Editor’s Note: When Season: A Letter to the Future was announced in 2020, Scavengers co-founder Simon Darveau was accused of sexual and verbal harassment against staff at the studio. The work environment was described as a ‘boys club’ and several female employees “were frequently degraded by male employees including Darveau, or infantilized and treated as if they did not know what they were talking about,” it was alleged. Current CEO Amélie Lamarche apologized and promised to do better.
Normally when you think about stories that talk about the end of the world, the first thing a lot of us think is dilapidated buildings, overcast skies, and life as we know it now, feeling like an afterthought. So, when Scavenger Studios revealed Season: A Letter to the Future, I was taken aback by the fact that maybe humanity could survive a catastrophic event. I also didn’t expect that the end of the world could look and feel so vastly different from the nihilistic avenue we’ve come to find so familiar, instead we find an eerily calm and pensive world where you’ll head out into the unknown.
Season Is A Journey Into The Unknown
The story of Season: A Letter to the Future, is simple and consistent and full of heart. You play as Estelle, a young woman departing her village for the first time to explore the world and record the season. Her goal is to collect and immortalize memories in a diary before a mysterious event brings an end to the current era. No one has left the village for years, not even Estelle. Armed with her tape recorder, her diary, her camera, and a magic talisman protecting her from danger, she rides her bike in search of answers. In this world, each season is considered a block of time. With each season passing, the world begins anew.
The world, which combines elements of fantasy and realism, is wonderfully constructed and you learn more about this world through contextual items and its history as you explore new locations, interact with the environment, and get to know the inhabitants. Each object, structure, sound, or conversation is a small piece that makes up a beautiful narrative puzzle.
One thing I liked is that Season: A Letter to the Future tackles exciting issues. Is it necessary to forget in order to leave the past behind? As you embark on an adventure through Tieng Valley, questions raised by your time exploring this adventure will resonate with you, and that is where the message gains strength.
When you begin your journey into the unknown, you bring a camera that is useful for documenting everything you encounter — from statues to fountains, to birds, and more. You also have a sound recorder to make use of, after all, Estelle’s role at the end of the world is to create a record of everything through picture and sound.
Each photo and recording is a memory that should stand the test of time. As you begin to explore, you’ll also find items that will reveal new information about the cultures and context. Overall, observing and capturing these elements is satisfying because it makes us feel part of the world.
Look at this Photograph
During the eight-hour journey, you meet a small but colourful cast of characters — including a mother and an artist, each with a story of their own. Conversing with them is very entertaining and enriching, as each one provides information about the environment and shares their point of view on the coming cataclysm. The one thing I should mention is that throughout the entire runtime, you don’t know what the end of the season will bring and you’re generally left to postulate on what could happen when the season changes.
To traverse through the valley, Estelle has access to a bicycle that can be summoned at any time from the pause menu. The navigation mechanics are simple and work well and the implementation on the DualSense is impressive. Using the adaptive triggers, the bicycle can imitate biking up a hill by tensing on the triggers. While I’ve switched to driving a car, the first half of my life was solely dedicated to my bike and there are a lot of cues that bring me back to simpler times. Also, the triggers show resistance while raindrops manifest themselves with small vibrations, adding a nice level of immersion.
Season: A Letter to the Future offers some beautiful landscapes and a unique graphic style; however, there are small technical and design details that tarnish the beauty of the presentation. In my time I noticed stiff character animation and sometimes, it felt like the voiceovers would not match the character’s lips when they spoke.
I did run into some performance issues I do have a few minor complaints. Everything runs smoothly most of the time, but in some instances, such as when traversing an area of lush vegetation or entering areas with lots of elements, there are noticeable framerate drops.
There is, however, one relatively serious problem during the latter half of Season: A Letter to the Future— an annoying bug that lowers the quality of character textures and scenery, as if they were not able to load into the scene. In particular, the text and illustrations are a blurry mess. This ruins the journal Estelle is working to put together. This issue persists and often I’d end up having to restart the game to resolve this issue but it is something that’ll pull you out of the experience and is a nuisance.
Season: A Letter to the Future is unique, relaxing, beautiful, and thoughtful; more importantly, it has something to say. It accomplishes what it sets out to do and knows how to use its mechanics as a vehicle to reinforce its message. Overall, exploring this universe is satisfying if you connect with the concept and themes it addresses.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5