Tuesday, 1 September 2020

SPIRITFARER: REVIEW

SPIRITFARER: REVIEW

When you go through the next game for the sake of review, you are determined with the assessment already after a few hours - all you have to do is find out if the outcome is successful if the game ends too quickly and if it turns into something terrible closer to the final. Often times, fears are not in vain, and a good project really disappoints after a great start. In very rare cases, the game is delightful from the first moments, and after that it gets better and better, regularly throwing surprises and not losing its charm for a minute. Spiritfarer belongs to the latter category - for over 30 hours it has remained one of the coziest and soulful entertainments of recent years.

Work friends

Spiritfarer begins by meeting Charon. The local version of him does almost the same thing as his namesake from Greek myths - transports the souls of the dead across the river. Charon is forced to leave his post and appoints a girl Stella as a new ferryman - she will have to visit the islands, look for lost spirits, and at some point take them to the eternal gates since they cannot make this transition on their own. But first, she will have to get to know the spirits better and fulfill their last desires - only after that, they will be ready to finally leave this world.

Developers call Spiritfarer “A cozy game about death", but in fact, the topics are much broader. This is a story about goodbye to close friends. About what different lives these people lived and how different their last desires are. What parting words they can give before they disappear forever. Finally, what will remain after them, including their favorite things and related memories?

Stella quickly acquires her own ship, on which she will travel across a large map using the navigator in her cabin. She meets the first spirit, then the second, the third - all of them were once people, but their souls appear before us in the images of animals. They are completely different: someone romantic, someone thoughtful, someone boorish or good-natured - they are all wonderfully drawn and beautifully animated, it is interesting to communicate with everyone, learning about their past.

Each passenger issue tasks, which are sometimes associated with the construction of some premises or objects on the ship. One, for example, asks to create a drawing table and use it to build a guest house and a kitchen. Others will want a sheepfold, vegetable garden, orchard, or sawmill. Many of these buildings will be useful in the future - with their help it will be possible to grow something or get new resources. The spirits and their own separate houses (which also have to be decorated from the inside) wish - not everyone is comfortable huddling in the guest house.

For these assignments, rewards are not given in the usual sense - there is no filling experience scale, and nothing falls into the inventory. But you open up access to new locations where you can find a lot of interesting things, or you start getting a new resource. At some point, half of the tasks on my list required the presence of aluminum ingots, but we couldn't even get aluminum ore anywhere - it turned out that we needed to go through another quest line, without which progress is impossible. Usually, several tasks are available at the same time, including small side tasks, which seem to be optional and are located on islands not related to the plot, but still, it is difficult to ignore them - you want to get everything from the game.

Everything is as it should

In Spiritfarer perfectly combines several genres. There is a farm element here - in the field, in the garden, and in the vegetable garden, you plant seeds, water them regularly and harvest. There is a piece of Metroidvania - for inviting spirits to the ship you get a special currency, for which you can acquire new skills like planning after a jump.

The process of placing buildings on the ship so that they fit within the specified area can be compared to a puzzle - all buildings have different shapes, and you want to place important places, like the kitchen, closer to the deck so as not to run back and forth. It's funny to see how, when you try to move a structure, the game automatically "connects" it to the house under it using stairs. And sometimes it even slightly changes its appearance, as happens with a mill, which loses its pretty top when it is attached to another building.

When indie developers create such ambitious projects, often something goes wrong, some element does not work perfectly. There is practically nothing to find fault with. Even the platform is implemented great - the character is easy to control, and there are no difficulties with the use of his skills. Most impressively, almost every resource crafting action comes with a unique mini-game. To turn logs into planks, you move the saw blade according to the line shown. In the forge, you regulate the forging temperature, keeping it at the required level, which differs depending on the ore.

The fact that the journey from one location to another is carried out on a not the fastest ship seems to be an element that can be very tiring by the end of the game. However, the longer you play, the more entertainment appears on which you spend your free time. There are about a hundred culinary recipes here - you combine different ingredients and wait for the result. At the stern, you can sit and fish, and the catch will vary from region to region. You constantly plant new seeds - either you found them in a box floating in the ocean, or you bought them from a merchant. You create ingots and boards, shear sheep, turn bottles into the ordinary glass...

Dear friend, don't be bored

And most importantly, you communicate with passengers. Sometimes they want to eat - some are quite simple berries, while others require exquisite dishes with squid. You can ignore their wishes - no one will die of hunger, and the plot will continue in any case. But in a good mood, they will bring some gifts - either ingredient, or resources, or trinkets for sale. And you can also hug them at any time - in the case of each creature, a special animation is launched, and these are some of the cutest moments in the game.

Life goes on

But don't think that all you need to do in Spiritfarer is sadness - it's mostly a positive game with bright colors. All spirits are associated with a mini-game that starts when the ship hits certain areas on the map. If you come across an area with a thunderstorm, you will run all over the ship and catch lightning. Or you will meet a string of flying jellyfish, which must be touched to obtain currency and rare resources. Starfall's look the coolest - you can't take your eyes off the effects, and the music during them is delightful. At the end of the passage, these mini-games can be boring, but you can always refuse them if there is no need for resources.

There are no timers, no season schedules - do what you want, whenever you want. You decide where to sail today, what materials to collect, what to create on the drawing table, with whom to establish relationships, and whose tasks to complete. On the map, next to each location you visit, there is a list of materials, spirits, and hidden chests available there, so planning your day is very easy. The ship sails to its destination on its own, but in the middle of the night it stops until dawn - either go to sleep or do business on the ship itself.

To speed up some processes, you can play the game in local co-op. In this case, the second user takes on the role of the cat Narcissus, with whom Stella never parted, even when walking alone. Surprisingly, the developers were able to make this element qualitatively - the cat can do the same as the main character (unless she does not talk to passengers), and therefore you can divide responsibilities and do your favorite things, completing the daily plan twice as fast. But when playing solo, you never feel the lack of a partner.

The gameplay fascinates primarily by the fact that there is always something to do here. There are always tasks, there are always unexplored islands, for a long time, many structures on the ship were either not built or furnished. And the ship itself needs improvements, including an increase in speed. Part of the enduring interest in the game is related to the wonderful graphics - the environment painted in warm colors makes the atmosphere cozier, the characters are charming, and the rays of the sun making their way through the stairs and crevices between buildings are mesmerizing.

Spiritfarer is a great adventure, a unique blend of genres where every element is done to a high standard. Parting with friends is always sad, especially when we spent a lot of time with them and memories of bright moments stuck in my head. The game conveys this feeling great, wrapping it in a set of interesting gameplay mechanics that keep you entertained and encourage you to explore every corner. It's a pity, after the credits, you also have to say goodbye to her.

Pros: a beautiful story about death and goodbye to friends; charming characters whom you sympathize with and each of whom has their own past; mechanics are taken from different genres are expertly combined; simple mini-games make the process of obtaining resources more fun; the constant emergence of new tasks and entertainment; nice visual style; perfectly implemented local cooperative.

Cons: Too minor to mention. 

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