By Michael Fontanini / September 21st, 2020
|Developer||Thunder Lotus Games|
|Publisher||Thunder Lotus Games|
|Release Date||August 18th, 2020|
|Genre||Adventure, Indie, Simulation|
|Platform||PC (Steam), Xbox One, Switch, PlayStation 4|
|Age Rating||ESRB: T for Teen|
Spiritfarer sees a young girl named Stella suddenly thrust into the roll of the next Spiritfarer. This means she now bears the mantle of helping lost souls and guiding them to the Everdoor when they decide they are ready to pass on. Charon, the previous Spiritfarer, is about to go through the Everdoor himself, so he must now pass on the torch to a new Spiritfarer. As a result, Stella sets out on a relaxing and touching adventure, meeting various spirits along the way. Some are people she knows, and some are not. Are you ready to set sail in a moving open world tale about death?
Charon, the previous Spiritfarer, gives Stella an artifact called the Everlight. It identifies her as the Spiritfarer, and gives her some special abilities, like using energy as if it were a physical tool. Charon gives Stella an introduction, and a brief idea of what’s going on. It’s almost time for him to go, but first he introduces her to the Everdoor before he passes through it. This large arch is the doorway where lost souls can pass on from this strange world somewhere between life and death. Upon entering the arch, a spirit will rise into the air and be enveloped in a bright light, as they disappear from this world.
Stella’s first order of business is to get a boat. Luckily it’s not long before she finds one, while meeting her first lost soul, Gwen. This spirit happens to be someone Stella knows, and she will help the new Spiritfarer get on her feet. As her adventure unfolds, you can upgrade the ship numerous times to make it bigger. This is important because you’ll need more room for the buildings you need to construct on it. They range from houses to crafting areas and farms. For example, the kitchen lets you cook, and there are many recipes to uncover in the game. You can also craft several types of thread and fabric at the loom, or smelt various ingots at the foundry. Each of these requires her to collect the resources needed to build or craft them. Some buildings can be improved later.
There are quite a few different materials to collect in Spiritfarer, including several types of wood, various ores, numerous food ingredients, and even rare artifacts Stella can sell for some extra money. She can also unlock new outfits to wear once she gets into her adventure a bit. Stella can also sit behind the cabin on the ship to do some fishing. There are lots of types of fish to catch, which vary from area to area in the game world. Some are a lot tougher to reel in than others.
Each spirit will take on its true form when you welcome it onto your ship, transforming from a generic spirit form into an animal form in most cases. Each spirit has a mood, which can be influenced by multiple factors. These include whether they’ve eaten recently, or whether they’ve been hugged recently. Giving each spirit their favorite food improves their mood more than other foods. You can also improve their mood by constructing improvements for their house (of which there are usually three). Each spirit has their own unique house that you’ll need to build on the ship once you are given the blueprint for it. Some spirits also have mini games associated with them, which are how you get certain special materials like Bright Jelly, or Lightning in a Bottle. You can only play a mini game when you go to a location at sea that has the corresponding resource. These games are fun little diversions that take place on your ship, and can earn you both the resource in question and money. For example, Bright Jelly is gotten by jumping around to grab glowing insects flying over your ship in its mini game.
Some parts of the world cannot be reached until the ship has certain upgrades. For example, Stella cannot enter the icy areas until the ship is equipped with an icebreaker. Stella can sail wherever she wants at any time, with the exception of natural barriers like this. There are only three types of these barriers in the world, so they don’t limit you too much. However, the ship is not the only thing that can get upgraded. Stella herself can also be upgraded with new abilities. There are a few special shrines scattered across the world. You’ll generally need two obols (a sort of currency) to activate each shrine, and these are usually gotten from helping spirits. The shrines can give you new abilities like double jumping and riding on cables.
The gameplay in Spiritfarer is very peaceful and relaxing. There aren’t really enemies in the game, as its more about resource management and crafting. In the Steam version, you can play using mouse and keyboard, or a gamepad. I’ve been using an Xbox One controller. You can see the controls in the following image. One issue is that the game often gives you blueprints you can’t use yet, because they often require materials the player hasn’t even encountered. This creates a feeling that you’re frequently walled off from doing what the game is telling you to do at that moment. It’s a minor problem, and hard to solve since this game is an open world adventure. Probably the one major flaw is that the pacing is too slow, so the game feels like it is artificially dragging itself out longer than it really should be. This is in part since a number of things take longer than they need to, and so by the time you are in the late game, some repetitive tasks have long since started to feel a bit tedious. This could’ve been helped by speeding up the slowest crafting recipes and having the speed upgrades for the ship all unlock sooner. There are also a few parts where you may find yourself stuck in terms of what to do next, but there’s always the helpful internet if you get too stuck.
The game is filled to the brim with gorgeous hand-drawn art, that adds to the relaxing nature of Stella’s adventure. The graphics are vibrant and colorful, and you’ll never get tired of looking at them. The end result is lush environments that are fun to explore. While each island is relatively small, there are a few that are a bit larger. Even at sea, you’ll see beautiful sunbeams created by clouds at sunrise/sunset, and stunning meteor showers in certain areas (which are one of the previously mentioned mini games). Spiritfarer also has a very nice, emotional (but not sappy) soundtrack, and the sound effects are also high quality.
Spiritfarer is a fun little game, and it will keep you busy for quite a while. I’ve been playing for over 30 hours, and that’s not 100% completion of everything in the game. It tells a touching tale about death, but does so while not being sappy. The game also features a number of Steam achievements. Overall, it’s still a pretty good game, though. Spiritfarer is available on Steam (and other platforms) for $29.99. Can you help all of the lost souls pass on and reach the end of your own story?
Review copy provided by publisher.
SpiritfarerSteamThunder Lotus Games