The prospect of a young hero controlling the seasons at her fingertips is an exciting idea, which is exactly what hooked me into Ary and the Secret of Seasons. It has a lot of cool gameplay implications, and I'm very impressed with the developer's willingness to craft a world that changes as you cast your powers that alter the environments around you. Having talked to developer eXiin Games recently about creating the unique world of Ary and even hands-off previewing it once before at E3, you could say I was excited to finally try this adventure game out for myself. Perhaps I should have tempered my expectations, because I was left disappointed and disheartened for the final product with this preview.
Developed by eXiin Games, Ary and the Secret of Seasons is an upcoming action-adventure game where you play as the eponymous Ary. She can use the different seasons to solve puzzles, fight enemies, and traverse environments. There's several different regions within Ary and the Secret of Seasons, which you can learn more about in a recent feature. Likewise, if you want to see how my thoughts have changed since last year, you can also read our E3 2019 preview for this title.
Ary and the Secret of Seasons' Lack of Polish
The preview I played came in two segments: a few hours right near the beginning of Ary and the Secret of Seasons, and an hour or so near the end of it. The first half was disappointing, so I was hoping that gameplay possibly picked up near the end with the latter half. Both parts left much to be desired, but even worse, you just can't get around the fact that Ary and the Secret of Seasons lacks so much polish and refinement.
Ary and the Secret of Seasons is still around a month from launch, but there are a list of complaints that permeate throughout the entire experience. Ary and the Secret of Seasons has multiple characters and they are very expressive, but one of the first red flags I noticed was how stiff and robotic the animations are. The art style itself is very charming, and as I expected, the world quite beautiful. The characters that inhabit said world just seem rough though, and the same could be said for their lackluster character models.
Speaking on the topic of visuals, the UI of Ary and the Secret of Seasons is bland and could use a great deal of improvement. Your inventory, for example, is just composed of semitransparent dark squares and bland text. The art style is beautiful, so I could imagine an interesting inventory or pause screen at the very least. It just feels incredibly uninspired. This might come across as nitpicking, but the rest of the package has so many other elements needing improvement that it all adds up.
As an example, there are a great deal of bugs in this current build. During a puzzle, which required me to interact with an object inside the Winter Temple (which is the last "dungeon" in Ary and the Secret of Seasons), Ary turned invisible and I couldn't fix this unless I reloaded the save. This effect could not be reproduced upon retrying this puzzle, which means that it was not an intentional thing. For a game so dependent on platforming, being invisible is not ideal.
Another bug I noticed was shifting music, as if one track started playing, stopped a few seconds later, then an entirely new song would start to play. I also found that my parry button wouldn't work at all while in combat, which is an essential function to actually fight enemies. During other parts of the build, I could parry, so I'm not sure when or why I was unable to do it any longer. Checking the keybindings let me know I was pressing the right button, but it simply wouldn't do anything. Speaking of keybindings, while opening your in-game map is doable on a controller, for mouse and keyboard players like myself, there doesn't seem to be a rebind option. Checking the map seems like an important part of Ary and the Secret of Seasons, so the fact that I couldn't press "M" to do so was frustrating.
As for the bulk of the gameplay, Ary and the Secret of Seasons comprises mostly combat, exploration, and puzzles. The first portion of the demo allowed me to explore the beginning few hours of this title. I was able to grasp the basics of the gameplay while exploring Ary's town and the region surrounding it. After being introduced to the combat mechanics shortly after Ary's town is assailed by some bipedal hyenas, I was very underwhelmed. You can lock onto enemies and parry their attacks, which is basic but tolerable. What I couldn't get over was hit registration.
When landing a hit, you get this "sticky" feeling. Hits seem to very briefly freeze the target and Ary at the same time. It's a difficult thing to explain, but as a result, the combat doesn't feel fluid or fast-paced to me. This is personal preference and I can't say anything is necessarily wrong with the combat, but it lacked a fun factor. Later on, you can use your season powers to weaken - or possibly strengthen - certain enemies, but having tried this myself, I didn't notice much of a difference in my enjoyment.
At the end of my demo, I also fought the Winter Guardian, a boss that came after the puzzle-filled Winter Temple. I thought that maybe combat mechanics would flesh out a bit during the battle, but this wasn't the case. After an exhaustive and droll chase sequence, the boss fight consisted of shooting the Guardian with a slingshot imbued with the power of the Summer season. This grounded the bird-like enemy and allowed me to damage him. Rinse and repeat four times, and I completed a very unexciting and unchallenging boss.
Ary and the Secret of Seasons Preview | Final Thoughts
It doesn't sound like there's much I liked with Ary and the Secret of Seasons, so I'll go over a few positive highlights. First, the music is absolutely exceptional. The orchestral soundtrack reminds me a bit of Fable, so it has those lighthearted and fantastical elements. It's a joy to the ears and makes me happy, and I hope that they release a soundtrack so that it can be appreciated in full. Otherwise, I think the puzzle elements hold some promise. I like the ability to use a season power to change the environment around you. In the Winter Temple, which is ironically stuck in Summer, you could use ice to to create new platforms and move frozen enemies on pressure plates. Other puzzles using the other seasons could be intriguing, but I didn't get a great look at those just yet.
It's definitely concerning that Ary and the Secret of Seasons is so close to launch. It has too many issues with unexpected bugs and general lack of polish. This title could still probably use a few months in order to show some promise. The concept is still exceptional, and the world of Valdi looks beautiful, especially when accompanied by the soundtrack. Still, if you were expected Ary and the Secret of Seasons to be the next great action-adventure, you might want to hold off and wait to see how it all pans out.
TechRaptor previewed Ary and the Secret of Seasons on PC with a code provided by the publisher. The game will launch on September 1, 2020.