When many first saw the trailer for Session at E3 2018, we thought we finally got our wish—Skate 4. Instead, we got a spiritual successor to the Skate franchise. It’s almost been ten years since Skate 3 released in 2010, long enough for indie developers to make something sufficient—since EA won’t. Skate series developer Black Box Studios has closed it’s doors in that time. Thankfully, Crea-ture Studios out of Montreal have taken it upon themselves to bring us something close while still bringing their spin on the formula.
Session ollied its way onto Steam Early Access this September and will make its way to Xbox Game Preview this October. In this early build, we skate the streets of New York and try out the “True Stance” stick controls. A replay editor has also been made available to us to create our very own skate videos and share them on social media.
I was greeted by a tutorial when I started the game, but I didn’t truly get a feel for things until I went out to the streets on my own. Before I did anything, I went to the apartment menu to see what customization options were available. The offerings in this area were enough to satisfy, but I hope they make some improvements here before the final game releases. The choices in clothing and skateboard parts were fine, but more options to alter my character’s physical atrributes would be nice. There isn’t much to do at the apartment currently, but it is a smart idea for a hub-like place outside of the main environment.
Before I go any further, I’ll explain how the controls work. We are greeted with a tutorial that explains what they call the “True Stance” stick controls. The Skate series required us to use the right stick for popping the board up and do flips with the right stick. In Session, the left and right sticks control your left and right foot; this means that you’ll be priming the launch of your board with one stick and popping up the board and doing the flip tricks with the other. The controls initially feel complicated because the sticks will change along with your stance on the skateboard, and turning is done with the triggers. Some of that awkwardness can be relieved with the option to change the settings of the stick controls to focus on your front and back foot instead.
Yes, Session is taking that realism even further. It took some time, but it wasn’t long before I got comfortable executing tricks. With the controls changing all the time, moving around the world and running my planned-out lines never flowed well until I changed the settings. Learning how to grind is also an exciting experience because real physics is brought into consideration, making the act of pulling off a sweet grind that much more rewarding.
The map available in the early build is enough for us to feel what it will be like to skate through the streets in Session. I appreciate the size of the current map because its a much more generous offering that we coould’ve had. At first, I was disappointed there was no in-game map until I discovered that it was located at the bus stops. That discovery also revealed to me that there was a fast travel system. An object editor has also been made available if we want to spice the world up and make it into our playground. I was surprised to see that particular objects were still in the world a day or two after I played.
The one feature I don’t fully understand is the replay editor. It seems that you can create clips from your current run and save them into one single video, but I never figured out if I was doing it right. I also couldn’t view anything I saved back in the apartment. However, I quickly got a grasp of the toolset and utilized it to record some great moments with the Xbox game bar on my computer. With both PC and consoles able to record, capture, and edit footage, the in-game editor may be something that gets quickly overlooked.
My playtime with Session has been very similar to my time with its predecessor. I turn on my own music and skate around the city to complete any challenges on my list. In this case, the preview build offers daily challenges, weekly challenges, and historical challenges. It was a smart move to include these, because the challenges gave me a reason to keep playing. I felt as if I was playing something much closer to a full game instead of a tech demo that I only would’ve checked out once or twice until release day. These challenges will likely end up being how we make extra money in the game for clothing and board parts.
My first few moments with Session were not positive, but I learned my way around the city and the controls and ended up having a great time. I am happy to see that there are indie developers out there who want to bring us an experience that we are not seeing the big publishers right now. From this early access build I have found a deep gameplay experience, and I hope to see a populated world full of things to do and more unique places to skate. I greatly dislike that I had to make comparisons to Skate so many times, but it was the best way I could provide context. Session is a game that fans of that series should be keeping their eyes on.
Early Access copy provided by Crea-ture Studios and Sandbox Strategies.