Ary and the Secret of Seasons is a long way away, but it's already shaping up to be one to watch in 2020, especially for fans of The Legend of Zelda.
Ary and the Secret of Seasons is shaping up to be a Zelda-inspired action/adventure which can actually hold a candle to its obvious inspiration thanks to strong mechanics, stunning visual design, and innovative gameplay systems. There are no shortage of games inspired by the iconic Legend of Zelda franchise, but a new title from Belgian indie studio eXlin looks like it might have what it takes to truly stand peer-to-peer with classics like Ocarina of Time.
During a recent event held by publisher Modus Games, we got to sit down with eXlin CEO Sebastien Le Touze for a hands-off demo of Ary and the Secret of Seasons. We were shown an alpha build of the game, but what was shown was more than enough to ensure that Ary is shaping up to be one to watch in 2020.
The demo begins with Ary in her home, which remains emotionally devastated by the loss of her brother. Ary's father is practically catatonic with grief, a theme which Sebastien promises will be explored in the full game, though it's not the focus of this demo. Nevertheless, even in a non-story setting, the world is rife with personality, while Ary herself is charming and relatable; steadfast and determined, but also curious and even a little goofy, she has all the makings of a timeless video game hero.
When she leaves her house, that's when the real magic begins, literally. The story sees Ary looking to aid the Guardians of Seasons to restore balance to her village's weather, which leads to the main gameplay hook: the ability to control the seasons. Ary can use her slingshot to fire a pellet; the pellet detonates like an impact grenade, but instead of an explosion, the affected radius is given the properties of one of the four seasons. For example, firing Winter covers the area in snow, while Summer brings dead foliage back to life. In addition to being visually impressive (the game runs on Unity, which was chosen over Unreal 4 due to the ease of implementing various shaders related to the weather system), the different weather effects have profound impact on the gameplay.
Ary and the Secret of Seasons Lets Players Solve Puzzles and Fight Enemies Using Weather Powers
Firing Winter at a pool of water causes the surface to freeze over, allowing Ary to walk across the newly-formed platform. Meanwhile, firing Summer at a seasonally empty body of water causes it to fill up, but only within the affected radius, which can lead to the visually-exciting sight of a ball of water floating in the air like some kind of high-tech fishbowl.
These weather powers are used to solve puzzles; in one instance, we witnessed some creative use of the various weather effects to bring a large box from one side of an obstacle-laden room to another, while another challenge saw Ary using her powers to scale an otherwise impassible vertical incline. Sebastien said the team anticipates and welcomes the idea of players using Ary's powers to discover new ways to solve puzzles; thanks to the physics-based nature of many of the challenges, adventurous players are bound to discover unexpected solutions to the game's myriad challenges.
Ary's weather powers are also used to help take down enemies in Secret of Season's Zelda-inspired combat. Ary is armed with a wooden sword, and combat consists of Zelda-esque lock-on targeting, while making heavy use of a parry/counter system similar to the one used in Breath of the Wild, though Sebastian joked that Ary's wooden sword is more durable than any of Link's blades, since there is no weapon degradation system in Ary and the Secret of Seasons. Enemies armed with shields made of ice can be disarmed by fighting them in areas affected by the warmer seasons, while burning projectiles can be reflected back at attackers if they are made to pass through Winter, which solidifies them into balls of ice.
While Ary and the Secret of Seasons wears its inspiration on its sleeve, it establishes its own identity thanks to a unique setting, a charming protagonist, innovative puzzles, and a clever hook in Ary's weather powers. Ary and the Secret of Seasons is currently slated to release Q1 2020 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC.