Season: A Letter To The Future Review – Golden Hour

Season: A Letter to the Future is a strangely shaped game. While its opening 30 minutes set up the idea that you will be going on a journey, that journey ends after just one stop. There's a little lead up, and a little lead out, but the bulk of your time in the game will be spent in one verdant valley on the eve of a catastrophic flood.

In this brief, but rewarding adventure, you are a young woman tasked with recording the world as it is before the "season ends." In this world, seasons can last for hundreds of years at a time, and it's your goal to head out from Caro, your isolated village, record this season's end in a scrapbook, and deliver it to the Museum Vault, this world's equivalent of the Library of Congress for preservation.

The game begins with a wonderful bit of worldbuilding as your mother helps you prepare a magical pendant that will keep you safe. For the locket to work, memories need to be sacrificed. Not just the physical evidence of the memories, which is what you'll add to the potion, but the remembrance itself. As the Goodbye Ritual continues, your mother will comment that it feels like there's a hole in her consciousness where the memories once were. It's a terrific idea and it got me excited to see what else Season's world had for me to preserve for the future. The game largely delivers on that initial promise, but is hampered at times by how little of the world it's able to show. The Museum Vault is said to be "at the edge of the earth" but our journey ends shortly after we leave our first stop.

To help in your quest you have an audio recorder and a camera. Season's world is full of cel-shaded pastels, and I enjoyed finding interesting angles on its striking landmarks. I snapped a good dozen Polaroids of a picturesque crumbling bridge before I was satisfied. These can be arranged in your scrapbook alongside important documents you find along the way and noises you pause to record. Goats and cows grazing, a huge well with what sounds like a monster locked away at the bottom, flowers that capture memories: all of these things can be recorded and stored away in your keepsake journal.

About an hour in, you arrive at Tieng Valley, a beautiful green village that is being evacuated. When the season ends, it will flood, so your character has a short window to explore before the chance passes by forever. As you travel, you meet the few people who haven't left yet. One of my favorite small stories involved a mother and son who were still deciding what they would take from their expansive fruit farm to their new, small urban home. Knowing the proportions of the apartment they would have in the city they were moving to, the mother had roped off that much square footage on the yard and attempted to fit as many of their possessions into the space as possible. She asks you to help her decide what to bring along and what to leave, and I enjoyed hearing the stories that accompanied each object. Elsewhere, an elderly artist has lost her spark, but she is reinvigorated at the prospect of your project and the knowledge that if you take photos of her work, it will be preserved. These small, personal stories are the best thing about Season.

As you seek out these holdouts, you have a bike to help speed the process along. The bike is a helpful tool, but its controls can be irritating. I liked the tactility of its approach to pedaling — alternating between squeezing the left and right triggers, with greater resistance when you're riding up a hill, and less when you're gliding down the other side. But, the two-wheeler frequently gets hung up on the sides of paths or barely visible obstacles, so you're often hopping off the bike, turning around, and getting back on. It hurts the momentum of exploration.

The journey is also hindered by how difficult the world can be to parse while riding. Despite already having spent a few hours in the valley, the first time I found a bunch of key spots was when a local kid took me on a tour. He was seeing nooks and crannies that were too well hidden by the game's ample flora for me to spot. After the tour, I had trouble finding those routes again. Luckily, there are wooden signs at some intersections which can point you in the right direction. Still, the world can be difficult to navigate if you try to strike out on your own. The obvious paths are too obvious, the hidden paths are too hidden, and you end up riding down the same roads over and over again.

Once you do find the paths you need to take, the story is over before it ever got going. The game's opening makes it feel like your character is embarking on a quest, but that journey ends after one stop. In that way, Season is structured like spring. You barely realize it's here before it's already gone.

Score: 3.5/5. A review code was provided by the publisher.

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