Summer in Mara Review
Summer in Mara sets out to deliver a calming, single-player narrative-driven experience in a bright and welcoming world. Promising rewarding farming mechanics, tons of quests to complete, and a diverse cast of characters to encounter, is this summer trip worth taking?
Summer in Mara Review
Summer in Mara follows the story of Koa, a young adventurous orphan girl looking to explore and learn the wonders of the world of Mara. Guided briefly by her grandmother before her passing, Koa plants and harvests crops to cook, trade, and otherwise help the inhabitants of its land.
Koa’s story and her adventurers in Mara are the backbone of the experience. All too often in today’s fast-moving industry, we’re distracted by the bells and whistles of the AAA space. Higher framerates, better graphics, larger worlds – all too often, the simplicity of a good narrative is often overlooked. The independent space has long thrived taking advantage of the shortfalls of AAA development, and Summer in Mara is a shining example of what a talented team of individuals can accomplish.
Summer in Mara follows Koa’s adventures as she leaves the safety of her island, as an impatient and energetic child, to explore the vast oceans of Mara. The natural balance of the world of Mara is thrown into turmoil as an extra-terrestrial race, known as the Elits, threaten to destroy the lands with their extractor-like machines that cause mutations in animals and the death of the natural world. It’s a subtle but powerful reflection of humanity’s constant struggle to live within environmental means, and the game constantly encourages the player to do just that; planting a seed for each tree harvested, providing offerings to Mara in exchange for a bountiful harvest.
As the player, you watch her grow as she encounters new and exciting characters, learning of their connection to the world of Mara, and eventually developing into a caring and daring adventurer of the seas. It is as charming and heartwarming as it is vibrant.
Koa begins her journey on her own island, a small piece of land in the middle of the ocean. Consisting of a small hut, a mysterious gate, and a few fields to harvest, it provides a humble beginning. After planting some seeds, ensuring their survival with fertilizer and water, Koa sets out on adventures across Mara helping others with their various problems. Much of the game suffers from unimaginative fetch quests and simple objectives hindered by the long distances between, but that is very much what Summer in Mara is all about. While most games would suffer from this level of repetition, the fantastic dialogue, relationships, and personalities of the people you encounter help to make each trip, each adventure, that much more rewarding than the last.
Summer in Mara is not a game for the hasty. It’s not the destination that matters, but the journey. If you’re looking to reach that next accomplishment quickly, you’ll struggle with some of its design choices. However, if you’re the kind of player with the patience to enjoy the journey itself, there are a lot of smiles to come from Summer in Mara.
Unlike other farming-inspired games, Summer in Mara doesn’t rely on complexity and depth for its crafting system. It’s all very simple, approachable, and easily understandable, yet most actions can be improved with the efficient gathering of materials and harvesting. It’s a carefully blended style that offers both accessibility for younger players, but enough of a challenge to make it worthwhile for older generations. You can spend endless hours maximizing profits, growing the items that provide the best return on investment. Alternatively, you can seek out distant islands in the hopes of finding something new. Put simply, this archipelago has a lot to offer.
With all its charm, Summer of Mara is not without its flaws. The lack of fast travel and long-distance missions can often make mundane delivery tasks frustrating and repetitive, but once again, it’s the type of game that needs that journey for the world to flourish. Each time I felt frustrated, losing patience with yet another journey across the ocean, I was reminded of those that sent me on the voyage and, whenever that failed to ease my tensions, the incredible soundtrack almost immediately dragged me back into a land of wonder and discovery. The visual design and audio are on par with the best games in the genre.
I did encounter a few minor bugs, being trapped within shops after closing the most common, and the PC controls and user-interface are definitely lacking. Accessing the quest log or switching between maps is needlessly cumbersome, and definitely adds to the frustration I sometimes felt in the game. I would recommend a controller if you’re going to purchase the game on the PC, as it does not feel catered toward a mouse and keyboard setup.
Summer in Mara is not for everyone; it’s charming, full of character, and clearly made with a loving passion, but its focus on the journey may leave some players feeling left behind. With a dash of patience and a hint of dedication, Summer in Mara blossoms into a wonderful experience.
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