In some ways, the upcoming Ary and the Secret of Seasons is like the highly popular show Avatar: The Last Airbender. In both, you have a young character that masters four elements. In Avatar, this is Air, Water, Earth, and Fire. In Ary and the Secret of Seasons, you master the seasons themselves. As a kid, the world of the cartoon really blew my mind, as is the case for those experiencing the show for the first time since Avatar's return to Netflix. Drawing comparisons once more, Ary and the Secret of Seasons has a very intriguing world to accompany the protagonist's powers.
Ary and the Secret of Seasons is an upcoming adventure game created by eXiin and Fishing Cactus, and published by Modus Games. You'll travel across the world of Valdi as the eponymous Ary. Using your season-based powers, you can change the world before you to tackle environmental obstacles and puzzles, as well as defeat enemies. To learn more about the world in Ary and the Secret of Seasons, TechRaptor talked with eXiin CEO Sebastien Le Touze to find out more about creating and exploring Valdi.
Creating the World of Valdi in Ary and the Secret of Seasons
If you crack open a fantasy novel, there's a real possibility you'll see a map of the world within the first few pages. This is for readers to gain a better understanding of the world, and it's something they can refer back to as they read on. Just as this map serves as a guide for the reader, Ary's developers created the map for the game's world early on in the development process.
"We had a vague idea of how it should look and drew the world map very early on," said Le Touze. "Even so, we still had to go through iterations, for instance the Yule tower was completely different in early versions."
One thing that sticks out about the world of Valdi is that it is multicultural and diverse. You'll come across areas that resemble cultures from the real world. There are, for example, clear Asian influences and even elements from the developer's own country. Le Touze says that one structure in the game, called The Dome of Seasons, is based on Saint Mary's Royal Church in Brussels.
"It's indeed the case and that is for two reasons: first, the game’s environments are based on the places I’ve visited around the world," said Le Touze. "You can easily spot one or two references in the game of these trips; second, the trip and experiences of our small team, based in Brussels, influences our approach and also our references."
In addition to the developer's real-life surroundings, other inspirations include early PlayStation 1 and 2 games. These inspirations are likely quite evident once players look at the layout of the levels and gameplay of Ary, which is similar to 3D platformers.
Areas to Explore in Ary and the Secret of Seasons
There are actually four different regions to explore in Ary and the Secret of Seasons. These vast areas are hubs, so while Le Touze says they are not open world, there's plenty of places to explore within a given region. You'll come across a loading screen only when traveling between regions. The four regions are: Yule for Winter, Samhain for Autumn, Ostara for Spring, and Lammastide for Summer.
Yule is where Ary's adventure begins, and it's also where she is from. Samhain is a desert filled with ruins. Ostara is the home to a Prince, and you'll find his castle there. Lastly, Lammastide is a beach resort area, but Le Touze says this normally hot region is now experiencing winter due to a problem with the seasons.
"Within the regions there are the main cities, the seasonal temple, and areas to explore," said Le Touze. "Some areas are not able to be accessed until you get the needed season crystal or ability, allowing players to re-explore previous locations to find new treasures and pathways."
These hubs also have dungeons for Ary to explore. Here, you'll tackle enemies and solve puzzles using your season powers. You'll need to take full advantage of these abilities in order to progress.
"The dungeons are made to take advantage of the seasons and the new mechanic introduced," said Le Touze, "and usually we make sure that the player cannot progress without using a season sphere."
Perhaps the most unique aspect of Ary's powers is that by manipulating seasons, the environment around her changes. You'll find instances where the ground is full of grass and lush greenery, but using the power of winter turns an area of the the ground snowy and the trees devoid of any foliage. The ability to change a level's appearance on a whim is no small technical feat.
"It's a bit tricky," said Le Touze, "because our stylized graphics look rather simple graphically, but having the seasons that run in the background makes the environment quite resource intensive."
So, it is definitely an engineering achievement to pull off, but it's even more difficult when designing puzzles. Le Touze says that Ary's agility and ability to use limitless seasonal powers opens up a lot of possibilities. While you'll find plenty of clever puzzles in Ary, not everything made the cut—such is the way of game development.
Le Touze says around 80 percent of the puzzles the team designed couldn't be implemented because of several reasons, including fun factor and the time it takes a playtester to solve them. When a puzzle does make the cut, it ends up being something like this, according to Le Touze:
"One of the dungeons has different levels of water between seasons. We gradually remove platforms, up to the point where there is no platform at all; the rooms are just empty with an entrance, an exit and spikes everywhere. Ary just has to rely on her season power, to create her own platforms."
Ary and the Secret of Seasons' Impending Release
Developing games during an unprecedented pandemic is certainly a challenge for many developers, and the journey with Ary and the Secret of Seasons is no exception. The team went remote. Development is full of ups and downs, trial and error. Le Touze said that if there's a mistake in development, that issue can be handled in mere minutes while at an office. At home, this mistake might only be addressed at a meeting the next day. He adds:
"Another issue is related to testing and internet speeds. Sometimes we do 5-6 builds per day, so you can imagine how big it gets, and how because we are dealing with different people’s home internet connections, it has forced us to slow down. This, in some part, is why we delayed the game, but ultimately it was the right move, as quality is more important than launch date."
While Ary and the Secret of Seasons was delayed, it won't be long until you can try it out for yourself. The ability to wield the power of seasons are at your fingertips in this adventure title. You can play Ary and the Secret of Seasons when it releases this September on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and the Nintendo Switch.
Are you excited for Ary and the Secret of Seasons? What area do you want to explore the most? Let us know in the comments below!