Unlike Jason Rohrer's Passage and Gravitation (both are highly recommended and readily available on TheGameHippo), Cultivation actually plays like a game.
Have you ever wondered why war exists in the World even when it is clearly undesirable for everyone? Do you suppose that you could make everyone happy by being absolutely altruistic? Or do you think that a harsh criminal code and a clear property law would result in a better World? Do you ever feel insignificant and helpless as the society moves in unfortunate directions, but cannot help but to feel guilty because, in one way or another, you are contributing to this decay of society? Do you sometimes feel like you just want to somehow escape from the World, away from all the people, and just live and die quietly, as if you have never existed? Or do you strive to open the Gates to Paradise for everyone, regardless of how it is achieved?
In Cultivation, all of these small but powerful intricacies of human society are explored without being explicitly mentioned. The author has created such an amazing simulation of humanity, that these issues do not even need to be hard-coded into the game - they will emerge as the game progresses, and the player will come face to face with them.
The player is a Gardener, living on a small island with several others of its kind. Every Gardener is mortal, but intense work and/or lack of nutrience will quicken the aging process. If the player's Gardener dies and there is no heir, the game is over. To have an heir, two Gardeners who like each other must mate and nurture the fetus/baby until it becomes independent. Plants can be planted and watered to yield fruits, which can be eaten (yielding more seeds for planting) or given away as a gift. A Gardener can only plant a fruit in his plot of land, the boundaries of which can be redrawn at any time. Obviously, overlapping of boundaries will occur eventually, and hostility will develop. Conflict also occurs when someone steals or court with another's love interest. Conflict can (and will) eventually erupt into open warfare, in which opposing Gardeners poison each other's plants, rendering the poisoned ground forever unusable, and tainting a Gardener's food supply when it passes over poisoned land.
There is a way to win the game. Each time the player's Gardener dies, the location of its death is marked with a glowing ring. Having 5 rings at the same location will open the Gate to Paradise. Existing rings, however, can be destroyed by poison.
Personally, I have never reached 5 rings. In order for that to be achievable, the island would probably have to be very peaceful and sustainable, which begs the question: why would we want to go to Paradise when the Gate is open if we must create a paradise in our World to open it?
As difficult as life.
Unlike life, we get more than one chance here.
All graphics are procedurally generated. The island, the Gardeners, the plants, none of these are hard-coded into the game. When the Gardeners and plants breed, their offsprings will carry the traits of their parents.
Even the music is procedurally generated.
1. A Gate to Paradise being desperately built in a world of utter chaos.
2. One could choose to live far, far away from the troubles of the world, with no sexual partner, very little possession, and no worldly influence...
3. Early society. Look at how happy this couple is.
The only reason why this game did not receive a A+ is due to the existence of game-crashing bugs.