Tomb Raider’s tutorial inspired this charming exploration game about botany

All about Botany Manor from ID@Xbox
Balloon Studios / Whitethorn Games

In many parts of the world, hobby gardeners are currently busy nurturing their young plants, full of hope for a bountiful harvest later this year. If you don’t have a garden, you won’t have to wait long to make a similar experience – Botany Manor, a charming exploration and puzzle game, is set to be released on April 9, 2024, for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.

Taking you to the mansion of a retired botanist, which has been faithfully recreated for the game in stunning historical detail, you explore the estate and stumble upon the collection of rare seeds the researcher has amassed over the years of her career. Resurrecting lost plants – how’s that for a hobby project? Having found the seeds as well as a notebook, you should be good to go. Only… that notebook isn’t filled out. It looks like the researcher hasn’t figured out how to actually nurture all of these ancient plants just yet, so you’ll need to take a good look around and spot the right clues to put the pieces of each plant puzzle together.

How big should the pot be? How much water does the plant need? What kind of earth? How much sunlight? Does it require any sort of fertilizer? You’ll get as many questions as answers while slowly exploring the mansion and finding ever more clues to add to your notebook.

Botany Manor screenshot showing a beautiful greenhouse.
Exploring the manor will yield some beautiful sights. / Balloon Studios / Whitethorn Games

And then there’s the practical aspect, of course. It wouldn’t be fun to just leave theory be theory, would it? Using your collected knowledge and the tools found in the mansion, you’ll need to test your hypothesis for each plant and ensure it blooms once more. By doing this, you’ll also learn more about the botanist behind these notes, Arabella Greene, and the challenges she had to face as a woman in science at the time.

Botany Mansion is a zen experience without any kind of time pressure – its charming ideas, looks, and music come together to create a satisfying gameplay loop, in which curiosity and exploration take center stage.

Botany Manor screenshot showing a room full of plant pots.
Secrets and useful rooms await inside the estate as well. / Balloon Studios / Whitethorn Games

It’s an escapist fantasy of the best sort – in 1890s Somerset, England, you can easily forget about your problems and worries. It’s just you, this vibrantly colored and yet serene mansion, and a Herbarium waiting to be filled with knowledge. And, no, you don’t need any real-life gardening experience.

Oh, you’re probably still wondering about the headline. Balloon Studios founder Laure De Mey, who presented some gameplay to press during a recent ID@Xbox preview event, talked about her inspiration for Botany Manor during the presentation – and of all things she could have said, she mentioned Tomb Raider. Specifically, the tutorial taking place at Lara Croft’s mansion. 

Botany Manor screenshot of a clue found in the mansion.
You can add that knowledge to your notebook. / Balloon Studios / Whitethorn Games

This, De Mey explained, led to a fascination with old mansions and estates, which informed the setting of Botany Manor – and explains the painstakingly detailed building we find ourselves in playing Botany Manor. Lara Croft is about as far away from being a botanist as Indiana Jones is from being an archeologist and Botany Manor is about as far as away from the action-packed Tomb Raider games as you can imagine, but it’s part of Lara’s legacy now – and that’s one fact for your next night of video game trivia.


Published
Marco Wutz

MARCO WUTZ

Marco Wutz is a writer from Parkstetten, Germany. He has a degree in Ancient History and a particular love for real-time and turn-based strategy games like StarCraft, Age of Empires, Total War, Age of Wonders, Crusader Kings, and Civilization as well as a soft spot for Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail. He began covering StarCraft 2 as a writer in 2011 for the largest German community around the game and hosted a live tournament on a stage at gamescom 2014 before he went on to work for Bonjwa, one of the country's biggest Twitch channels. He branched out to write in English in 2015 by joining tl.net, the global center of the StarCraft scene run by Team Liquid, which was nominated as the Best Coverage Website of the Year at the Esports Industry Awards in 2017. He worked as a translator on The Crusader Stands Watch, a biography in memory of Dennis "INTERNETHULK" Hawelka, and provided live coverage of many StarCraft 2 events on the social channels of tl.net as well as DreamHack, the world's largest gaming festival. From there, he transitioned into writing about the games industry in general after his graduation, joining GLHF, a content agency specializing in video games coverage for media partners across the globe, in 2021. He has also written for NGL.ONE, kicker, ComputerBild, USA Today's ForTheWin, The Sun, Men's Journal, and Parade. Email: marco.wutz@glhf.gg