Season describes itself as "a third-person atmospheric adventure bicycle road trip game". Frankly, that synopsis doesn't do Scavengers Studio's sophomore project justice. Season isn't just any old third-person atmospheric adventure bicycle road trip game. Season is a vibe. "People have described it that way sometimes in playtests before," admits creative director Kevin Sullivan. "I'm open to it. I guess it's a meditation in an emergency, Frank O'Hara style!"
As Scavengers Studio's first follow-up to 2018's Darwin Project, Season couldn't be more different from its battle royale focused predecessor. Playing as the yet to be named young woman seen in its mesmerising reveal trailer, you'll embark on a serene and poignant odyssey across a dying world, meeting its inhabitants, capturing its beauty, and learning about new cultures before they're gone forever.
I want to ride my bicycle
Developer Scavengers Studio
Publisher Scavengers Studio
Platforms PS5, PC
"Season slowly grew in the back of the studio over years," says Sullivan of the game's origins. "While Amélie [Lamarche] and Simon [Darveau], the co-founders of Scavengers Studio, are very different, they're both trying to embrace a new kind of experience for players. Darwin Project re-imagined gaming as entertainment from the perspective of form, using the new dynamic at play with viewers vs. players and building a bridge between them. Season is imagining a different tone."
That different tone is best exemplified by Season's gorgeous art style, an ultra-stylised blend of 3D animation and watercolour visuals, which looks quite unlike anything else we've seen from the medium before. Through it, Scavengers Studio hopes to capture the potent cocktail of emotions that come from exploring the natural world; that indescribable dream-like state achieved by tapping back into our primordial connection with the planet. More than anything, Season is a push back against society's obsession with moving faster and cheaper at every turn. It's a mandate to sit back, take a breath, and remember why we're here.
It's also important to clarify what Season isn't. It's not, Scavengers stresses, a walking simulator. You have a bike, for one thing, which you'll use to explore different parts of the Season's world at your own pace and rhythm, making choices about which paths to follow, and what memories are worth preserving. Using your character's kit of documentation tools, from a camera to an audio recorder, you'll be able to chronicle your travels – imbuing new meaning and salience into what we now know as the video game photo mode. Sullivan explains that the studio "wanted to make a nonviolent game that still had dramatic stakes tied to your actions".
"The travel element came first, the idea of going around and meeting other cultures," he tells GamesRadar. "This seemed like a good fantasy, and one that didn't need a superpowered character but rather an interested human being in the right place at the right time." And it's here where Season's aforementioned vibe originated. If you're going to encourage the player to explore a world and capture its essence, then that world needs to be a place worth exploring, as does the act of travelling through it. "'How does it feel?' is a question that can be asked about any aspect of a game so I think it's a good organizing point," continues Sullivan. "How you ride the bike is expressing the vibe, the music, the UI. The vibe itself comes out of a combination of being both light and heavy."
Season thus appeals to the senses as much as it does our yearning for mindfulness, where the journey itself is so resonant in its evocative power, we're suddenly not in such a hurry to reach our destination. Whether you're wandering through the ruins of a lost civilization, or sitting back to watch the sunset on the horizon for the very last time, the journey is sure to be a memorable one.
After scaling down servers on Darwin Project earlier this year, the entire team at Scavengers is focused on bringing Season to PS5 and PC sometime in 2021. Of course, as an independent studio, there's no pressure to rush the project, which is perhaps apt given the leisurely, deliberative undertones of the game itself. "We're a bunch of creators at the studio so it feels more like a workshop than a corporate machine," says Sullivan. "Games are deeply collaborative and there are always different ways of coordinating things that will get you a different result. I'd expect surprising things to continue to emerge from Scavengers in the future. "
Where Darwin Project's online firefights might have been an appeal to our survival instincts, Season offers a different response to the end of life, encouraging players to find comfort and solace in the temporal, and simply enjoy the time we have left. Perhaps the two games aren't so different after all.
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