Genre: Indie, Adventure, Simulation
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One)
Developers | Publishers: Thunder Lotus Games
Age Rating: EU 12+ | US T
Price: EU €24,99 | USD $29.99 | UK £23.79
Release Date: August 18th 2020
No review code used as I purchased the game myself
Spiritfarer by Thunder Lotus Games made its debut during the Nintendo Indie World Showcase, and watching the showcase I was intrigued by the story and theme of the game.
A Mix of Genres
If you think about it we as gamers face death in some form nearly every day of our gaming lives throughout our gameplay, you’re either killing an enemy in the latest adventure game or your character has died numerous times during a platform game.
Spiritfarer looks at death and the departing, exploring the emotions around death, crossed with simulation management and a little adventuring. No wonder I was intrigued, it’s a premise I just had to explore.
Stella and Daffodil
You play as Stella, a young woman who is tasked with taking over the role of Charon as a Ferrier and guide to departed souls. Charon passes the Everlight to Stella and tells her… ”It will be the light that shines in the darkness, the last remaining hope of the departed”. In other words, it’s a magical symbol of status and the only tool Stella will need. The Everlight has the ability to transform into any number of tools and is used to power Stella’s boat.
Stella and her cat Daffodil sail the seas on a hand-me-down boat picking up lost spirits in the shape of anthropomorphic animals. Along the way, you’ll progress each spirit’s strand of quests. They’ll open up to you about their life, their worries, their regrets and find peace. And eventually, you will see them off on their final journey through the Everdoor.
All that may sound a tad heavy for a video game, and yes there are moments when you might feel a little sad as you do grow to care about some of the characters and their well-being. However, Spiritfarer deals with the subject matter in a heartfelt and thoughtful manner, peppered with instances of humour.
As Stella you’ll cook, farm, garden, fish, and craft using the resources you’ll have picked up on the many islands on the map. You’ll also upgrade your ship and the buildings that are on it. And dole out hugs to those that need them, including Daffodil the cat who can be petted and hugged, it’s all very heartwarming and sweet.
All the spirits you pick up have their own personalities and traits and they all live with you on the boat. From the stylish and snobbish Gwen, in the shape of an elegant deer who is your childhood friend. To your Uncle Atul, a cheerful and exuberant fat purple frog. You’ll meet characters who you instantly like to ones you’re not too fond of, which is pretty much the same as in real life.
You will need to feed them their favourite meals and build a unique house for them, and then at times, they will ask you to take them to certain places from their past so that they can resolve issues that haunted them throughout their life. And finally, they will ask you to take them to the Everdoor where they will say their last goodbyes and with a final hug from Stella, they will be on their way.
Some of these partings at the Everdoor can be sad, but for the most part, they are uplifting as you feel like you have accomplished something by helping them on their way. Throughout it, all Stella herself is constantly optimistic and happy as treats everyone with kindness.
Crafting Mini Games
Some elements of the game are very simple, like the crafting, done through mini-games. Your crops and plants just need watering every now and then and cooking is just a timer, you can’t burn anything. Building structures on the boat is a breeze and has a very simple menu to follow. You can also rearrange the buildings on the boat at any time or upgrade the houses that the spirits request.
Your boat is ever growing as you take each spirit on board and adding buildings get more complex. After each spirit has departed through the Everdoor they are not forgotten as their home remains on your boat leaving a permanent reminder of them and their memories.
Another mini-game is catching lightning in bottles, as a storm passes over the boat Stella can jump around on the roofs of the buildings on the boat and catch lightning bolts in a bottle, it’s a fun mini-game which breaks up the crafting and looking after the spirits on the boat and keeps the game fresh.
There are plenty of islands for Stella and Daffodil to collect resources on or cut down trees and go mining for ore. Daffodil helps Stella cut down trees, in fact, Daffodil lets you play the game in local co-op, with player two controlling Stella’s cat and helping out with crafting minigames.
On some of the islands, Stella will find mysterious shrines that give Stella and Daffodil new platforming skills such as glide and double jump. While there are areas that offer a few sections of platforming it’s a simple form of platforming and it shouldn’t put you off from playing Spirtfarer if you don’t like platform games.
While it can feel like there’s a lot going on all at once that needs your attention, it’s all very easy to deal with in your own time. Spiritfarer is a game without any pressure to progress until you want to, there are no timers on any of the activities and it all makes for a very chill gaming session.
New elements are added into the game often, and this helps to keep the gameplay interesting throughout the 25+ hours or so it takes to complete the game. The map is quite big with lots to discover, such as the three giant Tuttle sisters that act as farms for wood and minerals, to the four dragons who can be harvested for their respective materials.
Visuals and Controls
I love the visual style of Spiritfarer, with its 2D minimalistic look with muted and bright pastel colours throughout the game. With gorgeous sunsets and amazing lighting effects during the lighting bolt mini-game. Everything is so detailed!
The animation and movements of the spirits and Stella herself are all very lifelike. Stella has a range of emotions that show in her face during chats with the spirits and these really bring her to life.
Writing is heartfelt, bittersweet, poignant and joyful, all rolled into one. All is backed up with an amazing soundtrack, full of relaxing atmospheric music that is subtle when it needs to be such as the ethereal piano music as you say your farewell at the Everdoor. I suggest once you have played the game, sit back with your headphones on and check out the full soundtrack on YouTube. You’ll be in for a treat.
It should be noted that while this game is rated a 12+ in the EU there are some instances of mild cursing and some minor adult themes, but nothing too major.
Spiritfarer is controlled by the joy-cons and it all works as it should. The game does have a few little stutters in frame-rate, these seem to happen later in the game or when Stella’s boat is quite full of buildings, however, it’s not game-breaking and at times it’s hardly noticeable.
Spiritfarer is a positive look at death as all the characters make peace with both their life and death in their own time The characters are charming, all have depth with stories to tell.
While some mini-games may feel tedious the more you do them, there are plenty of other tasks in the game to balance this out.
Playing Spiritfarer at this particular time in the mad and crazy world we live in is something everyone should do. As well as being entertaining and enjoyable to play Spiritfarer is hopeful, comforting, and positive and certainly big on delivering the ”feels”!
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up