Studio Drydock’s Wylde Flowers combines farming, witchcraft, and friendship into magic. While the game’s farming and other chore-based mechanics range from fine to good, where this title really shines is how it manages to weave together human stories and engaging witchy game mechanics to make something truly special.
Wylde Flowers does not feature a customizable protagonist, instead centering around Tara Wylde, who’s returned home after a broken engagement to her grandmother’s farm after 20 years away. Tara, who spent many hours in the small town of Fairhaven as a child, has come back to the farm to help her ailing grandmother Hazel with chores and reconnect after so many years apart. However, it soon becomes apparent that there’s more to Fairhaven than meets to eye, with Tara quickly discovering Hazel is part of a witch coven that meets in the town’s woods – and of course, Tara soon finds she too has the capability for witchcraft.
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Wylde Flowers does a pretty good job of balancing its farming simulation game mechanics and its witchy ones, although for obvious reasons the latter tends to be more interesting than the former. Wylde Flowers certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to common elements like farming, mining, and fishing, but they aren’t particularly the focus of the gameplay either. Mining and fishing, while necessary, are very simplistic activities, and although players can make money selling crops and animal products it’s not the best way to make money.
The game uses crafting mechanics in interesting ways, as Tara will use both practical machinery like a glass kiln and magic-centric tools like a cauldron for her witchcraft needs. Players can make incantations and potions, each with a myriad of different uses that can make elements of gameplay easier and progress story quests. One of Wylde Flowers’ most interesting mechanics is the fact that seasons are changed via magic, meaning that players can spend as much time in each as they wish until they choose to participate in the seasonal rituals. This is one of the best ways the game reinforces its cozy, relaxed pace, encouraging players to savor each part of the year.
Wylde Flowers’ town of Fairhaven is charming, albeit a fairly small map. The aesthetics of the game’s world are somewhat unremarkable, and don’t really embody any sort of unique visual style, but it’s not hard on the eyes either. Players only encounter short loading screens when moving between large sections of the town, and not when entering buildings, which is incredibly refreshing and saves a lot of time when trying to visit each character at their workplace every day. However, players never get to see the inside of any villagers’ homes – they can only be visited when they are out on the town.
This is particularly disappointing due to one of the most standout elements of the game: the uniqueness of its characters. Both Fairhaven and the more magical places players will discover later on in Wylde Flowers are home to an incredibly diverse and interesting cast of characters, some of whom can be romanced much like Rune Factory 5 or Stardew Valley. The game’s characters stand out immediately – particularly because the entire game is fully voice acted – with a huge array of backgrounds and identities. In a gaming landscape where many simulation titles have a weak roster of characters players can romance, Wylde Flowers actually makes it a tough decision by including such heartfelt and engrossing villagers.
The social mechanics of Wylde Flowers function fairly similarly to other games of the genre, relying on daily conversation, quests, and gift giving to improve relationships over time. As friendships develop, special cutscenes can be triggered that give players more insight into the town and its residents, and although these can occasionally be difficult to determine how to trigger, it’s exciting every time it happens. Many of the villagers’ lives have been filled with heartbreak, grief, discrimination, and other topics that are always handled in a way that never feels too grim or heavy-handed, with Wylde Flowers overall always keeping an undercurrent of optimism.
However, even with this optimism it’s important to point out that Wylde Flowers is a game that will make many players cry, perhaps a few times. Interestingly, Wylde Flowers’ main story takes place all over the course of a single year – players can keep playing after the credits roll and will have tasks to occupy their epilogue play time, but the game’s main events will have all concluded. In a year’s time, players will experience an engaging storyline that is largely about the conflict of the town’s misguided fear and hatred of the witch coven, but that also touches on points about relationships, death, and acceptance in stunningly poignant ways.
Besides the lack of depth within most of the game’s chore mechanics and lack of villager home interiors, there are a few other small nitpicks for Wylde Flowers, although there are not many. For a game that frequently requires material collection, the process could’ve been made easier for players – Tara does not automatically pick up things like chopped wood, instead necessitating they be picked up manually. While there’s an incantation that can temporarily assuage this, it’s an odd thing to be necessary in a game of this genre. Additionally, while the game does have a soundtrack, it relies much more on ambient noise. While this is mixed well, and things like Tara’s echoes in the mine are nice touches, many players will probably find themselves wishing for more music. Tara also never has the option to change her clothes, wearing the same ankle booties and leather jacket she arrives in even on her wedding day.
At its core, Wylde Flowers is much more of a narrative-driven social simulation game than a game about farming and other such activities. The surface-level nature of some of the game’s elements could be a problem were it not for the fact that Wylde Flowers absolutely excels at the story it’s trying to tell utilizing a brilliant cast of characters. With Wylde Flowers, players get an eclectic game where they can brew potions and cast spells while somehow also enjoying a fairly grounded, small-town life alongside unique characters. While it may not be the most complex title on some fronts, Wylde Flowers succeeds at telling a bewitchingly beautiful story.
Wylde Flowers releases September 20 for Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam and Apple devices via Apple Arcade. Screen Rant was provided with a PC code for the purpose of this review.