You might not fully understand the world of Season: A Letter to the Future, but that’s only going to make you more desperate to become engulfed in it.
And becoming engulfed in this delicious, fascinating, confusing world comes naturally: exploring Season‘s landscape is an absolute joy from start to finish. It’s one of those rare games we really didn’t want to end. An even rarer game that we’re keen to jump back into, only days after finishing it. What makes Season so special? It’s impossible to pick out just one thing – it’s a range of things, all working together in harmony to make an experience quite unlike anything else.
Season: A Letter to the Future sees you take on the role of a young woman as she leaves behind her mother and everything she knows on a quest to ‘document the world’. Why now? Well, it seems the world as she knows it is coming to an end: the end of the season. While it resembles our own, the world of Season is removed from our reality on Earth. A season doesn’t simply refer to spring, summer, autumn or winter: it’s a grand event that changes everything. Is it apocalyptic? Perhaps. People might not necessarily die, but they may not remember the season that came before. It’s a new beginning, in one sense or another.
Exactly what happens as a season changes is never made fully clear in Season: A Letter to the Future. We know that the area we’re visiting will soon be underwater: a great valley that’s going to be flooded by a broken dam. The rest of the world remains largely a question mark. But by playing through the game – digging into the environments around you as much as you possibly can – you’ll likely draw your own conclusions. There’s a lot to uncover here and you’re your own tour guide. Don’t expect Season to hold your hand. It’s down to you to decide what’s important and what’s not.
Central to the experience here is your in-game journal. On the surface it’s nothing new: our protagonists have been keeping their own journals for years. The Life is Strange games have used them to give more depth to their central characters, for example, whereas Starlord’s journal in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy acts as a recap of everything that’s happened so far. But in Season: A Letter to the Future, creating a journal becomes the key facet to playing. No two journals will ever be the same as what goes into them is entirely down to you, the player.
It’s a fascinating mechanic that will likely make you completely re-evaluate how you play. Interact with a point of interest, and you may sketch something that can be added to your journal. Pull out your instant camera, and you can photograph anything around you. Some items have extra context; interact with the ‘correct’ items, and you’ll be rewarded with extra dialogue. But there’s no right or wrong here. Anything that’s memorable to you as the player is worthy of going in the journal. Fill a page with enough photos, sound recordings and sketches and you’ll be rewarded with the ability to add flair and embellishments. Completely unnecessary, but it provides a sense of ownership. That journal is yours.
The world of Season: A Letter to the Future isn’t massive: you’ll have seen everything it has to offer you in around eight hours, give or take. You’ll likely long for more – we certainly did – but there’s still plenty to dive into, with each individual area providing opportunity for a new journal page and new snippets of information to be gleamed about the changing of seasons. You’ll meet only a handful of characters on your way: a lot of the time, Season is a solitary experience, leaving you alone with only your thoughts. But this is a game where your thoughts are most important. What you think, what you do, what you take away from the experience – that’s key here.
It helps, too, that Season: A Letter to the Future is a treat for the eyes. Its art style is reminiscent of watercolour paintings, beautiful in its imperfections but absolutely brimming with life and colour. This is a world not to be rushed through but to exist in for as long as you want. Interact with everything, look at anything and everything. Make it your world for the time you spend with the game. The more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Never has that been truer than for a game like Season.
You’ll likely become so attached to the journal you’re creating that every once in a while you’ll stop just to flick through its pages. Maybe you’ll make the odd adjustment as you go, adding or taking away flair or changing out a photograph for something better. Or maybe a return visit to an area might wield something you missed the first time, something so pertinent it deserves pride of place in your journal. Every location has only a double-page spread, so you’ll need to choose carefully what you want to display. There are no mistakes to be made, but the very nature of the game means you’ll care deeply about what goes in there.
After all, the whole premise of Season: A Letter to the Future is to create a lasting memory. Your hope is that your journal will survive the passing of seasons, as will your memories. That journal may be all that remains to remind people of the season that came before. And so you want an accurate representation of everything you’ve experienced. The beautiful and the not-so. The magical and the mundane. As it all comes together, you’ll cherish it with glee.
There’s something special about the power that Season: A Letter to the Future gives to the player; the freedom you have to explore, to document, to see and do exactly as you wish. Free of threat and any real time pressure, you’ll simply become absorbed, seeing everything for the first time just as your protagonist is. For the action-oriented amongst you, that might sound a little dull. But we can’t overstate just how wonderful it feels to play something like this, a game that really doesn’t mind what you do or how you do it, as long as you’re doing… something. It’s freeing, wholesome, relaxing but evocative. And we wish it didn’t have to end. Let us explore more corners of this enchanting, mysterious world, please.