As soon as I could I could move in Spiritfarer , the first thing I wanted to do was jump. I did, and to my surprise, it felt great. Looking at this masterpiece coming to life, I wanted to feel the whimsical animation jump off the screen feeling like I was Stella, Spiritfarer’s protagonist. Thunder Lotus Games, creators of Jotun and Sundered, are known for their Mayazaki-esque animation, but I found the movement in Sundered to be a little imprecise. Unlike Sundered, every time I missed a jump or didn’t quite reach a spot in Spiritfarer, I felt like it was my doing and I just needed to pick myself up and try again.
Making Friends To Help Them Make Amends
Spiritfarer has you playing as Stella, a curious young girl, that sets out on a seafaring adventure on a cozy boat that eventually grows to be a colossal vessel like that of a cruise ship. Unlike most cruises however, everyone on board is a delight and the food’s much better. As you sail around to different locales on your adventure, you meet different animals along the way that all feel like real people we’ve either met or will one day meet, and even say goodbye to someday.
What makes the friends you make in Spiritfarer feel so real is that when you have to say goodbye, you feel like you really need to. Some characters opine about the life they’ve had and how they’re ready to go, even growing frustrated if you delay taking them to their destination. Others are apprehensive about moving away from the boat they’ve become so attached to, but it becomes clear this is something you need to do for them; to make them better and fulfil their desire, whether they may realize it or not.
It’s Not Just Moving, It’s Dancing
Throughout Stella’s journey, you unlock new ways to move around the world and each of them allow you to discover characters, stories, and items. These vary from important story progression to minor, but each touch details about the world of Spiritfarer. Every new mobility option makes the game feel even more dream-like and reaches beyond the possibilities of a two dimensional space that I’d imagined as a fan of platformers. It’s not just jumping, it’s dancing. That’s the elegance of Spiritfarer; that it feels unique in distinct ways and in each of those ways, there is something beautiful.
Every Minigame Is Great
To say that Spiritfarer is handcrafted wouldn’t be a surprising statement, nor an original one, but each movement in Spiritfarer feels precise. Every crafting minigame, the fishing, the cooking, etc. feel like they were not only given thought as to how they make the player feel when doing them in terms of comfort or frustration, but how these things would actually feel to do and how that would add to the experience. Using the Loom to make silk, there’s a small triangular piece that zips across the top quickly, but on the way there’s a sliver of gold and if I stopped in that area, I could produce more silk than if I had just let the piece reach the end.
The real magic of Spiritfarer though is that even when I didn’t hit it, there was no sense of failure; just a sense that everything will be okay even if I had to go back and get more of that material; and I needed /so many/ materials. Spiritfarer requires intimate knowledge of each system (sawmill, kitchen, foundry, garden, field, orchard, crusher, smithy, loom, windmill, cellar, chicken coop, cow stall) to finish each quest in the game. In the mornings I would panic, running around trying to feed each of my guests breakfast while also managing the livestock and agriculture, but after some time, it became clear that each of the minigames were designed so well, that after some time, I was not thinking about it at all.
May You Sing To Your Plants Beautifully
The best of these is the garden, orchard and field (which are the same minigame). It’s not technically required as things will grow on their own, but you can play guitar for budding seeds with a rhythm game that plays a beautiful song to help the seeds grow much faster. If you play long enough, you can get anything planted to be fully grown by the next day. For what it’s worth, I never got tired of the song that Stella plays; it’s short, but beautiful, and my wife and I still talk about how good it is sometimes.
If this seems at all like a downside, the main story can be completed without all of these, but I highly recommend exploring every inch of Spiritfarer’s vastness. It was more than worth it. All this chaos, all these systems were a cocktail of stress and bliss; I was in a flow state on the ocean, on my cruise ship, on a journey to another destination that would surely awe me.
May We Never Meet Again
Spiritfarer is about saying goodbye; not only to those we love, but the experience of our life as a whole with no specific person in mind; yet at the end of it all, it was me that had to say goodbye to Spiritfarer. It’s a worthwhile journey, but also a devastating one and the fact is that I can’t play Spiritfarer again. I suppose technically, I’m capable of it, but it made me feel the sorrow of death with some well-written code and heartbreaking prose. I cried because I never got closure from a frog that will eat anything; and because a water buffalo refused to hug me for weeks, but then finally gave in.
I became unhealthily attached to a mushroom who loves french fries and the harsh truth of it is that I miss him so god damn much.
I love you, Stanley. Hang in there.
Oh, yeah… and you should play Spiritfarer.