Impressions On Session: The Dark Souls Of Skate Sims

Okay, I know that’s kind of an old meme, but hear me out. Session isn’t just a spiritual successor to the Skate series. It makes the Skate series look like an arcade-like Tony Hawk game more than a real skateboard simulator. Session is an early access skateboard simulation game on Steam. Being developed by crea-ture Studios, I heard about this game a while back, but at the time I didn’t have a PC to play it on. Now I do, and I’m glad I gave the game some more time to grow as a result.

This game is exactly what I expect from one labeled ‘early access’ on Steam. All the core mechanics for a street skateboarding game are all here and very much realized. You have a variety of flip tricks to execute. Things to grind, and gaps to clear in a pretty well-designed city level. The city is apparently a small recreation of New York. Exploring it, trying to find the best skating lines in the environment, feels cathartic even if it’s devoid of any and all life right now.

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Session uses a ‘flick-it’ system similar to the Skate series but it ramps it up a notch. Instead of one stick governing over flip tricks, the game uses both. Each stick on your control pad mirrors a foot on your skateboard. The right stick controls the right foot, the left stick controls the left. With that, you dial in a series of inputs with both sticks to nail a satisfying variety of flip tricks. This also governs over how you grind obstacles as well. The controls may feel a little complicated at first but once you start practicing, things come to you naturally.

As good as the Skate series is, there are times where it can feel a little too arcadey. I remember people always constantly trying to flip in and out of everything, pack as many overly complicated tricks as they possibly can into a line, take advantage of its fairly forgiving physics and so on for those sweet, sweet points. Especially in Skate 3 where its over-the-top tone kind of exaggerated these things. Not that there’s really anything wrong with that, but the series can feel more like a romanticization of skateboarding than an accurate depiction of it.

And that’s what feels so Dark Souls about Session. It’s not really about the difficulty or the spectacle, but the learning process, and holy hell, is it satisfying. You’ll be throwing yourself at an obstacle numerous times just to pull off a skating line you theorized in your head just like throwing yourself at an enemy numerous times in a Souls game until you beat it. The sense of accomplishment is incredibly gratifying, no matter how big or small the feat was. Stringing together the perfect skating line is like putting together that perfect boss run. All the skills you’ve learned up to that point being put to the test. When victory is achieved, you understand how much it took to get there.

The rush of conquering a spot is addicting. I found myself constantly circling about the map to put together more complex lines, flipping into grinds, clearing gaps all with the type of flair and self-expression you can only find through skateboarding. The game gives you a pretty in-depth tutorial when first booting it up, but after that, you’re basically on your own. No hand-holding here, and that’s exactly how it should be. Figuring out some of the smaller mechanics that the game doesn’t tell you about is a joy, and when you start hitting lines on your first try at a consistent rate, that’s when you know you’re getting better. I still have ‘deer in headlights’ moments every so often, sure. But that never stops me from quickly getting back on my board.

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I haven’t even experimented with the object placement feature either, which allows you to place different in-game obstacles on the map to put even more variety into your lines. I’ve currently only been messing around with vanilla lines, so who knows what you’ll find when you start placing props around!

The physics and hit detection are a little wonky and even a little too forgiving here and there, in my opinion. There are also times where the game can feel a little unresponsive when doing certain actions. Overall, Session is a more than competent skate sim even in its current state. This project is truly something special, and I’m excited to see where it goes. If it happens to get a story mode, I hope that it’ll be a down-to-earth one without the prospect of making it big with the pros like Skate 3. Instead, I think it should be something a bit more relatable to reflect what skateboarding is: a form of self-expression accomplished at a high level through an unreal amount of trial-and-error, determination, and love for the craft.

Without further adieu, here’s a little highlight reel I put together. I hope you enjoy!

What are your impressions on Session? Leave your comments below!

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Follow James on Twitter @DatBlackGhost.

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