Last year, Nintendo casually announced that it was developing “a new role-playing IP for Nintendo 3DS,” making fans salivate over the prospect of yet another incredible IP in Nintendo’s stable. That IP turned out to be Ever Oasis, an RPG/city-building combination that’s one part Secret Of Mana, one part Animal Crossing. While the game has gotten a bit lost in all the recent Switch hype, Nintendo dropped a (really) short demo of the game during this year’s E3 to let players test drive the game before it releases next month tomorrow?! Geez, this one really did up sneak up on me…
I’m a sucker for RPGs in general, but I wasn’t the biggest fan on Secret Of Mana’s real-time combat system (trying to coordinate my characters was always a nightmare), so I was curious to see how Ever Oasis iterated/improved on the concept. What I found, unfortunately, was that Ever Oasis actually took a few steps backwards when compared to its spiritual predecessor. My detailed thoughts on the game are as follows:
- The biggest differentiator between Ever Oasis and Miitopia is how much control the player has: Miitopia‘s segmented, automatically-traversed worlds and autonomously-combating allies limits the amount of control the player has, while Ever Oasis‘s open-world design and real-time battle system gives the player much more freedom to explore and strategize. I’m split on which one I like better: I prefer the open world of Ever Oasis, but found the methodical combat style of Miitopia much more enjoyable.
- So what’s wrong with Ever Oasis‘s combat system anyway? I have three specific complaints:
- I usually find real-time combat systems to be overly hectic, and prefer to have time to catch my breath and plot my next move. In previous real-time RPG combat games I’ve played (Secret of Mana, Baldur’s Gate II), I was able to create this space by just pausing the game to survey the field and decide who to attack, what spells and items to use, etc. Ever Oasis, however, only lets you pause the game to use healing items, and doing so takes you to a separate menu screen that blocks you view of the battle. Despite the additional control Ever Oasis gives you over Miitopia, the game doesn’t seem to give you the fine-grained control I need in combat.
- Secret of Mana‘s overhead POV, in contrast, let you see enough of the surrounding area to know where enemies were positioned at all times. In contrast, Ever Oasis‘s third-person behind-the-back camera gives you a very limited view of the battlefield, and if you’re dealing with multiple enemies, it’s all too easy (and incredibly frustrating) to be surprised by enemies attacking from beside or behind you because you just don’t see them. I found myself frequently fleeing from a fight and then spinning the camera around to get a wider view of the terrain and see who I should attack next.
- The button-mapping for switching between party members made the maneuver more awkward than it should have been, as it required pulling your thumb off the analog stick to make the switch. Mapping that control to the R button (which didn’t seem to do anything in the demo) would have been a better choice, since your finger is already positioned to use it. (While this change would mean losing the ability to choose which party member to jump to, you only have a 3-person party, so one extra button click wouldn’t be much more of a hassle.)
- I also had an issue with how restrictive the equipment and experience systems were in the demo: Experience points and levels are only awarded to your party after returning to the oasis after a campaign, and equipment can only be switched by walking all the way to your house in the farthest corner of the oasis. This bizarre setup means that the game seems to encourage aimless grinding, as you get no benefit from the journey to beat a boss until after you beat it, and thus need to make sure you’re already strong enough (and have good enough weapons) before you set out to find it!
- On the plus game, the developers absolutely nailed the atmospheric aspects of the game. The areas are well-designed, the graphics are solid, and the music is so epic it sound like it was pulled from a movie score. (Unfortunately, we don’t a huge glimpse of the story in the demo.) It’s easily one of the most-immersive worlds I’ve seen on the 3DS.
- While the demo gives us a little insight into how to build your oasis, it doesn’t give us much of an idea of its importance, and thus it comes off as a bit trivial and unimportant. I would have liked to see that fleshed out a bit more.
Ever Oasis wasn’t nearly as compelling as I had hoped, but the demo was also very short and combat-focused, and it glossed over some important mechanics (especially with regards to growing the oasis). I’m going to need more information before deciding whether or not to take the plunge on this game, but as it stands, I would recommend grabbing Miitopia if you’re only planning on buying one of the two.