(Available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One , Nintendo Switch, PC)
(Nintendo Switch version used for review)
Spiritfarer is a management sim with a very interesting story and setting developed by indie developer studio Thunder Lotus Games. I’ve had my eye on it since the Xbox press conference reveal at last years E3 when I saw the hand drawn animation art style and nautical island hopping setting not knowing too much about the game but after a year of not much information it was dropped onto all platforms after the last Nintendo Indie Showcase. The game has you play as Stella, and her cat Daffodil if you play with 2 players (side note: 2 players come on automatically if you have a second controller connected). Stella is has been tasked by a ferryman to become the new Spiritfarer who sails the oceans on her ferry which you have to customise to deliver Spirits to the afterlife and along the way she will hear of their problems in life and how they come to terms with their death fulfilling their requests by making a homes for them, cooking a meal they loved in life, reuniting them with memories or loved ones that also passed on etc. the game has you sailing to various islands to do a verity of tasks and platforming in order to gain resources to build or cook and on route you will build facilities to harness those resources such as a kitchen for cooking, a sawmill to refine logs into planks, a loom to make fabric from the linen and wool you get the idea and of course most things can upgraded by yourself or Albert the Shipwright. I would say if management sims aren’t your thing this won’t be for you however I’m not the biggest fan of them and I found myself loosing hours on it. I think the personal stories of the cast of characters really solidified it, by having each of their stories to experience and learning what food makes them happy and when is the time they need a hug I really connected with them and had a real sense of wanting to get each task done and enjoying the peacefulness of the routines as I sailed from island to island.
- Graphics and art style: like I said Spiritfarer reflects the style of hand drawn animation production and it is possibly one of the best looking indie games in a while. From the backgrounds to the various islands and the characters who are all represented as literal spirit animals the art style and design is simply amazing and very fluidly animated. characters are very expressive and move seamlessly so it’s easy to see how they are feeling in certain moments and have them move about the ship. This especially helps with Stella who doesn’t have any dialogue but is very expressive so she still feels like a fully fledged character. I also loved the design of the ship no matter how ridiculous it looked by the time I made 3 stories tall by staking so many thing on it. this game really works with it’s look and I really think it’ll stand out amongst many indie and it can be joy just to watch the world go by as you’re sailing
- Gameplay: both the platforming and management sim side of the gameplay is well handled. The platforming controls well and I only ran into issues when trying to jump down in the lighting catching mini game. most of what you’re doing is resource gathering as part of the management sim, build a kitchen to make food, a sawmill to make planks from the tree logs you gather on certain islands, planting fruit an veg seeds to grow ingredients. Rather like the effect you get from Animal Crossing the routine becomes really relaxing. I was losing myself in working to gain resources to help fill out each quest line of each character. it is also a really long time with the average time in the game being around 30 hours though that number shoots up for competionist by about 10 hours. The best way I’d describe the game as an experience game, there’s not much jepordy to tasks, you can’t fail platorming and you cant overcook something for example but this is not an indictment because the enjoyment comes from the exploration and company with all the characters and going through the excellent story and the gameplay is great for experiencing it.
- The story and characters: the themes of the game surround Death, acceptance and learning to value the life you have. It all sounds rather sombre but I actually found it to be an uplifting game. the game does a good job of making you care about the characters and their lives such as Stella’s best friend Gwen who has a troubled backstory, or her uncle Atul that uses food to bring back his most precious memories of his family and friends and each of the characters fell well rounded because of their tastes and quirks. For example you could have a character that prefers exotic or old fashioned food or someone who won’t eat meat and making them happy brings real joy. It meant the inevitable crossover to the afterlife was genuinely emotional and it was sad to think I wasn’t going to see them again even with the knowledge they were at peace which is a hell of an achievement for a storyteller.it’s also not an entirely family friendly story and tackles quite mature issue such as Alzheimer’s and cancer
- exploration: I really was overjoyed of exploring the map and finding all these interesting and quirky islands whether they be beauty spots, village, lighthouses or even a museum each one would give me sense of wonder as to what I was going to experience. I even enjoyed the trips and just taking the world in as day turned to sunset and eventually night whilst I got crates from sunken ships or met up with the traveling salesman
- soundtrack: the soundtrack is excellent from start to finish. It’s very atmospheric and suits the enviroments and can even bring out the emotion in some scences. It also has the excellent theme song “What We’ll leave Behind” which appeared in the indie world trailer
- Not much replay value: this isn’t really an issue because Spiritfarer is an experience game which don’t often lend themselves to a lot of replay but after you’ve finished the story you won’t really have much reason to go back since you can’t do much different. so, I’d recommend if you want to do 100% do it on your first playthrough and have a couple of guides for the late game for the last few bits and bobs
- Only one save file: I was hoping to stream this game on my YouTube channel but with it only having one save file per playthrough it meant that you better create multiple profiles on your console if anyone that uses that uses the console wants to play as well.
- Ran into technical issues: this was the biggest problem. I ran into quite a few issues including one time when the game crashed. This seemed to be when the game was handling multiple things or I triggered a conversation at the wrong time which would stop me from being able to go into the room to move the ship or would not let me trigger an event I needed to and triggered way more towards the end of the game. now these were mostly solve by selecting save and quit and then restarting the game but I t bear mention and I’m hoping thunderlotus games will patch the game for better performance. I also as pointed out have only played the Switch version so this may not apply to the PS4, X Box One or PC versions. Also I want to point out if you have a second controller on and the cat isn’t moving with you that’s because the second controller automatically turns on co-op which is slightly annoying.
Spiritfarer is the best Indie game I’ve played this year and is a joyous experience that I lost hours playing. I seriously kept going with each time saying just one more thing then I’ll stop only to have played for 2 more hours, that’s how addictive it was. it brings you a really relaxing routine which gives you a very excellent story that maturely tackles life and death that doesn’t feel sombre but does really deliver on character and emotion and really delivers the “feels”. It also is one of the best looking indie games in recent memory with it having it’s own brilliant style. This game made me proper happy though it loses points for technical issue I hope get worked out. you absolutely have to experience this game this has been one of my favourites this year
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