What is it we carry with us, through times of change? Is it the things we have gathered over a lifetime, the objects of value or sentimentality? Is it the wealth we acquire through years of work and toil? Could it be the memories and moments we have the privilege to experience, shared with friends and strangers alike?
Season: A letter to the Future is a gentle and contemplative exploratory adventure title that takes its time to build an intriguing and beautiful cell shaded world that, for it’s disappointingly brief playtime, is still a pleasure to interact with and experience.
The world as you know it is coming to an end, an end that has already come, several times before, and with all things, will come again. Season: A letter to the future, is One part 3rd person adventure game, one part Shenmue, one part Walking sim, about a journey one person takes to record the world as she knows and sees it, as you see it, to catalogue a vertical slice of existence, before the inevitable loss of all things at the seasons end. Billed as a bicycle road trip, a journey across a land, you will visit new places, meet new people, and record everything you see in a journal, the eponymous letter, so that some part of the world will carry on after everything ends. This is a half-truth in all honesty, the promise of a road trip implies a whole lot more than is honestly delivered, this being more of a journey from one place to another bigger central location, with a couple of brief, if interesting, stops in the middle. Your best friend has had a dream that the people of your village in the mountains, have said now foretells the end of the season, and you have taken the opportunity to head out into the world before the end comes.
While the experience is a brief one, it is polished and refined, likely thanks to this focused design choice. Every location, every vista, is a beautiful painting capturing the simple and tragic world of mystery you get to journey through. Travelling with a camera and a tape recorder, you can stop at almost any time and record the visuals and soundscapes of this narratively interesting yet closed world. There wasn’t a moment that passed where I spotted a fantastic view or cute scene and didn’t need to immediately stop and take a quick snap or recording. Often both. There is a shocking amount of freedom and depth to how much you can capture as you move along through the world. While some pages of your journal expect you to capture very specific images and sounds, much of the pages are entirely yours to fill as you see fit. Customisation of these pages is very free and flexible, with your only limit being space.
Everything is friendly to engage with, there are options for accessibility that will allow for simplification and comfort, but ultimately the title is not one that will cause real failure or distress mechanically. The only mechanic that stands out as notable is the option to use the triggers as the peddles for your bicycle, not terrible to do but feeling entirely superfluous. A few peddles in, and you glide along with zero effort, until you are going uphill where it’s contextually understandable and can add a slight layer of texture to things. The bike is a fun thing to engage with but doesn’t add much to the core experience and in a couple of spots was a little cumbersome to use due to an occasionally uncooperative camera.
The real core mechanics are built around the previously mentioned recording equipment, and interactions you have with the cast of strangers you meet.
With a press of a button you will whip out your camera, and can snap a picture anywhere. Snap the right picture and you get a snippet of commentary about the things captured or world you find yourself. This is where the real intrigue is found, with the season you are exploring being one following an apparent great war, with vistas observed, events spoken of, that just fill you with a desire to know more. I understand what the game is going for, especially in the wake of what comes at the game’s end, but the answers received, the picture painted is so confusingly sparse that it lease you feeling, unfulfilled. Another element that leaves you a little confused is exactly how this world works. It’s a game that is all about memory and preservation of what is important for the people who come after, but it’s never clear what the sending of a season entails. I don’t want to give up too much about the plot, but at one point an impending great cataclysm is presented, a localised, but narratively comprehensible as to what might be considered as a season ending event for a small community, but then the ending presents something far bigger and unexplained.
I’m fine with mystery in most things, interpretation is key to great art, but here the information is consistently threadbare, it’s impossible to really get a satisfying grasp on things. The game’s slightness and sense of wanting was exacerbated by the lack of a post game experience. As soon as the credits rolled, I found myself back in the final area, unable to even trigger the ending again. Stuck in one spot with no chance to restart or interact more with the world.
It’s the core experience of moving gently through an area and logging everything you find interesting that elevates the whole game. The whole world is refined and polished to a near perfect gem sheen. The small cast of characters, the remanence of a once bustling community, have emotionally resonant tales to share and represent different aspects of memory. The artist, the monk, the mother and her son, each carrying a lifetime of memories, their own loss and loves, making the final choices for their future before the end and their possible rebirth into something new.
These interactions could easily have been heavy-handed and overly pandering to cliché, but instead are about the gentle kindness found in all of humanity at our best.
Season: A Letter to the Future is an interesting, beautiful, and enjoyable experience that feels like a vertical slice of what should be a bigger adventure. It leaves you wanting more time with its world, more places to see and engage with, more time with the fun and compulsive mechanics. It’s a game that conveys a sense of loss but is undermined by your lack of understanding just what is being lost and why. While the choice to obfuscate is understandable narratively, it also leaves you wishing for more.
- A gentle and unique experience
- Refined and stable game experiance.
- Beatuful cell shaded art.
- Great amounts of freedom to engage how you want.
- Interesting and engaging world building
- Leaves you wanting more and feeling like something is missing
- Nothing to do and no way to restart without deleating your progress
- some slight issues with the camera crontrols when on the bike
Rob is a fan of an underdog, as such he's a big fan of Alien 3 (both cuts), Devil May Cry 2, and thinks Hawkeye is the best Avenger.
Rob is currently attempting to catch them all in all the Pokemon games at once, current count 800 of 898, but has yet to finish this because he is dreading the thought of having to play Pokemon channel to unlock Jirachi. That and he's easily distracted, which often leads to him not finishing th...