Created by a Canadian game development studio, the name of the studio, Creā-ture, means the action of creating in Old French. They are an independent videogame studio in the Montreal area that has dedicated itself to “bringing original IPs to niche markets”, and they have done just that with their latest game, Session: Skate Sim.
Their motto is “taming the lame since 2014”, and they like to “try to do things differently. Not because we HAVE to, but simply because making games doesn’t seem to be what it used to be. Formed by guys who got sucked into the AAA industry for probably too long… We strive at getting back to what video games are to us. More than a product, a creā-tion, the achievement of an art form envisioned into something fun and interactive! Our goal is to bring high-quality, detail-oriented, entertaining, creative and original games to niche markets and to serve them the best we can with an inspiring mindset: creating games that will meet the needs, quality standard and requirements of the people who will play them. At the end of the day, it needs to be legit and fun.”
Session: Skate Sim was reportedly inspired by the “golden era of skateboarding” during the early to late 90s. The goal of the game is to help players experience what skateboarding is: “an incredible culture where there are no other goals other than expressing your creativity and achieving success through hard work, perseverance, and bits of madness for no one else other than yourself.”
The developers tell Session: Skate Sim players to “be ready to play the most authentic and grounded skateboarding experience in the most legendary spots on earth, film and make the gnarliest skate parts out there.” Creā-ture has said on multiple occasions that Session: Skate Sim is “a hard game and will test your patience,” so the game was advertised as a bit of an uphill battle from the start.
Some have been led to believe that Session: Skate Sim was created to be the spiritual successor to EA’s Skate series, but no other skating sim has been described as being this difficult and unyielding to new players in particular.
As warned by the developers themselves, Session: Skate Sim is a difficult game for skating beginners. Even in their least difficult setting, assisted, there is a steep learning curve to figuring out the game at first.
Right at the start of the game, players get to pick what their skater will look like — we get some basic options for our clothes to begin with, and into the tutorial we spring.
The tutorial does a half-decent job of teaching you the basics of moving on your board. If you can look past the slightly unnecessary info that the tutorial character gives you, like the fact that people think he is irresponsible and we seem to be returning to the skating world after some kind of bad accident, he teaches you that the left and right joysticks control your feet respectively (depending on which way on the board you are facing). He also shows you that the left and right triggers are what steer you while on your board, that you can climb off your board by pressing a certain button on your controller (Y on the Xbox).
Now that you have the basics of movement in Session: Skate Sim, it tries to teach you a few of the rules for doing tricks, where you quickly realise that the controls are extremely difficult. As there is a multitude of different tricks that you can do during the course of the game, all of which are made by moving the left and right joystick in just a slightly different way. The combinations seem endless, and hitting a specific trick at first seems impossible.
The Session: Skate Sim tutorial does, however, teach you some important tricks, like how to set a waypoint that you can bounce back to when you inevitably fail to do the trick on your first try, which comes in handy in the rest of the game, especially for players who are using the in-game clip filming system to make some epic shots. Unfortunately, there is no tutorial mode for this filming system, and it seems quite complicated at first glance. If you can get it working to your advantage, you can make some epic-looking moves look even better.
One of the bigger additions to Session: Skate Sim is the Story Mode, which gives you quests and missions to complete throughout the world for a few other skaters that give you money and ‘exposure/exp’ (as opposed to the usual experience which I thought was quite cute), which you use to upgrade your board and your outfit. Not only can you upgrade your board’s appearance in Session: Skate Sim, but you can get different length boards that change how you execute your tricks.
Unfortunately, the Story Mode doesn’t feel as fleshed out as it could have been. I found the dialogue between my character and the NPC giving the quest to be a little dull at times, leading me to skip over some important details about tricks and directives. The problem with this is that there is no way to speak to the quest-giver again if you missed something, and the mission objectives don’t always cover everything you need in detail.
Despite this, sometimes having an objective is what makes a game fun, so it’s nice to have the option. I mostly found myself just skating around the visually rich surroundings in Session: Skate Sim.
Although a little gritty, the environment that you can skate through in Session: Skate Sim is really fun. There are different elevations, and different maps that you can visit, and I found myself getting lost just skating the streets and enjoying it.
The game has an immaculate sound design, and every time your wheels go over a new surface or you clip against metal, you can hear the difference in the sound. That, combined with the in-game radio that I had tuned to lo-fi, made for a relaxing experience (when I wasn’t folding my character around poles).
One thing that I noticed was that despite the quests being given by other skaters, I was always the only one on a board going through the streets. I think that Session: Skate Sim could have benefited from adding some dynamic NPCs that were skating. It would have brought the skating culture to life in the environment, not just the dry dialogue.
Speaking of dynamics, don’t expect the environment to be dynamic. There are no moving cars, you will find yourself wiping out over some boxes and other things that seem like they should move easily but are fixed in place. This isn’t the end of the world but took away from realism a bit for me.
Very few games exist without bugs. This one has its fair share when it comes to skating, like clipping onto the wrong things, wiping out and rag-dolling over nothing, and the worst one by far, a very weird visual glitch. I have no better way to describe this than spaghettification, as the character becomes weirdly stretched and contorted while still looking like their feet are firmly planted on the board. Session: Skate Sim did just come out of early access a while back, so this might be fixed up in an update at a later stage, but unless it ends up ruining a shot that you have spent the last hour perfecting, it isn’t much of a problem.
The bug that bothered me the most was that the game didn’t always detect when I did tricks, making completing missions more difficult, and leading to my decision to free-roam and enjoy the game that way instead.
In the end, Session: Skate Sim does a really good job of replicating the real difficulty that skaters face as they make their way to mastering a very difficult sport, as well as the elation that comes with finally landing a move that you have been struggling with for the last twenty minutes (in-game, as some of these moves, would take a lot longer than twenty minutes to master).
Despite the interesting addition of the Story Mode, I found that I had the most fun cruising around town to the sound of the in-game easy lo-fi, flipping some interesting tricks to make it easier to navigate over bumps and stairs, and trying not to get wiped out by a bump in the road too often. Despite the bugs and sometimes seeming to wipe out and rag doll over basically nothing, this added to the game’s charm, being brought out of the cruising zone to giggle at the stupidity of my character folded over a park bench because of knocking into a curb.
Altogether, as a beginner, I found that I struggled to get into Session: Skate Sim at the start, but once I gave it a chance, I could appreciate the satisfaction of figuring out tricks on a board and cruising around, despite how rough-around-the-edges the game feels when you look at the bigger picture.
Session: Skate Sim
If you are an experienced skateboarding gamer, I would recommend the game for the satisfaction you get from completing difficult tricks. However, for a beginner to the sport-sim scene like myself, I would recommend some serious patience and wrist breaks to enjoy Session: Skate Sim.