SEASON: A Letter to the Future Review
SEASON: A Letter to the Future or SEASON moving forward, is a narrative adventure biking simulator from Scavengers Studio and has previously been featured in the June 2022 PlayStation State of Play. I’ve been curious about this title because, as a fan of walking simulators, I really enjoy these atmospheric mood pieces that contemplate life in their travels.
SEASON is a story about an adventurer who has taken a journey outside of their village after being tasked to investigate an impending cataclysm. Nothing is known about the outside world, save for a devastating war and a mysterious disease that followed. Armed with a camera and tape recorder, the adventurer leaves on their bicycle to record their findings and hopefully reach their ultimate destination before the season ends.
How will this journey unfold? Will the adventurer complete their task, or will something else happen? Hop on that bike and find out!
The Open Road
SEASON is an atmospheric adventure on a bike, which is exactly what you’ll be doing for the most part. There is a lot of bike riding, but there’s also quite a bit of poetic introspection, and you can think of it as a mix of Death Stranding’s traversal and the introspection seen in Life is Strange. There will be a lot of voice-overs and codex collecting, so you can easily determine if this is something you want in a game or not.
The game projects a certain level of meditative traversal, so if you’re more of an action fan, this probably won’t appeal to you. However, for those interested in narrative adventures and cozy, laid-back experiences, you’ll feel right at home. Unlike games of its type, SEASON does not have a lot of reading going on, which actually improves the pacing.
There will be times when the pacing is indeed slow, but it is not meandering. It helps that much of the exploration is active, with the protagonist being able to traverse on foot or by bike. SEASON has an enjoyable way of biking where, if played on the Playstation 5, you will be using the trigger buttons to accelerate. The adaptive triggers have a fair amount of friction when going uphill, so it’s a nice touch that allows for some immersive controls.
The majority of SEASON’s activities are investigative and codex collecting. As you collect bits and pieces of the world and add them to your journal, you actually create the layout of what you chronicle, which is probably the best part of the game. As a storyteller, you decide how you want the people of the future to perceive this era, so in a sense, you are representing this era’s truth from your perspective.
Your tools of the trade are your polaroid camera and your tape recorder. Each area or episode has its own page, which you build inspiration from found documents, photographs, and recorded audio. It’s pretty neat how the adventurer’s sketches allow you to lay out the story as it unfolds. While there are some details from the adventurer’s past that cannot be edited save for your choices in the dialogue, your own way of scrapbooking will be unique.
I really enjoyed seeing the unique way of using a codex and lore to tell a story and the creative ways of accessing it and letting it come to life. Completing these scrapbook entries is satisfying in its own right because you are creating your own story of the world. I almost wish there was a setting where every player could submit their journals for other players to read and experience how the world comes alive through the eyes of another player, reinforcing its theme.
An Abrupt End
When it comes to presenting characters, events, and even worldviews, SEASON really shines with its perspectives. As you build your scrapbook with your keepsakes, the quotes you want to include in the journal suggest different perspectives on the different people you meet on your journey. It really helps that much of the plot is ambiguous and that you, as a participatory storyteller, contribute your own clarity.
I could see that this huge net of perspective may rub some players the wrong way who will want a definitive answer to the world’s questions. More creative types will likely appreciate this ambiguity, as they can draw their own conclusions about many of these questions as they learn more about certain plot points and characters. It can really go either way.
SEASON takes between 6 and 8 hours to complete, depending on how much time you spend exploring. The first few hours of the game are quite linear, leading you up to the valley, where you enter a semi-open world region that gives you the freedom to explore and learn about the area. I appreciated this sandbox as you discover several clues that’ll make you draw your own conclusions about certain plot moments and really explores the richness of the world that the developers have created.
I mostly enjoyed the journal mechanic throughout SEASON, however, it is possible to play through the game without even contributing to the journal at all and just power through the story as you see fit. While this misses the thematic point of the game, you are welcome to engage in this activity as much or as little as you like. Some players may regard Season as lacking in gameplay because so many of the activities necessitate adding to your journal via photos and audio recording.
Season’s biggest flaw is its anticlimactic, albeit logical, conclusion. Throughout your journey, you allude to a much bigger game with possibly a few more chapters and episodes after the exploration of the valley. However, the rug is pulled from underneath you in its brief and abrupt final act. From a narrative standpoint, the end of the valley episode felt like the end of the first act of SEASON and we’re left wanting more as so much of the world has been left unexplored.
At best, we could’ve used another 2-3 hours to have some sort of resolution to all that we’ve explored and even to pay off some reversals that were introduced in the last moments of the game. While these questions could be answered in a future sequel or a DLC, SEASON just left me hanging, which is quite disappointing.
What We Liked:
- Beautifully rendered visuals in a cozy atmospheric semi-open world that allow you the freedom to explore.
- Codex and lore are well thought out and have a satisfying collectible mechanic.
- Poetic writing that is lyrical and soothing.
What We Didn’t Like:
- Meditative pacing is not for everyone.
- Anticlimactic conclusion that feels incomplete.
- You can skip most of the game by not utilizing the journal which may give it an impression of underutilized gameplay for some players.
Verdict: Wait For It…
SEASON: A Letter to the Future is a beautifully written atmospheric adventure that may not appeal to all tastes. The pacing is a little meditative, and the plot is ambiguous to the point of being obtuse, which may frustrate the impatient player. If collecting entries for the codex isn’t your thing, you might find SEASON’s gameplay a little light.
Despite its flaws, there’s much to enjoy in SEASON, especially if you’re a fan of narrative adventures. Patient players will be rewarded with a rich story and cozy soundtrack, but the unsatisfying final act is a turn-off.
I do hope that there is a sequel or a future DLC for SEASON, as I’m curious to learn more about its intriguing world and its interesting characters. Scavengers Studio is definitely a studio to watch out for, and I’m hoping to experience more of their future projects.
*SEASON: A Letter to the Future has been reviewed on a PS5 with a review code provided by the publisher.