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  • Writer's pictureNoah Yard

Spiritfarer: One Year Later




Before I talk about one of my favourite games, Spiritfarer, I’d like to do something totally out of character and talk about myself for a paragraph or two. But it’s going somewhere, I promise.


I have a really bad habit. It’s buying video games. And those around me know that when I buy a game, it’s a safe bet I won’t play it for a while if I play it at all, or I’ll play the first two hours and make snap decisions. It’s a huge waste of money and leaves me with very little storage.


However, sometimes a game sticks. Either the first few hours grab me by the hair and pull me in completely, or it’s a game I KNOW I’m gonna love so I stick with it. Last year I innocently bought a game from the Nintendo E-shop, not knowing that it would change my perception of what a cosy game should be, but also how a really good game should make you feel.


That game was Spiritfarer, and not only did I play it, play it the whole way through and enjoy it, but I’ve also since played it three or four times, and have nearly sunk 200 hours into it.


Spiritfarer is described as a cosy management game about death, and it couldn’t have a more succinct tag line. And while that may seem morose or off-putting, trust me when I say the two categories, the warm and peaceful gameplay mixed with some of its more serious or heartbreaking subject matter, really marry perfectly.


On A Spiritual Quest


You play as Stella, a young woman who wakes up on a boat and is given the role of Spiritfarer, a person responsible for looking after spirits, attending to their needs, until they are ready to move on, then you lead them to their final destination, the everdoor.


To do this you get your own boat. Now this is a special boat because after setting a destination and trust me there are so many destinations in Spiritfarer, the boat goes there all by itself. But that’s not the only thing special about it. It can be upgraded to explore more and more of the map. It can be made bigger to accommodate more spirits, and it is basically the home and village where everything happens. That’s right I said village.


The longer the game progresses, the more homesteads, and workstations your boat accumulates, and it gets bigger and more beautiful the more you play. It becomes a joy to bounce around this boat, almost like you are in a traditional platformer, to go to a spirit’s house, or go make some fabric at the loom.


Travel With Friends




But you don’t traverse the spiritual seas alone. Along you’re journey you collect wayward spirits, people who have entered the spirit world and need your help. Starting as faceless shades, they take their true forms as colourful, animated anthropomorphic animals when they start their journey on your boat. This final version of themselves is their “true form.” There are deer, owls, snakes, bulls, hummingbirds and so much more, beautifully drawn characters with larger than life (and afterlife) personalities.


You are joined by characters who both did or didn’t know Stella in the human realm. There’s her uncle Atul, a big blue frog, Summer is a crystal loving snake, and Gustav is a pretentious owl who loves art collecting. Each spirit is so well written, so original in character and story, that you truly fall in love with each and everyone, and taking them to the everdoor becomes almost painful because you can no longer feed them their favourite food on the boat or give them a hug.


Overall, there are fifteen spirits that spend time on the boat and believe me when I say they keep you busy. Each spirit’s journey is different, but they all have familiar beats to their story. While you discover who they were in life and what they want to accomplish in death. First, you build them a house on your boat, fill them with amenities. Then there is usually an associated station that they would like you to build, such as the sawmill or the smelter, where you can process the raw material that you gather on the various islands and in the various cities on the map.


Hands Never Idle




Doing these tasks, creating fabric at the loom, or glass at the blacksmiths is super relaxing and you can do the tasks at your own pace. Truly, my favourite way to do tasks was to only smelt or saw or loom when a certain spirit or task requires the material, that way you’re not constantly doing the same tasks over and over.


Each spirit also brings with them a sort of platforming minigame, where you bounce around your boat collecting special items, like glowing jellyfish or comet pieces. These minigames break up the farming and gathering and are the closest the game gets to platforming or adventure gaming.


DLC


There have been three updates in the last year, totally free, that you can play now also. They include new spirits that totally change the trajectory of the game’s story, and add whole new storylines that add hours of new gameplay. Four new spirits really make the game worth replaying if you’ve already played it.


The Newest DLC, Jackie and Daria update, Have you dealing with a crazy nurse and her troublesome patient, you spend time improving conditions at their hospital. It is the final upgrade for the game, and it was well worth the wait, as it has some of the most interesting spirits added.


Verdict


While there are moments of sadness, anger, or tragedy in Spiritfarer (every trip to the everdoor is like a little kick to the privates), there is also so much joy and warmth, so much fun and colour. It was truly one of my favourite games of last year and I could really play it a fifth, a sixth time and not get bored of it. So I suggest, to anyone who loves a cosy game, but wants a special twist beyond just farming and such, play Spiritfarer. It is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, macOS, and Microsoft Windows, so really anyone can enjoy it. Treat yourself to some cosy, heartfelt perfection.

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