates hostile creatures, poisons resources, and leads whole communities into disarray. We should mention this is a world inhabited by sentient fruits and vegetables as its main denizens, with the addition of at least one sassy frog. You are a concord grape and newly appointed guardian tasked with trying to help get rid of the Rot. To this end, you have to venture into different communities, gather resources, fight off Rot-created enemies, solve puzzle-filled dungeons, and help the townsfolk restore their villages to working order. Yes, it’s your grape at the core of the gameplay, but Garden Story is about restoring the villages to working order alongside their villagers.

In the demo at PAX South 2020, the game didn’t even send me off on our my from the get-go, despite being the so-called Guardian Grape. I had a frog and apple friend accompanying me through most of the session, lending advice where applicable and generally being involved in the matter. We moved into a ruined town and our first task was to make contact with the village vegetation, do a few chores to show them we were capable, and get started on some community requests to help the village back onto its feet, including helping with fresh water, gathering mineable, and defeating enemies.

Garden Story features a variety of gameplay, including dungeon crawling, fishing, resource mining, and more.
Garden Story features a variety of gameplay, including dungeon crawling, fishing, resource mining, and more.

In this way, Garden Story has a very Stardew Valley vibe to it. There were quite a few things I was doing for the village community, be it hacking enemies and resources into usable bits, fishing for baubles, putting together various items for building projects, or hunting down objectives in dungeons. The dungeons were very Zelda-like affairs full of various puzzles and Rot monsters in each room to be solved or dispatched before moving on. The demo ended in a dungeon with a similarly puzzle-based boss fight before I escaped the undefeatable creature, giving quite the cliffhanger to the session.

Banding together against calamity

 By the end of my time with Garden Story at PAX South, I definitely felt that this quest fell on more shoulders than just that of my lush little grape. There were companions and helpers from beginning the way who would lend aid to Concord if it just lent them the resources they needed, and it was more than just fetch quests. It felt like the start of actually rebuilding a broken town into a living community again with all the fruit and veggie citizens therein. According to Rose City Games Community Developer Jenny Windom, that building of community is a big part the foundation for Garden Story.

It's not just about the Guardian Grape in Garden Story. Helping towns get back on their feet will lead to towns helping Concord in its quest to stop the Rot and save the world.
It's not just about the Guardian Grape in Garden Story. Helping towns get back on their feet will lead to the denizens helping Concord in its quest to stop the Rot and save the world.

“In doing the requests and favors for community members, like getting rid of Rot or exploring areas for resources, you’re going to be helping them back into a place where they can help you,” Windom told us. “It’s not just about you saving the world. It’s a sort of a Stardew Valley or Animal Crossing-lite thing in which you’ll eventually be able to ask the community to come together towards your goals and tasks and help build bigger things as a group instead of having the lone hero doing it all by themselves. An everyday hero knows when it’s good to ask for help.”

It helps too that Garden Story is presented in such a mellow vibe. The game was relaxing to look at and play, even at its most stressful. The warm feeling of helping others and togetherness is further aided by the calm and cozy art style in which it’s presented. It’s appealing look, story, and gameplay elements were something I could see myself relaxing into and getting lost in it for hours at a time.

Garden Story is expected to come out in Spring 2020. Currently, only PC is confirmed for launch, although further platforms aren’t out of the question. If you’d like to learn more about Garden Story or wishlist it, you can check it out on Steam. You can also follow Rose City Games and Garden Story on Twitter for the latest news and information on the game.

News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he's not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he's searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

From The Chatty
Hello, Meet Lola