Someone once said that the interactive medium is not about being able to interact with a game, but rather the “here and now”; being alive in the very moment we interact with the characters on-screen and the uniqueness of having our personalities add to the experience. If that is so, well, SEASON is the closest to feeling alive you will find in the gaming medium. Let’s take a look at how in our Season: A Letter to the Future review.
Our story begins in medias res, with our character getting ready to leave their homes for good, having to say goodbye to mom and dad to go outside and gather memories for the future. The Season, the world’s era, is ending and there is only a little time to go outside and record mementos for whoever will come after. Our job is to record, photograph and make note of things that we think might be interesting to keep for the future. Whatever is not recorded will be erased – forever.
Thus, our task is to record audio, take pictures and sketch down the things around us that might be worthy of being remembered for our descendants. Having lived quite a sheltered life, the comments from our main character on what is around them can be both funny and also eye-opening as the game does not fill us in with details from the start. Instead, the narrative unfolds delicately like a flower as we discover what was going on in past seasons, the war and the terribly scary time disorder.
SEASON does not guide our hand in choosing what to “keep” and what to discard. Sure, some things might be a bit obvious and the comments from our main character do make it clear if we’re on the right track. But the beauty lies in experimenting and following our instinct and tastes: just recording what we feel is right. For example, nothing stopped me from petting all the cows I found on the farm and taking black-and-white pictures of them, along with tuning the radio to their favorite station.
There are also sub-plots, which will need to be filled with specific details from the surrounding environment. We also get to interact with the inhabitants of a valley that has just been evacuated and are trying to make peace with having to go to live somewhere far away and different. But, there are no fixed objectives; no overall gameplay goals. SEASON is just about being there in the moment. Should we use our time to save what is around us or just enjoy it before it’s too late to do so?
Our main character rides around on a bicycle in gorgeous landscapes, and the feeling of being there with the wind in our hair and the smell of grass and dried earth is beautifully replicated. And with the world of Season being quite magical, there are many interesting things to discover well beyond what the naked eye can perceive. At the same time, Scanvengers Studio has spent time creating a world rich with details that you can relate to – loneliness, feeling distant and the perception of authority.
The scrapbook is a central tool in the adventure, as there we will place everything you have recorded: from audio to sketches of everything and everyone we have encountered in our travels. While the mechanic works perfectly fine, sometimes it feels like too much fiddling around with getting off the bike, opening the map, placing the memories in our scrapbook, closing them up, and riding the bike again. It might become a bit too mechanical in the long run, which is why SEASON shines the best when just exploring and recording, without minding the time or fearing getting lost.
While SEASON will take about eight/nine hours to complete, this is clearly up to the player. This is an experience geared to the player’s expectations and preferences in a way many other games are not. Naturally, the kaleidoscope of people you meet and the magnificent diversity they represent are written by the developers, but it’s our interactions which make them significant. It is all about being there, in Tieng Valley or in Caro Village, to be able to witness these moments before they are all lost in a flood, in the rain or by the changing of seasons.
SEASON is a quite unique experience in gaming, which gives perfect significance as to why human interaction is a quintessential part of the medium. Naturally, this also means that it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it really does not matter. SEASON invites us to enjoy the moment, to feel alive, to breathe, to touch and feel the world as it is right in this very moment. It is an invitation that it would be a shame to miss out on.
Our SEASON: A Letter to the Future review was made possible with a key by the publisher. The game is available on Steam, PlayStation 4 and 5.
Season: A Letter to the Future: If gaming is all about being here and now, Season, in allowing us to record our memories freely in a beautiful world about to die, is an incredibly enthralling experience. – Damiano