Ary and the Secret of Seasons PC Review

Ary and the Secret of Seasons attempts a new spin on the classic Legend of Zelda formula.

By LG18, Posted 03 Sep 2020

Ary: and the Mystery of the Seasons is an action-adventure game that echoes the fluid move sets, combat style and quadrant of four main dungeon areas of Nintendo’s recent The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, while simultaneously reflecting the cel-shaded style and whimsical feel of their 2003 Zelda iteration, Wind Waker. Attempting to cherry-pick the defining aspects of these games, the developers try to present an original and unique title that stands on an older series’ shoulders.

Ary and the Secret of Seasons, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots

Set in the world of Valdi, you play as Ary, a spritely young girl of the City of Yule, one of the four you get to explore throughout the game. Each city is shrouded in its own biome. Ari’s home town of Yule exists in a perpetual winter, contrasted by its sundrenched neighbor Lammastide. The residents of Ostra spend their lives in spring, and those of Samhain in Autumn. These four cities and the four seasons anchor both the plot and the main mechanic of the game. After setting out on a quest to find her missing brother, Flynn, a concurrent corruption of the seasons’ equilibrium serves to majorly disrupt Valdi.

Due to the antics of a ‘dark mage’ thought sealed away by a ‘legendary warrior’, the cities of Valdi have swapped seasons, causing no end of disruption for their residents. Being a descendant of one of the four guardians of the seasons, Ari borrows her family’s winter season stone, enabling her to cast her own personal winter biome at will. Upon locating and teaming up with the other guardians – of whom all three are found inebriated in the sacred Dome of Seasons drunk on ‘juice’, and who lay unconscious, victim to a gassing courtesy of a masked assailant – Ari eventually equips the other three season stones and is able to harness the power of all four, embodying the mechanic of the game. The above premise likely sounds somewhat odd to you. A relatively serious story interspersed with ridiculousness, the above scenario is greatly indicative of the game's strange tone.

On the surface, we have a typical Disney-esque child hero story, yet in the subtext, a narrative that seems to delight in eye-rolling at its own quaintness. There are constant fourth wall breaks through consistent references to video games throughout, and characters even chastise their own ‘bland’ dialogue. Even Ary herself seems at odds with the notion of her heroic ability; one moment proclaiming to be a warrior as she slices through an enemy, and the next timidly professing to be ‘just a kid!’, when the fight gets too much.

Ary and the Secret of Seasons, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots

It’s a very toughtonality to place. There’s difficulty in deducing whether the game is genuinely written as satire, subtly berating the wooden stories of the series it borrows almost its entire identity from, or whether it’s all a feeble attempt to be funny. Perhaps it’s both, but what’s certain is that it’s no masterpiece in its storytelling department. Having said this, the voice acting is pretty great across the board. Ary’s voice sounds fitting for the persona she carries, and the rest of the cast do a great job of portraying their respective characters and delivering their lines with enthusiasm. Gameplay-wise, Ary: and the Secret of the Seasons comes with the linearity we’re used to in this type of game.

You’ll fight a range of enemies from Hyenas and other animals to monsters and plant-like creatures, as well as helping villagers, collecting artifacts and solving puzzles. The game does a mostly great job at all of these. Combat is simple but fluid and satisfying, with one main attack you can chain into a combo, a staggering parry and a dodge, clasped together with the familiar enemy lock on mechanic most are very used to. Throughout the early game you’ll have only a couple of the season stones at your disposal, using them to complete simple season related puzzles, such as using the winter stone to freeze yourself a platform in a body of water, or using the summer stone to melt away a ten-foot wall of ice to reveal a new area.

The main season manipulation mechanic - and in fact, the title as a whole - really comes into its own when you work your way through the game's four main temples. This is where the mechanics of the season stones really shine, with each temple particularly utilising one stone to manipulate and traverse the environment, but often requiring the combined ability of multiple stones at once to progress. Ary and the Secret of the Season’s puzzles are just the right level of difficulty, with each solution eluding you for a few minutes before satisfyingly affirming your understanding of the temple’s mechanic.

Ary and the Secret of Seasons, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots

You can use the season stones in clever ways during combat as well, with enemies impenetrable to your standard attacks being vulnerable when exposed to the appropriate season that disintegrates their armour. Chain a combo of three hits and you can use your specialised ‘Solstice’ ability, delivering debilitating area of effect attacks to an enemy depending on the current season of the area of the map you’re in.

The game is best when you’re using the novel mechanics of season manipulation to figure your way through a puzzle or test your skills in surprisingly tactical combat. The city sections are more standard, with your initial arrival at each of them preceding a rather bland series of fetch quests. One of the game’s funnier cast of characters are the Sheep guards of Ostra, with the city's fetch quest involving the search for one of them that, unironically, got lost. You search the whole city, quizzing a dozen residents, only to be told by the head guard he was in actuality nearby the whole time. This makes you unsure whether the game is somehow making fun of the industry’s repeated use of fetch quests, or whether you’re reading too much into tedious game design. There’s also plenty of worldbuilding secrets to collect, but it’ll be up to personal preference whether this is a world deep or even coherent enough to be worth delving into.

I also unfortunately encountered numerous game breaking bugs relating to quests not triggering and quest markers being in an area that was totally inaccessible, requiring in one particularly irksome case the starting of a new game. Enemy hitboxes can be finicky, resulting in being hit from seemingly thin air, and you can also be hit by an enemy while respawning. This lack of polish is juxtaposed by high quality and detailed animation and some nice looking environments, with each city and temple having its own distinct, attractive and well-designed.

Ary and the Secret of Seasons, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots

Despite its shortcomings and odd tone, the developers really do seem to be onto something with the unique season control aspects of the game. When Ary and the Secret of the Seasons shines it really does, but for every couple of great pieces of design, there’s a noticeably glaring one. It seems to both understand what it wants to be but is also held back by the tropes of the genre; tropes it mocks yet enacts anyway. Some clever minds devised the game, but it certainly feels like it needed more time in development. It delivers on its core systems and its ambition pays off in many areas, but it’s frustrating and off-key moments along with continuous bugs make it a mixed bag.

Linden Garcia
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, Switch, PC
Publisher(s): Modus Games, Maximum Games
Developer(s): Exiin, Fishing Cactus
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Indie
Release Date: 2020-09-01

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