Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Seasons After Fall Review

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There is an undeniable attraction to Seasons After Fall.  In what I can best describe as a painting come to life, the striking graphical style draws your attention and the playful orchestral soundtrack keeps you interested.  The game presents a simple premise: a fox, a forest, and magic.  It’s a compelling argument, even before the first true moments of gameplay.  Things aren’t always as they seem with this title, however, as it doesn’t quite play as good as it looks.  Your tolerance to design quirks aside, the value of this title lands solely on the premise that it delivers on what I think games should do: take you to another world.

Seasons After Fall originally premiered on PC last fall during a time that seemed more riddled with open exploration puzzle platformers – I refuse to refer to this title as a “MetroidVania” – including Ori and the Blind Forest and Unravel.  Despite looking similar to these other titles, they are very distinct from one another, but somehow always seemed to be lumped together.  Seasons After Fall now comes to consoles in a direct port, but it’s successfully separated from these familiar looking games.  It’s a true puzzle platformer, best proven by the lack of combat in the game.  Yes, there’s absolutely no fighting, attacking, running from enemies, no enemies at all, and no boss battles.  Nope, this title is as a pacifist as they come.  There’s also no penalty for dying, if you can even call it that since falling into the rare pit results in you simply being brought back to the ledge you jumped off.  Despite these facts, don’t write off Seasons After Fall as a mindless stroll in the woods, because the challenge is in solving the puzzles and as the game progresses there’s a decent incline in difficulty.  It’s at this point you’ll either like how this title attempts to challenge you or hate it.  I might even say it’s impossible to describe your time with Seasons After Fall without mentioning at least a few moments where you are utterly stuck with no idea what to do.

Your fox starts off as just a furry woodland creature limited to running around and jumping, which I must admit was a bit flimsy on the physics, but the response was good enough to not feel like a hindrance.  It has been fused with a seed in nature and thus has the ability to gain magical powers.  These powers come in the form of the four guardians of the wood, each represented by an animal representing one of the four seasons.  For example, the bear represents Winter, and upon finding his power you gain the ability to spawn winter at any time.  This can be useful if you need to get up a waterfall or cross a large pond.  The same is true for Spring and its rainstorms, Fall and its wind, and of course Summer’s sun.  The first part of your journey feels like a longstanding tutorial that introduces you to the world, which is open to you from the beginning, and teaches you how to utilize the seasons in conjunction with one another to traverse areas.  It’s not as gated as you may be used to with other open world titles, especially the MetroidVania genre, but rather just prohibitive in what you can do with the environment.  As you progress through the game the land will change and other opportunities will present themselves, so you have to be willing to retread locations to discover if anything has changed.  Thankfully it isn’t cryptic and you don’t need to return to other areas until new tasks become clear, but if you don’t like backtracking this will be a serious stinging point.

When you are first introduced to the game’s puzzles, they seem basic in an almost childlike form.  You’re really going through the motions, which had me fearing the challenge, or lack thereof.  It turns out I had nothing to worry about because the puzzles ramp up at a certain point and take some time to wrap your head around, especially the more obtuse ones.  This is another point where you will either sink or swim with this title.  You have to remember a lot about the gameplay and when you forget certain aspects entire areas can get you stuck.  Perhaps you forgot that the leaf floats in the wind during Fall and therefore you’re tracing back and forth in an area dismissing the leaf as background.  If you never think to try switching to Fall then you may never progress further in the game.  It all becomes very point-and-click adventure at some point and I found myself at least a few times just trying everything to progress.  The fact that it’s an open world can greatly expand how detrimental being stuck can be, but if you keep in mind the tasks set out before you then you shouldn’t be that lost.  In the end I was able to complete this game 100 percent without assistance and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to do the same.  Keep in mind, you will get stuck and it will get frustring, but ultimately you will prevail.  Juggling all of these mechanics and seasons also means that it’s probably not ideal to walk away from this title for too long either.  I could not imagine returning to this game after even a week of not playing and have a good idea of where I left off.

Despite these clear mechanical setbacks, the cohesive whole of this title more than makes up for it.  If you are looking to get lost in a vivid world of hand drawn animation, an emotional score, and explore a magical forest then look no further.  I know that may sound oversimplified, but it’s true.  Some judge a game based on a series of mechanics or systems, whereas others feel it’s the events that occur and the way the game guides you along this path.  I don’t think it should be that binary because Seasons After Fall doesn’t quite fit either role despite having both in place.  I feel that games are a way to enter and interact with a world outside of our own.  For that, I commend it and enjoyed the experience even though I wasn’t always having fun. It’s not a perfect world, but it is a well crafted one.  Depending on your tolerance, this seemingly flawed game may be just the ideal experience you’re looking for.

Final Score: 4 out of 5  

A review code was provided by the publisher.  This title was completed on a Playstation 4 Pro (with no specific Pro support or features) in approximately 6 hours with a total play time of 8 hours to get the platinum (100 percent) trophy.  Seasons of the Fall will be available on Playstation 4 and Xbox One on Tuesday, May 16th, however no initial price was provided.

Written by Fred Rojas

May 15, 2017 at 11:00 am

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