When it comes to fantasy action roleplaying games there are the undisputed kings and then there are those that wish to reach that level of popularity and acclaim. Ary and the Secret of Seasons, the newest game I’ve had the privilege to experience on PC, certainly takes queues from some of my favorite titles. But there is something unique about it that sets it apart from other titles with each new location and gameplay mechanic.
But before we get to that a little history is needed to introduce the land of Valdi. Almost immediately you are presented with a colorful and charming tale told by our soon to be young heroine that sets the backdrop of past events for the events to come. An evil mage once rained terror across the land before a Legendary Warrior rose up and defeated him. Imprisoned by four great sages, the mage was sealed away for all eternity for his actions. These four sages became the Guardians of Seasons, an organization tasked with ensuring that the mage remains locked up in the vault and to train their eventual replacements.
Things are going pretty well in the wintery Yule region that the titular Ary, or rather Aryelle, lives with her Guardian of Winter father. That is until you find out that your own brother has gone missing and your father is despondent from the loss of his apprentice and son. This is only slightly before a giant crystal crashes into your region and turns your wintery views into warmer weather which apparently has happened in the three other regions already. Your father is called to attend of the Guardians but he’s not exactly up to the task. So in Mulan fashion, Ary dons her brother’s clothing, cuts her own hair and grabs his sword and heads off in her father’s place despite your mother’s objection and traditions.
You’ll quickly find that combat as a whole is pretty simple for RPG fare with a simple single light attack, a parry which is absolutely needed, and a counter which dishes out extra damage following a successful parry. There are a few various weapons like a club or katana that you can purchase with coins you find in chests littered throughout Valdi. You’ll also find a mandatory ranged weapon in the form of a slingshot that once I tweaked the aim sensitivity is decent against certain enemy types or if your low on health. By default the aiming is a bit squirrelly, especially with a controller, but thankfully you can alter it via the settings as well as the camera.
As you progress through the story and explore various dungeons you’ll find other useful items such as Pegasus boots that gain you the ability to double jump, or a Bonding Link that lets you magnetically pull various items around to complete puzzles or reach higher ledges. While the double jump is a must the Bonding Link plays a more significant role in Ary’s Season Sphere based puzzle mechanics which the true star of this adventure. As you progress you will gain access to all four seasons but as you are the daughter of the Guardian of Winter you’ll first gain access to the Winter Season Sphere.
Each sphere, which can be placed individually, will alter the location and even the state of items within its bubble. For instance the now summer weather in the normally wintery Yule has melted once frozen paths including floating icicle platforms. To be able to traverse these areas again you need to strategically place a Winter Season Sphere were they once were. You can even trigger spheres mid jump which is actually required for many puzzles as well as some optional side quests that I highly recommend doing. One such side quest is climbing to the top of 9 Stork Towers which net you some substantial currency as well as other items once you open the chest at the top.
Several of the puzzles throughout Valdi’s world will make use of stationary obelisks that are scattered throughout as well as within dungeons. When spheres are cast near them they trigger a much larger sphere covering more ground. Once you get the slingshot you’ll even be able to create spheres at a distance as normally they activate wherever you’re currently standing. In a bit of brilliance you can trigger a sphere on special round obelisks that you then can move with the Bonding Link to have a movable sphere when trying to navigate some cleverly designed dungeon areas. The true test comes later in the game when you encounter season negation crystals that will cancel out any sphere that touches it usually with a bit if a delay.
As you unlock each new mechanic you’ll find that they can serve a purpose for more than just completing the story. Scattered around Valdi are various chests as well as collectibles such as journal pages, teapots and juice bottles that may just require a bit of clever execution to reach. That is of course if you can manage to make jumps with minimal issues. The biggest issue I ran into with navigating Valdi was the camera at times. Luckily the camera is not locked for the most part so you have pretty control over it. If you’re doing a puzzle that features a time restraint then it can be a little tricky when you are in a hurry but not impossible.
The biggest challenge in Ary is the boss fights as they should be. More than anywhere in the game you’ll be utilizing your seasonal powers to avoid large area attacks or open the enemy up to an attack. These fights are quite doable as long as something doesn’t break in the game like when I was going up against a certain hyena boss. A pullable lever broke graphically in the middle of that fight resulting in making it impossible to interact with and continuing the fight. A reloaded checkpoint after being defeated luckily resolved the issue though. Ary isn’t without its little graphical and design issues here and there as you explore and it is possible to get into inescapable areas thanks to Ary’s jumping prowess and that’s even before gaining Double Jump.
Regardless of any small issues that I ran into, it’s the quirky bits of dialogue and characters during little cutscenes and combat that make Ary and the Secret of Seasons so enjoyable. Since you are trying to save your world against Valdi’s Guardian traditions it’s only fitting you’ll find yourself encountering some rather outlandish things like a city guarded by armor-clad anthropomorphic sheep and Minotaur bodyguards. Considering that the rest of the kingdoms are inhabited by humans it’s like playing a Zelda game if it was developed by DreamWorks. This contrast adds some awkward situations that are laden with lovable charm. Believe me Ary’s not the only one that doesn’t wish to see an old man get his boogie on.
Almost right from the start I had a feeling that Ary and the Secret of Seasons was going to be something that I enjoyed. The combat is simple enough that anyone can get the hang of it with little effort. The boss fights balance out the game offering a decent challenge for anyone that likes action RPGs. I found the seasonal puzzle elements to be just challenging enough to be immensely fun to figure out and perform with each new mechanic. The story, characters and music round out the package to deliver a fantastically charming adventure that young and old would enjoy. So you want an action RPG packed with a bunch of seasonal charm then you have to check out Ary and the Secret of Seasons for PC today.