As much as I love hardcore games like Resident Evil 4 or Into the Radius, I tend to lean towards more relaxed VR experiences. Puzzling Places is my absolute favorite Quest 2 game and I love painting in Vermillion or plugging in my headphones to enjoy the visual symphony of the Tetris Effect. VR helps me detach from the world, which is especially important to me given the current state of…well, everything. Sometimes I just need games that offer some comfort.
I think Garden of the Sea will be on my list of relaxing VR games for quite a while. I’ve always been a little obsessed with farming sims ever since I played the original Story of Seasons (then called Harvest Moon) on the SNES as a kid. Everything about the central gameplay loop hooks me in a way that no other genre can and I completely lose myself in it. Garden of the Sea takes it a step further by offering a VR version of farming sims, and that’s why it’s our Quest Game of the Week.
The most striking thing about Garden of the Sea is its art style. It’s extremely clean and smooth, with lots of bright colors that make its world pop. The emphasis on water and rich graphics often remind me of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker when playing – another beautiful and stylish game. It often happens that I simply interrupt my work to go for a walk and admire the landscape. It’s one of the best looking games I’ve played on the Quest 2.
Garden of the Sea gameplay will be familiar to anyone with even a modicum of farming simulation experience. You’ll slowly grow a variety of crops to sell, gather materials to improve your farm and build ranches, breed animals and fish, and customize your home. What it does add to the formula, however, is a dose of exploration.
The comparison to The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker mentioned above ends not only with the art style, but also with some gameplay elements. You must sail your boat around different islands to advance, and each has its own source of materials to collect and puzzles to solve. The main focus is still farming, but it’s nice that you’re not stuck in one place throughout the game and have the freedom to explore.
Garden of the Sea’s approach to the ever-growing farming sim genre puts a unique twist on traditional mechanics. Instead of farming traditional animals like in Story of Seasons or Stardew Valley, Garden of the Sea goes the route of the rune factory and slime farmer, so you can worry about whimsical creatures instead. My favorites are the fluffy penguins, but there are also more imaginative ones like swimming Triceratops-like manatees and seal/mole hybrids.
You have to build your friendship with these animals like in other farming games, which means not just giving them gifts they ask for, but by showing affection. The difference is that VR allows you to physically interact with your animals, making it feel more personable than just pushing a button. I love seeing these weird little critters smile and dance happily when I pet them or feed them a radish I’ve grown myself.
Farming itself isn’t exactly deep, but it’s novel. Since this is a VR game, you have to order, plant and water your plants by hand. There’s something satisfying about dropping individual seeds into the ground and watching my crops grow thanks to my own actions. In order to buy things from the merchant, I have to shake money out of my wallet and take my purchase out of their hands. Getting wood means taking my ax and swinging it to chop down a tree and collect the wood. Instead of crafting with a quick push of a button, I have to put each ingredient into a crafting machine by hand. Immersion is a hallmark of many of Quest 2’s best games, and that’s true here too; These little interactions help make you feel like a resident of the enchanting world of Garden of the Sea.
room to grow
However, there is one thing I miss from other genre staples: a grid system. I’m the type of person who has to have everything only So when it comes to organizing my dream farm, however, it’s impossible to plan a visually pleasing layout because the strokes of your garden hoe aren’t consistent. Obviously it’s not a big deal in terms of gameplay; I just wish there was a way to make my garden look neater and tidier.
Garden of the Sea still receives regular free content updates. So far, this has included additions like new vendors, a new island, and an endgame puzzle. It will be interesting to see where these updates go. Personally, I’d love to see more animals (and a grid system!) added to the game in the future.
If you’re not already a fan of farming sims, I doubt Garden of the Sea will affect you much, but it’s an adorable and whimsical treat for those looking to experience the genre in VR. Even better, it’s a great choice for anyone prone to motion sickness.