Developer: Thunder Lotus
Publisher: Thunder Lotus
Platforms: Switch, Steam, PS4, Xbox One
When Nintendo shadow dropped 6 (count em SIX) titles this week during the Indie World, it was going to be hard to decide which of them to tackle first. But this one definitely spoke to me unlike any of the others. Spiritfarer is probably one of the most heartfelt, most pure games I have ever played that was a metaphor about death.
You play as Stella who has been appointed as the new “Spiritfarer”, a modern retelling of Greek Mythology and the River Styx. According to legend, Charon would ferry souls across the river who had fare with them at their passing. Payment was provided by a coin placed in the person’s mouth at their burial. This game opens up though with Charon declaring to you his retirement and your cat Daffodil rummaging through his robes.
You acquire a large boat of your own and picking up lost souls to join you on your journey through the afterlife, all of who are represented by giant animals, from there you can navigate across the sea and expand your boat. The game promotes itself as “a cozy management game about dying”. As you are constantly attending to your passenger’s wants and needs, these could be something like hunger or having their own place or something as simple as a hug.
The world is full of little islands to explore, some are full-on towns, while others are simple places full of materials to gather, you will need to gather all the wood, minerals and food you can carry as you will constantly be making upgrades and building new sections to your ship. Like a kitchen to prepare everyone’s meals, to which all your passengers will have various likes and dislikes, expect the frog who will just eat anything. Setting up Gardens to grown vegetables and seeds and places that will take care of all the wood, metal and fabric you come across
I will say that Spiritfarer’s art style and 2D sprite animations is probably the best I have ever seen in a video game, where every motion you make, every hug, every strike with your pick ake is amazingly fluid, but sometimes it can be a bit frustrating, as the game plays a lot in real-time so having to go through the whole saw animation to cut down a tree can be annoying. The game also has you travel to each destination in real-time, this gives you more time to attend to everyone’s needs, rearrange the buildings and do fishing, like…..a lot of fishing.
The comparisons with a certain other title that came out this year are obvious from the start, while it can prove daunting at first very soon you find yourself getting into a real groove attending to everybody’s needs and planning out where you are going next. The game really does play like a condensed version of New Horizion with a truly relaxing ambient soundtrack making you just want to sit back and watch the waves go by. While your passengers will get hungry and whinge at you to build them their own place, this is no way to fail in this game with the creators wanting you to take it all at your own pace.
You get to discover the stories of those who join you on your boat, a journey that sadly has to eventually end. It can be truly devastating after spending all that time getting to know them, feeding and hugging them that they will eventually move on, leaving behind a single flower and an empty room.
But as Dr Seuss once said “Don’t Cry Because It’s Over, Smile Because It Happened.”, there is something truly magical about Spiritfarer, it is very easy to just while away the hours. Although there were times I felt completely lost on how to progress next, like needing a certain type of wood or mineral with no way to find it and being unable to afford a necessary upgrade to the boat to progress further. But it is during these moments that you take a breath and you are able to find the solution.
You will find yourself coming back to the game over and over again, just to spend time with everybody and explore the islands. The lack of any kind of rush or failure allows for a serious relaxed approach that I can definitely appreciate at the moment. There are also some truly entertaining moments like catching lightning in a bottle during a storm, musical mini-games to help your plants grow or saving a giant serpent by driving a pickaxe into their skull.
I wish my time with Spiritfarer could have been longer, but like in the game, everything must come to an end…..and that’s ok.
Played on Steam
The founder and Editor in Chief of UnboxedTV. Nintendo lover and not afraid to admit it, can always go for a good Indie Metroidvania with a nice cold Cider.