I’ve not played Wylde Flowers on Apple Arcade yet, but when I heard that it was coming to Switch and PC, I was super pumped to pack my bags and head over to the town of Fairhaven. I mean, I’m a simple girl – stick a witch hat and a cat in a farming sim, and I’m there. When I managed to get my hands on a pre-release demo for Steam/PC, I leapt at the opportunity, and I’m happy to say it has me spellbound. It certainly delivers on the cauldrons, cats, and crops, along with plenty more surprises along the way.
Farming games and life sims have been popular for some time now, with classics like Animal Crossing and Stardew Valley shaping the genre into something accessible to a wide range of players – even piquing the interest of those who wouldn’t usually pick up a controller. These games offer a serene sense of escapism, allowing you to take a breather from your real life and step into the shoes of another for a while, something that was sorely needed during the pandemic, and has maintained momentum ever since.
Of course, that means a near constant flow of fresh fields to tend, crops to grow, and virtual friends to meet, and with so many titles, it can be easy to get lost in the haystack. But Wylde Flowers, in all its magical glory, manages to avoid this fate.
At its core, Wylde Flowers is a narrative-driven life sim, with a gameplay loop that focuses on farming, mining, tending to your animals, completing quests, and befriending the townsfolk as you seek to uncover the magical mystery that surrounds you. The gameplay loop is simple and familiar for anyone who has played these games before, relying on obtaining, using, and selling resources to profit and progress.
Where the game truly shines is through its story. It starts off treading the old path of you taking the role of a city-slicker looking to take a breath of fresh air, leading you to taking up residence in a relative’s run-down farm in a quaint little village. This time, you take the role of Tara, a young woman who recently had a messy break up, and is now moving in with her ailing grandmother, Hazel.
Of course, this isn’t any farming or life sim, though – this is Wylde Flowers, and your sweet little Gramma is hiding a secret. During the night, you’re treated to mysterious cutscenes showing masked, robed figures wandering through the woods. These mysteries are amplified when you notice there’s a trapdoor under the rug when Gramma asks you to help her sweep the house, which she’s extremely evasive about when asked.
Then she sends you out to get a flower in the woods that only blooms at night. Now, I know how all this sounds. No, Gramma is not the crazy killer from the Lily’s Garden Commercials. Nope, Gramma is a witch, and so are several people around town, including you!
From here, you dive into a surprisingly mature story with some extremely emotional elements, handling topics like loss, grief, broken relationships, and even some hints towards more mature topics like alcoholism. There’s a relationship system with each of the townsfolk, and their attitude towards you shifts as you get closer to them.
Over time, they begin to trust you, and reveal their history, insecurities, and dreams for the future. There are even several bachelors and bachelorettes for you to choose from, and the options are wonderfully diverse – from cool surfer dude Kai, to nonbinary butcher Kim, the lovely lady doctor Amira, and even a bookish werewolf called Westley.
This diversity spreads beyond the bachelors and bachelorettes, though. The people of Fairhaven come in all shapes and sizes, with different ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds, and orientations. In our Wylde Flowers interview, concept artist Iona and environment artist Riley made it clear that they wanted to represent people who don’t usually get to see themselves in games, and they clearly did a wonderful job.
Each character is so unique and has such a thorough backstory that it’s hard not to be charmed by them, especially as you spend a portion of each in-game day chatting away to them. This is amplified even further by the wonderful voice acting, covering every line of dialogue in the game.
Of course, the mystery and magic are the true source of intrigue, as you spend your day acting as a totally normal farmer, and your night moonlighting as a blossoming witch, visiting your cauldron and brewing up magic potions and enchantments. There’s even an exciting location you unlock as you progress, called Ravenwood Hollow – a wonderfully wacky fantasy town full of magical creatures. There’s also talk of future updates and potential new areas coming, and I can’t wait to see it, especially as the main story’s current runtime isn’t all that long.
When it comes to gameplay, as mentioned above, there’s little that breaks the mould – but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You fill your day with the aforementioned tasks, running around the village and making the most of the waking hours. It takes a little while to get into a rhythm, but when you do, you find yourself in a rewarding system of give and take. There’s also no need for inventory management, as your backpack is limitless.
Your stamina meter is your main challenge in the game, especially when you start out and Tara gets tired after chopping a tree or picking up a few rocks. But the cooking system comes to the rescue within the first few quests, and after that, popping to Sophia’s diner and buying a bunch of coffees is the most affordable and effective way to make sure you have enough energy to get stuff done. Much like real life, if I’m honest.
You can change the difficulty between relaxed, normal, and challenging at any time from the pause menu. The only thing this adjusts is the speed at which the day passes, which actually works as a handy time management tool. If you’ve done all your tasks for the day and are waiting for night to come so you can visit the coven, or you need a crop to grow in order to progress, knock it up to challenging and watch the minutes fly by.
If you’re heading into the mine with a couple of enchantments and a bag full of snacks, dial it down to relaxed and take your time gathering all the materials you need. I genuinely love this, as it allows you to control how you want to play the game, and eliminates some of the frustration of time-oriented tasks often found in farm sims.
All of the townspeople have their own schedules, and each shop has its own opening times. Most things, from crops to potion brewing and compost mulching, relies on an in-game timer. In the first few hours of your playtime, this slows the game to a bit of a crawl, as most of your quests revolve around growing a certain amount of a specific crop and handing it to a villager, or talking to someone within their work hours, leaving you with a lot of hours and not a lot to do – especially until you unlock features like the mine.
However, as you progress, you find a lot more to do. Whether it’s mining, visiting different places, or tending to your animals, there’s plenty to fill your day as you wait for timers to tick by. You also gain access to handy potions that offer various buffs, including increasing the yield and grow speed of your crops, and the aforementioned difficulty modes can help you push through the early-game days instead of twiddling your thumbs.
Wylde Flowers boasts a thorough economy reliant on different stores and their opening times, and working with your fellow villagers. In order to make a profit, obtain new recipes or crops, or develop new buildings, you need to learn the timetables, stock, and what products each of the shops will buy from you.
For some reason, fish sticks are the most lucrative business in the game, so Tuesdays are my money-making days. Buy a couple hundred bags of flour from Lina, buy the same amount of tuna from Bruno, head home and cook up a whole sack of fish sticks, then sell them at Sophia’s diner. Rinse, repeat, profit – just call me Captain Birdseye.
It’s an oddly satisfying feeling, becoming a fish stick tycoon and bending the economy to your will. It almost feels like cheating when you strut home with 100k more gold in your bag on a Tuesday night, but I promise it’s not. Plus, I love that learning this alleviates you of most of your money troubles, allowing you to snag any upgrade from Parker or rare ingredients and tree saplings from Kai’s store as you see them.
Wylde Flowers’ controls are simple and easy. In the wind up to the release I only had access to the Steam PC version, but I’m sure the Switch version isn’t much different. You can move around by clicking where you want to go, interact with items by clicking on them, and talk to people by – guess what – clicking on them. You’ve got a simple map, a backpack, and a journal listing all your quests, materials, and the friendship level you share with each of the townsfolk. That’s about it. And honestly? That’s all it needs.
When it comes to artstyle, the environments are stunning, especially in the more magical places. The character design took a little while for me to get used to personally, but they grew on me with time, and I feel their outfits and aesthetics perfectly suit their personalities. The stylised approach with rounded off corners and rich, vibrant colours was undoubtedly the right direction for the game, making it warm and welcoming to anyone who decides to give life in Fairhaven a shot.
Unfortunately, there’s no character customisation option – this is a story about Tara, so you’re stuck in her pointy heels and red mini skirt regardless of the weather or task. However, I managed to build a real love for our sweet-natured young witch, and in retrospect, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Overall, I genuinely love Wylde Flowers and truly enjoy my time living in Fairhaven. It’s a simple game with a wonderful story to tell, along with a variety of fun mechanics and intriguing townsfolk to acquaint yourself with. It may be quite short and a little too stripped-back for hardcore fans of the genre, but this wonderfully witchy world has plenty of magic in its roots, and its chill, relaxing atmosphere has become a real safe space for me after a long day.
Wylde Flowers is a wonderfully witchy farming life sim with an enchanting story to tell. Soak up the chill vibes and relaxing atmosphere of Fairhaven, as you get close to its residents, get a handle on your own magic powers, and reveal the secrets of this sunny seaside town.