Guide spirits into the afterlife on your magical ship in Spiritfarer
Dealing with death is not easy. If you’ve ever lost someone close to you or someone you love dearly, grief and sadness are emotions that seem to crush us and isolate us in a pit with no source of light or hope. However, we must learn that Death is something as natural as Life. Thinking about this controversial topic, Spiritfarer is a game that arrives as an emotional journey to teach the player how to deal with such complex feelings.
Showmetech received a copy of Spiritfarer for Steam (PC) gives Thunder Lotus Games and, after a few weeks guiding spirits to the afterlife, we bring you a complete analysis of this beautiful and profound work of art in video game form.
Death and you
Spiritfarer is a game about death. You play as Stella, whose job it is to lead the dying spirits through Everdoor to their final death when they’re ready. Well, that would be a simple way to approach this game. But we would be being too shallow. Spiritfarer is, after all, a lesson in kindness.
Helping a spirit get ready to go into the afterlife involves cooking for him, hugging him, and building a house for him in his huge boat. And for that you must take care of sheep, play music for the plants to help them grow, extract charcoal and even learn how to forge tools and items.
It’s a very relaxing management game where you spend most of your time picking things up to do other things. However, unlike Stardew Valley, in Spiritfarer you perform different tasks not in search of material gain, but to improve the “end of life” of your fellow travelers, totally for free.
“It’s a kind of kindness that the game motivates the player to practice, in a very subtle way.“
When a spirit joins your ship, you build them somewhere to live, then you end up with a collection of small houses stacked on top of each other. Among them, you put other buildings you need for the good functioning of a community: gardens for growing vegetables, a sawmill and foundry to process the raw materials you find in the world, a loom for weaving.
Each of the spirits on your boat teaches you how to use one or more of these infrastructures, and once you’ve built them, you can move everything around, stacking and swapping things at will like little building blocks of toy.
Each spirit is an animal that represents the person they really are. Alice, for example, was a sweet old lady (now a hedgehog) who liked old-fashioned food and apple trees, and she asked to go somewhere exciting with me and in that way reminded me a lot of my own grandmother.
Before she boarded the ship, I arranged the layout of my ship as sensibly as possible, with few spaces. However, shortly after this one of the other residents told me that Alice was having trouble going up and down the stairs. So I rearranged my entire boat specifically around her, and since she liked the orchard, I made sure it stayed close to her house. It’s a kind of kindness that the game motivates the player to practice, in a very subtle way.
the end is just the beginning
Spiritfarer rewards you for paying attention and trying to be kind, and Alice got a permanent mood boost from being near the orchard. I even made apple pies for her in the kitchen! Each spirit has a list of likes and dislikes, and some even have food allergies, and you can only discover all of these things by trial and error.
Likewise, your cookbook is a blank sheet, so you should just try combining a root vegetable with a little flour, say, and see what happens. It’s kind of an intriguing and satisfying puzzle, trying to figure out what things become what other things are, in advance.
As you perform tasks for them, your diverse crew will make other requests. They will share memories and go through trials, or they may ask to be alone. You can hug them all, and that cheers them up. The hug is great, because everyone hugs you a little differently, with an animation that fits who they are. Astrid, a lynx, for example, always looks surprised for a second, before releasing her big paws. Animation and art, in fact, are universally beautiful and full of enchanting detail.
“Even though Spiritfarer is an experience that evokes sad feelings in its essence, the game is also very funny, especially in the different dialogues.“
Although I mentioned earlier that all your work is done for nothing but kindness, making your inhabitants happy has some benefits. At certain mood levels, they’ll give you valuables to sell or extra raw materials they’ve gathered, which is useful given the amount of travel you’ll need to take to acquire them otherwise.
The places and islands you visit are spread out on a surprisingly large map, divided into different regions with different styles – misty pine forests, industrial cities, agrarian rice farms – and as the spirits’ requests become more complicated, you have to travel further afield to get different types of resources.
While some things can be bought or collected in cities, others are brought together through events where, perhaps, you must navigate the heart of a storm to catch lightning, jump to catch the sparkling rainbow blasts of meteors raining down from the sky. , or even riding on the back of a dragon. Each of these events is also linked to one of the spirits, so you have a lot of interesting memories after they’re gone.
Despite having spent a few hours slowly creating the map, be aware that there is a quick travel system in the game that promises to facilitate the journey of the player and Stella. Still, it was worth investing my time and also stopping and talking to everyone.
Even though Spiritfarer is an experience that evokes sad feelings in its essence, the game is also very funny, especially in the different dialogues. Even supporting characters (such as a shark who runs the ship upgrade shop and loves puns) get loving details.
An unsustainable lightness
The destinations themselves are also a lot of fun, with lots of chests and hidden secrets, and side quests a little weird. This often involves a fair amount of platform sections so that, in the end, Stella can find sanctuaries in the world where abilities can be unlocked, such as slides, double jumps and even a zipline.
However, this is probably the weakest part of Spiritfarer, as the jump feels a little slow, and the zipline is too clumsy to use. It is a necessary element to progress on your journey and help your friends, but it could have been done with greater care.
The good news is that although you have to do and fix things all the time, the work doesn’t get tiring because you don’t need tools, so you’ll never have to create a new hammer or fill a watering can, for example. You carry everything you need with you in the form of a magical globe of light that becomes what you need it to be at the most opportune moment.
“Ultimately, everything about Spiritfarer is like that. Measured, thought out, detailed and, above all, gentle.”
This feature contrasts well with the complexity of how many different types of fish, stones and fabrics there are to handle, and the sleek controls are also worth mentioning here. Although it takes a little getting used to, you can navigate through all menus, inventories and missions using just one keyboard. It is possible, if you prefer, to play Spiritfarer entirely with one hand in WASD or directional arrows position.
In the end, everything in Spiritfarer is like that. Measured, thought through, detailed and, above all, gentle. Even the weather seems to have an intention, the cycle of day and night, the routines you get into. The way you interact with your new friends is engaging and at times you will be surprised. However, it’s important to remember that, given the game’s theme, Spiritfarer will probably make you very, very sad, but in a warm way. In a way that makes you think about who you lost, but also what they left with you and how close you are still to them.