Lake: Season’s Greetings DLC PC Review: A Wonderfully Wholesome Experience
I am a big fan of developer Gamious’ cozy 80s postal sim, Lake. When it released, I gave it a glowing review, calling it the best indie game of that year, and excitedly looking forward to spending more time in Providence Oaks. Two years later, the game has received its first, and potentially only, DLC, the Christmas-themed Season’s Greetings. Fortunately, not only does Season’s Greetings continue the same wonderfully wholesome gameplay and storytelling that cemented Lake as a truly exceptional and existential experience, but it also acts as a perfect endpoint for a story about new beginnings.
“Providence Oaks continues to be a rather special place, not least due to its cozy atmosphere that permeates much of the DLC.”
Lake: Season’s Greetings takes place the year before the events of the base game and centers around Thomas Weiss, an aging postman whose infatuation with the sleepy town of Providence Oaks appears to be waning. It is a strong setup, one that allows for not only fun callbacks to the base game but also interesting parallels between the philosophical and existential ponderings of Meredith and Thomas. Both seem disillusioned with their lives, Meredith unsure of whether to continue her high-strung career and Thomas fearing his aging mind and body and the impermanence of time.
Fittingly, this discussion of time, life, and the desire to move on is seen through the lens of both the unique and mundane qualities of the game’s setting, Providence Oaks. It continues to be a rather special place, not least due to its cozy atmosphere that permeates much of the DLC’s experience but also because of its phenomenal cast of characters. The eternal squabblings of Maureen, the diner owner, and Nancy, the general store manager, feel as paramount to Thomas’ feelings toward Providence Oaks as the life-changing news one of his closest friends receives deep into the game’s 4 to 5-hour runtime.
“What makes Lake: Season’s Greetings a truly masterful DLC is its dedication to exploring its town, characters, and themes through a different perspective.”
Whereas in the base game, both the player and Meredith delighted in the mundanity of the sleepy lakeside town, Thomas seems less enthralled. That’s not to say Lake: Season’s Greetings shows its setting a modicum of disrespect. The developer’s love and affection for Providence Oaks is clearly at an all-time high; the intimate poker games amongst friends, cozy community gatherings, and even the Phil Connors-esque TV presenter, whose worst traits highlight the truly unique aspects of the town, are clear indications that old P.O. is a deservedly beloved location.
However, I think what makes Lake: Season’s Greetings a truly masterful DLC is its dedication to exploring its town, characters, and themes through a different perspective, still coming to the same conclusions but offering a new and refreshing insight nonetheless. Thomas is as interesting a protagonist as Meredith, his age and neverending optimism offering him a distinctive outlook. While some of the optional choices you can make along the way often feel at odds with his character as a whole, I never felt as if he were any less important to the town and Lake’s greater thematic discussions.
It helps that Lake: Season’s Greeting’s writing is truly exceptional, a continued masterclass in naturalistic dialogue that conveys so much with so little. The nuanced conversations, seemingly about nothing, transpire to be about so much more, and characters realistically confront one another when the time is right. The townsfolk of Providence Oaks feel like real people, which makes the entire experience extremely compelling. Notably, the newcomers introduced in the DLC are fantastic, making up for the absence of characters from the base game. If you enjoyed Lake’s narrative, which I suspect anyone contemplating picking up the DLC did, then you will absolutely adore the story Season’s Greetings has to tell.
“Its marrying of story and gameplay feels effortlessly natural, a rewarding loop that makes each day spent in Providence Oaks as refreshing as the last.”
Lake: Season’s Greetings plays identically to the base game. Whereas that gave you 14 days to immerse yourself in Providence Oaks, Season’s Greetings runs a little shorter at 9. You’ll still start most days by your trusty truck, with a series of parcels and letters to deliver interspersed with dialogue exchanges with the townspeople. Really, Lake: Season’s Greetings is more Lake, which is certainly not a criticism.
Much like the base game, the gameplay and narrative are seamlessly intertwined, with the majority of parcel deliveries instigating the next bit of narrative. It’s a marrying of story and gameplay that feels effortlessly natural, a rewarding loop that makes each day spent in Providence Oaks as refreshing as the last. It makes being a postman at Christmas seem like the coziest way to spend the holiday, something the developers rather hilariously acknowledge and apologize for in the credits. There are perhaps more narrativeless deliveries than there were in the base game, although these still serve to immerse you into Thomas’ life as a postman, as well as allow you to refamiliarize yourself with the game’s small yet dense open world.
I wish I had more to say about Lake: Season’s Greetings gameplay, but it is perhaps a credit to it that despite its lack of innovation on the base game, I still had a thoroughly enjoyable time. At no point did I feel as if I was simply repeating the past, owing to the fact that the new stories and characters help contextualize the gameplay in refreshing ways. Frankly, I was itching to deliver more parcels and see what other enthusiastically beaming characters I could meet. There’s a lot to love about Lake: Season’s Greetings gameplay loop, it just so happens to be the same as the base game.
“The winter aesthetic makes for quite the spectacle, one that refreshes Lake’s already awe-inspiring vistas in remarkably memorable ways.”
Of course, being a Christmas-themed DLC, Providence Oaks has been smothered in snow, which satisfyingly crunches under your fluffy boots as you walk to the next post box. The dedication to the Christmas theme is no more surface level than the thick snow, with decorations adorning the facades of most houses, the once glistening lake completely frozen over, and the radio blaring tunes about dads setting fires to Christmas trees (the song is called Daddy Lit the Christmas Tree on Fire, and it’s a bop.)
Lake’s unique art direction heightens the winter aesthetic, with the cold blues of a winter’s morning churning to a scarlet red, the dawning daylight spreading across the twinkling snow as the sun rises over the rooftops of waking households. It makes for quite the spectacle, one that refreshes Lake’s already awe-inspiring vistas in remarkably memorable ways. Other small details help sell the wholesome holiday atmosphere, such as the way Thomas puts his glasses on to read the neverending supply of fancy handwriting on the Christmas cards. Alas, my only complaint is that you don’t get an opportunity to truly see Providence Oaks at night time, which I suspect, in winter especially, would be a rather incredible experience.
Unfortunately, I did encounter a handful of bugs throughout my playthrough. Vehicle AI seemed to frequently get confused, with cars sitting in the middle of the street or two that seemed perpetually stuck in a driveway. Another glitch saw my truck get stuck in a fence before being launched into the air. It was all incredibly minor and rather humourous, but nevertheless important to note for players whose pet peeve is video game bugs.
“Lake: Season’s Greetings is a beautifully written and wonderfully directed video game that I suspect will become a Christmas classic, at the very least, in my P.O.-loving household.”
Lake: Season’s Greetings is a wonderful piece of DLC for an already incredible game. Not only is there joy to be found in simply exploring Providence Oaks, but Gamious has put in a significant amount of effort to ensure that your return is time well spent. From the gorgeous winter theming to the creative and masterfully crafted narrative that parallels the base game, Season’s Greetings proves to be a genuinely heartwarming and interesting experience.
For the incredibly low price of $9.99, Lake: Season’s Greetings is absolutely worth it, especially if you were a fan of the base game. It’s a beautifully written and wonderfully directed video game that I suspect will become a Christmas classic, at the very least, in my P.O.-loving household.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC; code was provided by publisher.
Lake: Season's Greetings Review
Lake: Season's Greetings is a wholesome piece of DLC that examines the themes, characters and world established in the base game through a unique perspective. It's story is rich and layered, offering an interesting insight into the impermanence of time, and its gameplay continues to be phenomenal, albeit without much innovation. While I encountered a few bugs, it wasn't enough to ruin the gorgeous visual overhaul the game has received. If you're looking for a cozy Christmas-themed experience, or are a big fan of Lake, then this is absolutely for you.