There are countless stories about journeys. Whether that story is told through a show, a song, or a book, whatever medium it uses, a good story helps support the medium. It makes sense that life is a journey with highs and lows, so experiencing fictional characters as they travel their own journey draws us in. Of course, that is only true if the story that’s being told captures our attention. Many tales of journeys can be not so great or middle of the road. When I first saw Season: A Letter to the Future I was intrigued by the premise. You travel as this young Black woman on a bike discovering the outside world for the first time through her eyes. It sounded like it could be a wonderful experience and I was cautiously optimistic. After all, with a medium like video games I feel like it’s the emotional payoff that sticks with you far longer than the play time – and I was curious to see if this game could pull that off.
I’m glad to say that it did.
When playing through this game I was hit with different emotions both sad and happy while also getting to experience a sense of wonder similar to the protagonist. In this review I’m going to try to keep things as spoiler free as possible because I always think with games such as this one it’s best to experience it yourself firsthand.
The game starts out with Estelle, the protagonist, getting ready to go on her journey. You go through her last morning in her village before setting out with your bicycle, bag and camera. With a foot on a pedal she pushes off, ready to experience a world she had never seen before and ready to document her findings. The gameplay in Season: A Letter to the Future is daily and straightforward. You bike around the world stopping occasionally here and there to take pictures or record different audios. Outside of that you interact with different objects you find left out in the world and start up conversations with the people you meet along the way. While the gameplay isn’t the most complex, I don’t think it needs to be. I found the simple loop of the game charming and always found moments of nature that made me screech the bicycle to a halt and whip out the camera. The audio recordings were a nice addition to the documenting process, making the player pay closer attention to sounds that we might take for granted. Sounds like the crackling of a warm fire or the soft chirping of crickets nearby. With the gameplay and visuals it’s easy for the player to get swept up in the world and want to discover all that it has to offer just like Estelle does.
Graphics with games nowadays are being pushed to the extreme, making some games absolutely jaw-droppingly gorgeous with realistic graphics. While I adore seeing that and geeking out over how amazing that is there is something beautiful about having an art style that feels more attached to your game. One where you can see it and it stands out from the others. Season: A Letter to the Future has a wonderful illustrative style making it easy to want to take pictures and fill up your scrapbook with your findings.
The presentation and gameplay side of the game are good but I think what makes or breaks a game – at least from my personal experience – is the story. Is it a gripping tale? Does it deal with themes or make you think about questions long past when the credits roll?
For me, Season: A Letter to the Future has those things. It offers an emotionally charged story by starting off with a scene that is more densely packed than what I was expecting. Through the different characters you meet you get to experience their stories even if it’s for a brief amount of time and you get to discover a world that feels unique. In this world there are seasons, long stretches of time that span years and even decades before the next one comes along. When you start out the game you are just as curious and unknowledgeable about what these seasons mean but as the story progresses you get the answers to those questions. But with those questions comes realizations and it all builds up to the ending which left me feeling a tug on my heart strings. Everything through the journey leads up to the climax which hits with an emotional punch. You as the player have walked side by side with Estelle, watching as this naive yet caring, gentle and kindhearted young woman holds true to herself while also experiencing the world before the season ends.
Season: A Letter to the Future feels like a hard game to write a review on. Not because it’s a bad game or there aren’t things to talk about but because there are moments in this game scattered throughout that I feel are best experienced blindly. This journey that Estelle goes on is as much for you as it is hers. It’s a title that is best experienced with a cup of warm tea, a blanket and a mindset of taking your time. Breathe in the world that the developers have created, bask in the warmth of the sun that peers over the hills, capture the sounds, moments and sights that this game has to offer. Let yourself go on this journey with Estelle. I highly recommend it. With a year that’s filled to the brim with big releases and anticipated titles, it’s nice to have one like Season: A Letter to the Future, a game that hasn’t been unappreciated by critics but might go unnoticed by you. I urge you not to let that happen.
If you are interested, Season: A Letter to the Future is available on Playstation 4, Playstation 5 and Windows.