Developer & Publisher: Scavengers Studio
Released: January 31, 2023
Requirements: OS: Windows 10
Processor: Minimum, Intel Core i3/AMD Ryzen 3; Recommended,
Intel Core i5/AMD Ryzen 5
Memory: Minimum 8 GB RAM; Recommended, 16 GB RAM
Graphics: Minimum, Nvidia GTX 950; Recommended, Nvidia GTX 1660
DirectX: Version 1
Storage: 7 GB available space
SEASON: A Letter to the Future
(Please note – while writing this review, GB became aware of certain workplace allegations relating to the studio. A decision was made to review the game on its merits, and let individuals decide for themselves to what extent the allegations might impact their own response to the game)
If ever a game needed to be lingered over, this might be it.
SEASON probably won’t be for everyone; a little too contemplative, a tad too sedentary, not enough to do and too many bits of exposition. But it will be for almost everyone that likes to explore, to discover what awaits, where the journey is all and the endpoint is just where it takes you.
As its Steam page says, you play as a young woman from a secluded village exploring the world by bike for the first time, collecting memories before a cataclysm washes everything away. She will record, and sketch and photograph her experiences, collating them in a journal to be delivered to a museum at the end of everything. What she chronicles will be entirely up to you.
The first couple of locations act as a tutorial for going about things, but having left home and then ventured into the village, the Tieng Valley is where most of your exploration takes place. As you interact with locations and engage with the world, new pages will be added to your journal. It is in here that you assemble the different bits and pieces you gather; the photos, the sound recordings, objects you might pick up and/or insights or observations you might make. Its like making a scrapbook, and five ‘items’ will ‘complete’ a page and trigger an insight, although you can make the pages as Spartan or as elaborate as you like.
I confess I didn’t think I would enjoy this aspect when I first started. It isn’t really my thing, but it pulled me in. As did the camera and the recorder, also not usually my thing. And yet I found myself stopping my bike to take a photo of that thing over there, or to sit on a bench and sketch that other thing, or to pat a goat and record those frog sounds, and then place them in my journal.
The bike too was an enjoyment. You pedal about, in a fairly lifelike manner, hopping off to explore locations before climbing back into the saddle and heading somewhere else. There are some long meandering perambulations, although like most of the game you can be as peaceful or frantic as you like. Pedal calmly all the way to somewhere else, or get off every few moments to do a few other somethings.
You can park your bike while you explore on foot, or push it about with you, and a very helpful menu item enables you to retrieve it from wherever you might have left. It will come to you, and whilst it might be considered cheating, I thought it was an excellent touch.
Fittingly, given the nature of your efforts, your character remains largely an onlooker, although a choice towards the end might lead you to think a little differently. Regardless, there is plenty of scope to project your own sense of who she is or might be, which created an immersion I don’t often get from a game using a third person perspective.
I was quite taken by the stylised water-coloury look, and the mish-mash of different cultural references utilised throughout. Ambient sound was top-notch and while I usually turn the soundtrack right down, there was a dreamy etherealness to much of it that suited my endeavours. It also wasn’t always there, and it tended to know when to be present and when not to.
The game says it is best played with a game controller, but I used the mouse and the keyboard and after some initial grumblements it all worked fine. I did have to remind myself sometimes what keys did what, but it was an easy ask and everything can be mapped to suit.
Your mouse controls the camera, which I tended to have perched up and behind, and you can use it to steer the character as well. The WASD keys are used to move around, although apart from when I was hurtling along on the bike the W key was all I needed. Various other keys activate other aspects of the game, and the mouse is used to activate the hotspots, back out of close ups, and advance dialogue. Assuming of course you leave it all mapped that way.
The closest thing to puzzles are the occasional journal pages which require you to find certain things in order to complete them. Ignore them or do them as you see fit.
There are some other characters you can meet and converse with, and while they are voiced, your side of the conversation is chosen but unheard. I thought it suited the observer nature of things.
You have a map which gets coloured in as you visit areas, but I didn’t find it as useful as the billboard maps you find around the place. It did though provide a readily-to-hand look at where did I think I might want to go next.
There is much to do, should you want to do it. Find phone numbers and call them, tune radios to different stations, record the audio from certain flowers, go on a bike tour with another character. Pick up things, read things, find other things. Interacting with the environment in some way will often generate an insight or a musing or a thought, all of which adds to the tapestry of your journey.
You will reach a point at which you will be warned that entering that area will prevent your further exploration of the valley. The end game will then play out, and the choice mentioned earlier that you make will (apparently) determine how that eventually unfolds.
SEASON autosaves as you exit, and you can just continue next time. You can have three different games on the go at the same time; just pick the relevant save file to pick up which of the three you want.
I got way more out of the time I spent exploring the valley than I thought I would, and bike riding has never been quite so engaging.
I played on:
OS: Windows 10, 64 Bit
Processor: Intel i7-9700K 3.7GHz
RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum RGB DDR4 32GB
Video card: AMD Radeon RX 580 8192MB