|Genre:||Action / Management Sim|
|Developer:||Thunder Lotus Games|
|Publisher:||Thunder Lotus Games|
|Releasedate:||August 18th 2018|
People who follow my blog know I’m an avid gamer and the types of games I enjoy most are narrative driven ones, or ones that offer strategic puzzles to solve (like most JRPGs). When I first heard about Spiritfarer I was quite intrigued by the premise: “a cozy game about death”. Sounds fun, right? Not too long ago the game came back on my radar with the release of the game’s final free update on December 13, 2021. The version I was gifted by Bren was the Farewell Edition, which features all of the game’s updates and offes the full Spiritfarer experience. I was really excited to start my journey after reading about the game on quite a few occasions! So, how wel does Spiritfare fare?
Gameplay & Graphics
One of the things I absolutely love about Spiritfarer are the hand-drawn graphics. The game just looks fabulous and the animations of all the characters are smooth and have a bit of a Gimli quality about them. Controlling Stella is smooth and the controls are pretty easy to master and this is one of Spiritfarer’s strong suits. The game feels very fluid. Another thing that many people who just want a casual experience will like about the game is that there are no “lives” and you will never see a Game Over screen, at least not until you’ll see the credits rolling. To me, this was a welcome change from all of the hard games I’ve been playing lately. That is not to say that Spiritfarer is not a hard game, but not in the sense of the difficulty of the gameplay, but rather the hard pills you might have to swallow when you guide spirits to the Everdoor, so they can finally rest in peace.
The gameplay hook of Spiritfarer is that you’re in charge of guiding spirits to the afterlife. You have a boat, which you can continuously upgrade with new facilities and rooms for your guests and as you continue your journey, you’ll be able to visit more locations on the world map, who will offer resources and many NPCs you can talk to. Several of these are (eventually) willing to join you aboard your vessel and they’ll have you perform all kinds of tasks so they can finally find peace. The Farewell Edition features a total of 14 spirits, each with their own background story for you to discover.
Gameplay is divided between completing requests for the spirits you host on your boat and expanding your boat with upgrades, farming materials and crafting. This mix between these two main activities is a very nice one and planning how your boat is filled out can be quite a puzzle when you can’t afford the next size upgrade. As you meet more spirits, the amount of farmable resources increases and most of these involve heading off to certain spots on the map, like thunderstorms, meteor showers, etc and then doing a mini-game in which you attempt to collect as much of the resources as you can. While never really taxing, it can sometimes be hard to collect enough resources you require and you’ll have to start over again.
One thing that eventually bothered me about the game was how much areas were gated behind upgrades. For instance, you needed the icebreaker and lamp in order to break the ice barrier, or enter misty areas of the game. The problem for me was that there were a lot of upgrades with resources I had yet to gather and they were out of reach because I hadn’t met the right spirit yet, who allowed me to collect said resources. I had to consult online guides a few times, because I was stuck too. Although the game sort of tells you were to go, and wants you to explore all the in-game locations, sometimes certain parts of new areas are out of reach because Stella doesn’t have the required skill yet to reach them. So, you had to remember where to backtrack. This is something I’m used to from Metroidvania types of games, but it did become a bit bothersome at some point, where I was just heading off to places, collecting resources and just waiting until I finally managed to get there. Of course, there’s plenty to do while travelling, like cooking, fishing, managing your boat and keeping your spirits happy. But at some point this did become a bit too repetitive for my taste. Especially towards the end of the game, when I had all the upgrades and had nearly escorted all the spirits to their final destination. This may seem like a big drawback of the game, but it’s mostly just a precaution, should you want to play the game yourself.
Music, story and atmosphere
The soundtrack for this game was composed by Max L.L. and it’s one of those soundtracks that is so beautifully crafted that I just had to add it to my Spotify library. Even weeks after completing the game I keep putting it on every now and then. The main theme of Spiritfarer comes back often in the other compositions and is very catchy and definitely a tune that you will whistle unconsciously, even when not playing the game. The music really adds an emotional layer to the game and does an admirable job of setting the right atmosphere for the game.
Spiritfarer is a story driven game and most of the game is all about finding out about the lives of the spirits you’re guiding to the Everdoor. In the meantime you’ll be discovering a lot about the player character Stella and her cat Daffodil and how she relates to the spirits. A lot of information is divulged through conversations, but the game doesn’t explain everything and wants you to connect the dots as well. At the very start of the game Stella meets Charon, the original spiritfarer who tells you that his time has come to pass the baton over to you. And that’s where your adventure in this strange new world starts.
As stated before, the game is about dying and death, but that doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom. The game is also very much about life and what it means to be human. The beauty of the game lies in the fact that every spirit has their own story to tell and they all have different views on life and what it means to live a good life. At the same time, the game also shows you how unfair life can be and how some people waste their lives, while others strive to be the best in all that they do, yet we all share that one thing. We all have to die at some point.
The overall arching story is about Stella and piecing together who she really is and why exactly she is now ferrying others to the Everdoor. I just wanted to keep playing to find out more bits of info and when I finally brought my first spirit to the Everdoor Bren handed me the tissues, because I was really sad and moved by the game’s story. Not all spirits are going to have the same emotional impact on the player and I definitely had some I really cared for and others I really hated. I suppose that it was meant to be like that, seeing as you’ll always be drawn to specific types of characters as a player. But overall, this is one of those games I’d really recommend playing at least once, because it tells a really good story!
Spiritfarer is quite a unique game and I loved almost every minute of playing it. As I said before, the game tends to become a bit repetitive on the farming and crafting stuff and having to go back and forth between locations to get specific materials. But it tells a truly unique story that I haven’t seen in any other videogame and I have played a lot of them!
I managed to finish the game with a 100% completion rate in about 65 hours and if I may believe howlongtobeat.com that’s a leisurely speed for 100% completion. But that is kind of the point of this game in the first place. It’s meant to be a relaxing experience, without pressure or overly difficult platform elements. It’s meant to offer a good story with fun gameplay elements and in that regard, I can’t stop recommending this game and why I give it such a high score!
Jeffrey, Your review of Spiritfarer is so thorough. I read it closely. I was surprised that it was about death & a journey in a vessel. The music that I sampled seemed classical. And I was moved that the game affected your so when you said, “Everdoor Bren handed me the tissues, because I was really sad and moved by the game’s story.” Your review does justice to gamers interested to play Spiritfarer. –Well done! Phil
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