Checks Out Tales Of Aravorn: Seasons Of The Wolf

Riva Celso, the man behind the proverbial curtain at Winter Wolves Games,was good enough to provide me with a beta build of his upcoming jRPG Tales Of Aravorn: Seasons Of The Wolf (last covered here). The results, as per usual, are documented in video form below:

So! What did I think?

Overall, my first impressions were positive. Seasons of the Wolf is very heavy on dialog during its first hour, spending a lot of time developing character relationships and setting. I enjoyed the first major quest, simple as it ultimately was, primarily because of the narrative context surrounding it. The father’s fever was well foreshadowed, and his troubled relationship with the village helped to lend the situation some actual tension.

The combat system in Seasons of the Wolf is reasonably well-done, with an intuitive interface and a large pool of abilities available to choose from. There isn’t quite enough going on in the first few battles to make the proceedings all that tactically interesting, but I can very easily see this system becoming much more complex once you have a larger party to control.

The isometric exploration map is apparently a new feature for Winter Wolves, and I think it does an admirable job of lending the game some variety. We didn’t get to see too much of this in the video, but many of the locations on that map have randomized encounters and loot. (The selection of items at the general store seems to be partially randomized as well.)

The art in Seasons of the Wolf deserves a quick shout-out: everything looks really crisp and clean, with a surprising variety of backgrounds and some really large, detailed character sprites with numerous facial expressions. Even just the variety of outfits that the twins appear in is impressive. (I cannot even imagine how much money Celso must have spent on this stuff.)

Despite everything, I’m a little split on the characters that appear in the first hour of Seasons of the Wolf. I like Vaelis–he seems to have some actual depth to him. I’m curious to see how he develops. I am…less enthralled, shall we say…by Shea and Althea. They just seem so passive. They do what they’re told, take what they’re given, and then they sit around and whine about it. They display no wit or personality. If you asked me to name one thing that either Shea or Althea actually like, I would just shrug, because I honestly have no idea. Also, they ask each others’ opinion on nearly everything despite the fact that neither of them even has an opinion worth hearing 95% of the time. If I am going to be forced to follow these two through an entire game, then I sincerely hope they develop into more interesting people in the process.

I also have a little quibble about the writing in this game. While the dialog does a good job of developing the world, it suffers from a surplus of lines that serve no narrative purpose. The extended discussion about paying Shagala after she cures their father is probably the most egregious example; or the dialog with Riley where we take about a dozen lines to determine that no one wants to tell anyone anything. Great! Why do we need to hear this? Basically, there is some good stuff here, but I’d advise the devs to try a denser style, expressing more in fewer lines (and cutting out any lines that do not either advance the plot or meaningfully develop the setting / characters).

So! Those are my first impressions. All in all, this game has promise, and it’s already quite enjoyable despite a few shortcomings. Seasons of the Wolf is still in beta, but you can pick it up now and play it yourself for $24.99; more details on that here.

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