Most of the time, stories in video games revolve about action packed plots, where your main goal is saving the world. Or someone’s world at least. In a way, it’s not surprising since the narrative is often supportive of the gameplay. But once in a while, a game comes around which does things differently than we’re used to. Spiritfarer is one of those games.

If you’re looking for your next open world RPG or action packed first person shooter, you’re best off looking for something else. Spiritfarer is a game which combines multiple genres such as simulation, adventure and crafting games into a unique blend which leaves you extremely satisfied. The game has you play as Stella, a girl who enters the afterlife and becomes a Spiritfarer. The Spiritfarer is tasked with guiding souls on their journey of acceptance and closure. Themes that rarely get touched upon in games.

Relatable and confronting

This may seem very floaty, but the writers of the game have done an excellent job of integrating these themes in each character’s narrative. You’ll meet a very diverse cast of characters, some which have known Stella in life while others are completely unknown to her. Without trying to spoil anything, it’ll deal with various issues one could encounter in real life with family, friends or perhaps even yourself. Sometimes this can be confronting, however the writing is done in such a way that it always leaves you with a positive vibe. Which is extremely hard and a big compliment to the developers.

Once you make your way to this afterlife, Stella starts out with a small ship which belonged to the former Spiritfarer. This ship will be used to navigate between the various islands of the Afterlife. On it, you’ll be building various structures such as houses for the spirits you’re transporting and workshops which will allow you two refine various resources. It’s to be considered your headquarters or home, for the most part. During the game, you can upgrade it in various ways. For example, making it bigger so you have more space for building your structures or upgrading it with various tools which allow you to explore further and tear down barriers.

All aboard

Once your first guest is onboard, the game really begins. Slowly but surely, you’ll unravel their story. But to do this, spirits generally give you quests. There are three sorts of quests, namely Quests, Errands and Tasks. The latter two serve as side quests of sorts, while the actual Quests are basically your main objectives given to you by the various spirits. They have you visiting all sorts of places which are important to them, in order to help them on their journey of acceptance. This is also the most important aspect of Spiritfarer, exploration. 

There are a lot of locations you can visit in Spiritfarer. Some are islands full of resources, such as wood, ore or food. Others are towns or cities, where you can find shops, meet quest givers or even new spirits. All of these also contain hidden treasure with useful items or treasure you can sell. Then there’s also various events in the world, such as flotsam or jetsam which contain resources or creatures to meet. Any one of these locations can also contain Tasks or Errands or might contain some of your Quest objectives. Either way, exploration is rewarded and the game does an excellent job to ensure you are rewarded for it. I found that exploring everything at your own leisure made me end up with a lot of resources which I needed to progress in the game. If you only focus on completing the main quests, you might find yourself lacking some resources which requires you to explore anyway.

Explore to your hearts content

To progress from island to island, you have to enter your captain’s cabin and set sail. Nowadays, we are mostly used to functions such as auto travel. This is something that Spiritfarer lacks. Sailing from island to island takes time. In between this downtime, you can converse with the spirits on your boat or refine those resources you found earlier into something usable. Or build up your boat. You can also fish or cook meals for your spirits. There’s plenty to do. It also plays into the simulation aspect of the game.

During the course of the game, you’ll also encounter some simple platforming challenges. Early on in the game, it becomes obvious that most islands are to be revisited because there are plenty of sections you can’t reach yet. Most of these contain treasures, to make backtracking worth your while. During the course of the game, you’ll unlock new skills which give you new means of traversel. Such as gliding or riding ziplines. This makes exploring the world even more interesting, because you’ll never know what new discoveries you’ll make.

A very relaxing experience

Something Spiritfarer lacks, is combat in any form and it’s great. This may seem weird, but it makes sure the focus is entirely on exploration, crafting and the narrative. It makes for a very fresh experience. It also ensures Spiritfarer is the perfect game if you’re just looking for a relaxing experience. If you’re more of a collector in-game, you’re in luck as well. You’ll be rewarded in-game for completing various collections such as making different kinds of food, acquiring resources or finding treasure. Even when you complete the main game, it’s likely there’s still a lot to complete.

One of the more interesting features is the option for local co-op. The second player will control Stella’s cat, Daffodil. As he is a cat, he won’t be able to talk/interact with people but apart from that player two will be able to perform every other action. The result is you can explore and build together, making Spiritfarer a great game to enjoy together. With its lack of combat and casual gameplay, it might even be a perfect fit for dads and younger children. Just don’t expect children to really grasp the story and characters.

Beautifully handcrafted

Visually, Spiritfarer is absolutely stunning. The world seems entirely handcrafted in 2D, with a style that’s really unique and doesn’t bore easily. It goes to show games don’t necessarily need the most realistic 3D graphics to be impressive. It’s a perfect fit for the casual gameplay it offers. To top it all off, the soundtrack connects really well with the atmosphere of the game, giving you a great game to enjoy whatever your mood is.

All of the above also makes it the ideal game to play on the go. Whether you play on your desktop, 4K tv or handheld device, the game can be enjoyed at your own pace and is perfect for sessions in between. If you have 15 minutes to spare, it’s ideal to just gather some resources to prepare for your next session. 

A minor annoyance

So is Spiritfarer the perfect game? No, that doesn’t exist. It comes pretty close though. However one of the issues this game has however, is the endgame becomes a bit of a grind. In the final stretch, there’s a lot of travelling around the map in order to gather a few last components which might become a chore. However, it’s a minor annoyance compared to everything it does right.

Another big compliment for the development team is how they handle additional content. So far, there’s been two free updates to the game, with a third on the way. Each adding at least one new spirit to guide and various other features. The latest update even added a ton of quality of life updates, which make the experience more streamlined. As such, it’s a great time to pick up this game. While it’s tempting to charge a small amount of money for these updates, there is no additional charge with no other way to charge for content. Now, this is obviously easier for smaller development teams to pull off, but it’s still worthy of a compliment.

Conclusion

All in all, Spiritfarer is one of the best games I’ve played the past few years and probably the biggest surprise. Before I went in, I had no idea I would spend this much time in the game. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a casual experience on the side and enjoy a great story. Or if you’re just looking for something unique. If all you want is high speed action, this game is not for you. But for everyone else, this is a game where you can’t go wrong.

Pro’s/Con’s

+ Excellent exploration and crafting mechanics
+ Great casual atmosphere
+ Visually stunning
– Can become a grind

Review Score: 9

By Jonkar

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