STORIES THAT ENCHANT THE MIND
Spiritfarer Review: A Peaceful Journey in Purgatory
Spiritfarer from Thunder Lotus Games . . .
To describe Spiritfarer as modal experience would be doing both the game and us a disservice. It’s a game where you ferry spirits towards the afterlife. It’s a game where you grow crops. It’s a game where you build. Modular would probably be the more accurate word. A modular gaming experience where all its piecemeal aspects blended together in complete harmony.
There’s a lot to love about this excellently crafted take on the mythological ferryman to the underworld. You’re Stella, a newly minted Spiritfarer who’s had the torch passed to her by her predecessor, Charron.
This opening scene offers up a juxtaposition that sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the game. The black-hooded figure we associate with death bestows the responsibility of ferrying spirits to a young girl with brightly colored clothes. It tells us that death doesn’t have to be a grim and ugly experience. There is peace to be found between leaving our mortal coil and walking into the light.
What will you leave behind . . ?
With spiritfaring powers granted and feline companion – Daffodil – in tow, you and Stella set sail to find souls to help ease them into whatever lies the great beyond. Along the way, there will be a lot of building, cooking, chatting and, yes, even hugging. Your ferry will change in many ways as you sail across the seas of purgatory.
It will expand in size through upgrades and it will be populated by guest rooms, a kitchen, gardens and farms, as well as spirit lodgings and other facilities. As you build and stack these rooms in your own creative way, you’ll slowly increase the amount of management work that needs to be done.
“Life is for the living. Death is for the dead. Let life be like music. And death a note unsaid.”
Being a Spiritfarer isn’t an easy task.
Spirits have their own likes and dislikes when it comes to food, for instance, so cooking them appropriate meals keeps them happy. All the while, you’ll have to gather materials, ingredients and other resources.
Thankfully, doing so isn’t as tedious as you’d expect. Every resource gathering opportunity feels like its own little mini-game, each one a perfectly slotted puzzle piece that makes up the whole of Spiritfarer’s unique sandbox. Fishing, which you’ll do a lot to pass the time between destinations, has you reel in your catch by holding down and letting go of a button to build up and relieve your pole’s tension.
Chopping down trees is a horizontal saw mini-simulator where you back-and-forth on your directional controls. There’s even gathering lightning in bottles during thunderstorms in sequences that feel intense enough to be satisfying but not nerve-wracking. All of this wrapped in a gorgeously hand-drawn packaging.
Without a doubt, Spiritfarer’s presentation is one of its strongest points. Every movement is meticulously animated, filling each character and moment with personality.
There’s a degree of bliss and harmony to be found by just looking at the game’s vibrant color palette that fills up the intricate, quirky character designs. Engrossing yourself in its near sublime visual presentation, coupled with a relaxing musical score, you’ll find yourself filled with calming vibes.
And this is where Spiritfarer’s true strength lies. There’s no pressure to achieve a particular outcome. No fail state to push you to play better. No enemies and bosses to fight. It’s just you, your ferry and the camaraderie you have with your spirits who are just hitching a ride to reflect on their lives and enjoy a few moments of pure peace before their final destination.
In some ways, Spiritfarer is a gaming metaphor for life. It’s shortlived and we should savor it while we can, enjoying its peaks and accepting its troughs along the way.
Your spirits, just like the people around you, will eventually have the last meal you’ll cook for them and a final hug to send them off towards whatever lies beyond the Evergate. But what will always remain are the memories you built together along the way.
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Yannis is a veteran gamer with over 25 years of experience across the spectrum of genres. He enjoys spending time with his family, livestreaming on Twitch and occasionally dishing out unsolicited dad advice. Also catch him on IG.