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  • Writer's pictureSofi

Season: A Letter to the Future (2023)

Developer: Scavengers Studio

Oh wow, what a start to 2023. We're only two months in and I've already played two indie games that are going to the top quarter of my list. It's looking good so far! Not to mention this is the year of new Zelda and I can't stop thinking about it.... Anyway. Season: A Letter to the Future is an exploration adventure game where you journal and record the world as it is before the end of the current season. Season: A Letter to the Future is immersive and pensive journey, it makes you slow down and take in both the beautiful environments and the subtle human details.

The protagonist of Season is also the narrator, and the story starts with her narrating her journaled thoughts to someone in the future. She tells this future listener about how her friend Pâté recently has a prophetic dream that told the coming of an "end" to the current season. In this world, the span of time is measured in clearly marked seasons, ranging in length from 10 years to hundreds of years. The end of a season means a great and life-altering change is to come. For this reason, the protagonist decides that she will venture on a journey to document what life is like in the current season so that this information is available to people in the future. On this quest she will, for the first time, step outside her hometown of Caro and travel far beyond. After deciding this, you spend a heartfelt last morning with your mother before leaving home. Your mother sacrifices her own cherished memories in order to create a magical pendant for you that she claims will from the "diseases of the mind" that are rumored to exist in the outside world.

Your promise your mother you'll never take this pendant off, as it has the power to protect your mind.

I heard someone describe the visual style of this game as Breath of the Wild-like, and I think that's fairly accurate. The cel-shaded style is vibrant and colorful, making this world and its environments feel alive. Yet, this more simplistic style doesn't prevent the character art from being detailed and unique. You'll explore both wide open fields and decayed human infrastructure, as well as strange and mystical places. At times, the character art takes some Ghibli-esque liberties in making some characters look a little more surreal and strange than others. The soundtrack of this game is not only full of peaceful, wondrous sounds to explore to, but it also includes some lyrical tracks that you get to hear characters sing throughout the story.

The skies are particularly stunning in this game, as well as the natural environment mixed with abandoned human structures.

The primary gameplay of Season consists of taking photos, recording audio, and collecting found items all to put in your journal. It's essentially a scrapbook, except that it also lets you include audio recordings inside of it. I didn't expect that this type of task would resonate so well with me. I really enjoyed it, page after page, and it made me take a more completionist approach to this game. Every time you find yourself in a new area, you have a new set of pages to complete. Once you add enough photos or notes, you unlock additional narration about the area, as well as (often very cute) stamps and stickers that match the theme. It made it quite satisfying to not only fill the pages but to make them look cohesive and fun. Beyond that, you'll also get to do plenty of bike riding. It feels incredibly freeing to ride around, speeding down hills as you take in the environment around you. Although it actually feels like a fairly large open world, there's no fast travel or even a way to track yourself on the map most of the time - which I think works well in this setting. It's actually fun to ride your bike through new locations, just as much as it is to pull over and take in new sights. Unfortunately, the open-looking world at times has invisible barriers that get in the way of your peaceful bike ride if you steer too far off the path. Sometimes my bike would also glitch out and float if I parked it in a certain location, but it was never game-breaking. Also, this game could use some better optimization. Even when I played it on PC, which is well exceed the minimum specifications required, it made my computer run really loudly. At times, it would drop framerates when coming to a new area. This made sense for my Steam Deck, but I was surprised to see it happen on my PC when I rarely have that issue with the games I play, indie or not.

This was probably my favorite location to document, because I just go to take a bunch of photos of cute cows.

The world you explore in Season is quite desolate - Tieng Valley, where you spend most of your journey, has been evacuated due to an incoming flood from a decommissioned dam. The only people that still remain in the Valley are packing up their last few belongings or have resisted the mandate to evacuate. However, the few interactions you do have are memorable and profound. You get to know their stories and record in your journal them through photos, audio, and keepsakes. You learn their feelings about the past seasons and the future to come, both complicated and loaded topics. You also find many traces of what life was like in what people left behind, including animals, music, research, and even captured memories. The dialogue is beautifully written and voiced, I just can't help at times thinking it leans a little hard into trying to be poetic with every line said, making conversations feel a little less natural. Regardless, it made for very memorable quotes that stuck in my head.

It's such a simple line but it made me reflect a lot about my friendships and how I feel after moving away.

Season is a gorgeous game about the importance of human connections and how our memories define who we are. It succeeds in making scrapbooking satisfyingly a fun gameplay mechanic and makes you feel invested in getting to know every part of this world before its gone or changed forever. Getting full achievements was both worthwhile and straightforward. I recommend this game if you like getting lost in a beautiful world, with no set timeline, combat, quests, or map markers.

We'll forget what's yours and mine, in the world to come.

Season: A Letter to the Future is available on PC, PS4, and PS5

Played on: PC

Finished: 2/19/2023

Playtime: 10 hrs

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