As much as I love hardcore games like Resident Evil 4 or Into the Radius, I find that I tend to gravitate toward more relaxed VR experiences. Puzzling Places is my absolute favorite Quest 2 game, and I adore painting in Vermillion or plugging in my headphones to enjoy the visual symphony of Tetris Effect. VR helps me to unwind from the world, which is something that’s especially important to me given the current state of… well, everything. Sometimes I just need games that offer up some comfort.
I think Garden of the Sea will be joining my list of go-to relaxing VR games for quite a while. I’ve always been a little obsessed with farming sims ever since playing the original Story of Seasons (then titled Harvest Moon) back on the SNES as a kid. Everything about the core gameplay loop captivates me in a way no other genre can, and I lose myself in them completely. Garden of the Sea takes that a step further by offering a VR take on farming sims, and that’s why it’s our Quest Game of the Week.
Our Oculus Quest Game of the Week (opens in new tab) column highlights recent Meta Quest titles, indie gems, App Lab up-and-comers, or cool sideloaded mods. Games that we didn't have time to review, but deserve recognition.
The most noticeable 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 the saturated visuals frequently reminds me of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker — another gorgeous and stylish game — when playing. There are plenty of times when I’ll simply stop what I’m doing to go for a stroll and admire the scenery. It’s one of the best-looking games I’ve played on the Quest 2.
Garden of the Sea’s gameplay will be familiar for anyone with even the slightest bit of experience with farming sims. You slowly grow a wide variety of crops to sell, gather materials to upgrade your farm and build ranches, raise animals and fish, and customize your house. What it adds to the formula, however, is a dose of exploration.
The aforementioned comparison to The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker doesn’t end with just the art style but with some gameplay elements as well. You have to sail around different islands on your boat in order to progress, and each has its own source of materials to collect and puzzles to solve. The core focus is still on farming, but it’s nice that you’re not stuck in one location over the course of the entire game and have freedom to explore.
Garden of the Sea’s approach to the ever-growing farming sim genre gives a unique twist to traditional mechanics. Rather than raising traditional animals like in Story of Seasons or Stardew Valley, Garden of the Sea goes the way of the Rune Factory and Slime Rancher, letting you care for whimsical creatures instead. My favorites are the fluffy penguins, but there are also more imaginative ones, like floating triceratops-like manatees and seal/mole rat hybrids.
You’ll have to raise your friendship with these animals like in other farming games, which means not only giving them gifts that they ask for but through showing affection. The difference is that VR allows you to interact with your animals physically, making it feel more personable than just pressing a button. I love watching these weird little critters smile and dance happily whenever I reach out to pet them or feed them a homegrown radish.
Farming itself isn’t exactly deep, but it’s novel. Being a VR game, you’ll need to till, plant, and water your crops by hand. There’s something satisfying about dropping individual seeds into the ground and watching my crops grow, thanks to my own actions. To buy things from the merchant, I have to shake money out of my wallet and grab my purchase from their hands. Getting lumber means taking my axe and swinging it to chop down a tree and gathering the wood. Rather than crafting with a quick button press, I have to place each ingredient into a crafting machine by hand. Immersion is a hallmark of many of the Quest 2’s best games, and the same is true here; these small interactions help make you feel like a resident in Garden of the Sea’s charming world.
Room to grow
However, there's one thing I miss from other genre staples: a grid system. I'm the type of person who needs to have everything just so when it comes to organizing my dream farm, but it's impossible to plan a visually pleasing layout as strikes from your gardening hoe aren't uniform. Obviously, it's not a big deal in terms of gameplay; I just wish there were a way to make my garden look more neat and tidy.
Garden of the Sea is still receiving frequent free content updates. So far, this has included additions like new merchants, a new island, and an endgame puzzle. It'll 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 do much to sway you, but it's a delightful and quirky treat for those wanting to experience the genre in VR. Even better, it's a great pick for anyone prone to motion sickness.
Garden of the Sea
With a delightful art style and wholesome game design, Garden of the Sea is a charming VR take on farming sims. Its features might feel a little lacking for genre veterans, but it’s a game that highlights the magic of VR.
Buy at: Oculus (opens in new tab)
Nick is a freelance journalist and games reviewer with a passion for RPGs, bad puns, and VR. When he isn’t guesting on podcasts or streaming on Twitch, he’s probably playing Borderlands with his husband.
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