SEASON: A Letter to the Future review for PlayStation, PC

Platform: PS5
Also on: PC, PS4
Publisher: Scavengers Studio
Developer: Scavengers Studio
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

If ever there was a game that took the idea of ?it?s not the destination, it’s the journey? literally, it?s SEASON: A letter to the future. After all, even though it?s a game that?s about the end of the world, the impending apocalypse isn?t the point. Rather, it?s the people you meet ? and the photos you take, and the sounds you record ? along the way.

Consequently, it?s hard to judge Season on how well it tells its story, or how interesting that story is. After all, if the point is to make you stop and think about the world around you, on some level it kind of misses that point if you?re focusing on something as mundane as a plot and a linear narrative, right?

The thing is, the line between deeply profound and empty drivel can be awfully thin, and it?s hard not to feel like Season veers well into the latter half of that divide. Characters earnestly spout lines like ?Artists make terrible kings,? and ?I feel a dulcet tension in the air,? and ?Internationalism was breaking down? as if they?re imparting profound truths ? only none of it ever really means anything. It feels like these characters are just saying words and phrases that could caption pseudo-deep Instagram posts, and then hoping nobody notices how shallow it all is.

(I?ll also pause here and say that Season?s dialogue isn?t helped by the fact that conversations with other people are deeply weird. Even though all the lines are fully voiced, no one?s mouth moves, and the characters just move their heads around. It?s as if the developers couldn?t figure out how to animate lips, but they?d already recorded all the dialogue, so they just mashed it together anyway and hoped people would ascribe it to the game?s artistry.)

The fact that scrapbooking is one of the game?s core mechanics also contributes to the feeling that you?re playing the gaming equivalent of a teenager?s philosophical Instagram account. Your character, the 20-year-old Estelle, has been tasked by her village with recording ?the true state of all things? (did I mention the pseudo-profundity?) before the world ends, and she does so by taking artsy photos of trees and people, and occasionally recording sounds that she finds, like frogs croaking and flags ripping in the breeze. While this may fit in with the broader theme of living in the moment and enjoying the journey, much like the dialogue, it all feels too inconsequential.

What I found most annoying about Season, though, was the cycling. As someone who bikes constantly, that?s actually what attracted me to this game more than anything else. And while it certainly provides some of the game?s best moments, like when you?re coasting down a hill with the wind swooping around you, cycling also leads to some of the game?s more frustrating moments, like when your bike can get stuck on the smallest impediment. The fact that one of the options in the pause menu is ?Unstuck? suggests that the developers were aware of this flaw as well.

But if we?re tallying up Season?s problems, again, by far the biggest is that it?s a shallow game that desperately wants you to think it?s deeper than it is. It has some pretty visuals and solid voice acting, but at the end of the day, there?s really not much more here than trying to give historical import to snapping that perfect Instagram moment.

Scavengers Studio provided us with a SEASON: A letter to the future PS5 code for review purposes.

Grade: C+