I’ve always been a huge fan of stylised games, so it makes sense why I was instantly drawn to Spiritfarer, a management sim with action sandbox qualities. It’s no surprise that Thunder Lotus Games have come out to develop another stylised game three years after Sundered’s release. Thunder Lotus seem to have a talent for this sort of thing.
The original announcement trailer for Spiritfarer had me hooked from the get-go. It showcases the beauty of the world created and even some of the activities the main characters, Stella and her cat, Daffodil, will be getting up to, like fishing, building the boat, mining and caring for her friends (spirits.)
You take control of Stella and Daffodil, who have been given the job of Spiritfarer. The job entails them having to go around Purgatory collecting spirits, completing quests and making sure all their friends are happy. Sounds easy, right? That’s because it kind of is. Don’t get me wrong, Spiritfarer is entertaining. But the game being easy doesn’t detract from all the good points, especially because it’s meant to be easy, the entire premise for the game is that it’s a cosy management game. However, it can get a bit too relaxed from time to time, especially towards the end.
After the initial opening of the game, Stella and Daffodil stumble into their first spirit/friend. Each wonderfully entertaining spirit has its own animal representation in this world. For example, this one is a cigarette-smoking, anthropomorphic deer named Gwen. You’ll also end up meeting Albert, a wisecracking shark with a heart of gold. He’ll be at the shipyard, a place you’ll be visiting frequently from time to time, so that you can upgrade your boat.
The activities that you do, like farming, mining and crafting, are pretty interesting. As I said earlier, it can get tedious towards the end of the game. The bright jelly activity, for example, is great and can get difficult later on. However, it gets really slow and monotonous when you’re basically grinding repeatedly trying to get enough bright jelly for a boat upgrade. But I think the charm of Spiritfarer shines through when you’re interacting with the main ensemble of characters. Whether you’re giving them a hug or a nice, freshly prepared meal, it’s always heartwarming going back to the boat and learning new bits of information about your spirit friends.
The writing in Spiritfarer is really well done, it has such an impact emotionally, and you don’t even realise until you’re sat on your sofa at 3 AM crying your eyes out because one of your spirit friends has to say goodbye. But in my eyes, that’s the selling point for Spiritfarer.
Exploring the world of Spiritfarer is amazing, especially when you get to an island. Each island feels like it has its own personality and aesthetic. You’ve got the Furogawa region, a group of islands covered by lush forests and little cottages, or Oxbury, a complete contrast to the previous one, which more closely resembles living on the outskirts of a big city. Both regions still blend well with each other and work well at making Purgatory seem real. The main reason I find the island exploration so fun is because on most of them you’ll find shrines that you can offer Obols to, which will make Stella and her Everlight stronger, as well as give her new abilities, from double jump to glide.
With a game that pulls its inspiration from Greek mythology and brings up topics of death and grief, you’d think the art style would be bleak and dark. In Spiritfarer though, we’re met with a burst of colour in the form of a red sea that Stella’s slowly floating down to be met by a hooded figure named Charon, the old Spiritfarer. This entire scene is backdropped by pinkish-white trees that make everything around them bloom. It’s artistic choices like these that really grab your attention when playing the game, and they kind of made me want to stick around longer just so I can take it all in.
Spiritfarer is a fantastic game that does a great job at taking a dark and depressing topic and turning it into a thing of beauty. The writing and art style work well at bringing everything together in a nice, fun-sized package.
Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Publisher: Thunder Lotus Games
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Stadia
Release Date: 18th August 2020