- Genres : Adventure, Simulation
- Publishers : Thunder Lotus Games / Just For Games
- Developer : Thunder Lotus Games
- Players : 1 – 2
- Consoles :Nintendo Switch
- Languages : Japanese, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Korean, Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, English
- Release date : August 18, 2020 (version physique August 3, 2021)
Created by Thunder Lotus, the studio behind Jotun and Sundered, Spiritfarer is a game about death, but with a kindness approach.
You play as Stella, a young woman with a tomboyish appearance, who will have the heavy task of replacing Charon: guiding the souls of the dead on their last journey.
With the help and support of your cat, Daffodil, you will build a kind of floating village on your boat and welcome the souls of the dead. Even if death is the main subject of the game, it remains light and approached with kindness. Some parts of the game moved me a lot and I sometimes cried, but I came out of this adventure grown up and with a different view on death: less fatalistic. The Thunder Lotus team offers us here an intense and extremely personal emotional adventure. But we’ll get into that right away!
A tough theme but approached with kindness
Spiritfarer deals with death through the lives of the souls that Stella welcomes on her boat until they are ready to pass to the other side.
You might say that this description does not sound like a game at all, but the Thunder Lotus team has succeeded in a tour de force: the challenge of making a game of unbelievable beauty and kindness out of such a delicate and sad subject. This success is achieved through technical points such as the game’s narration, graphics, music and gameplay, as well as through an immense emotional work tinged with respect towards this theme.
An impeccable narration
This is the part that will introduce all our characters and therefore all the souls that we will have to accompany on this last journey…
It’s a dozen characters, unique because of their life path and their character, that you will have to welcome and pamper on your boat until they are ready. This is the heart of the game! Indeed, discovering each character, getting to know them in order to take the best care of them is a truly beautiful emotional experience.
Each character is superbly written and is represented by an animal that matches their character. This animal appearance allows us to identify them more easily once on the boat and also to become attached to them. Many of them will surely remind you of people or character traits of people you know. And it is this accuracy in the writing of the characters that will take the player by storm… touch him and involve him fully in the game.
I cried, I smiled, I felt like giving comforting hugs in real life (not just in the game) while playing Spiritfarer… One thing is certain… I grew up playing Spiritfarer!
Graphics and colours to bring softness
The game takes place both on board Stella’s boat and on the various islands of the archipelago located around the gate of the Eternal Threshold. The designs used are somewhere between chibi and comic book, giving the setting as well as the characters, a softness and a feeling of well-being and benevolence. This soothing feeling is supported by the pastel colours that are used throughout. The graphics thus offer players a reassuring universe that contrasts with the game’s harsh theme, giving players enough confidence to move forward serenely in the adventure.
Stella’s boat will gradually turn into a hotel for lost souls. Indeed, each of your new recruits will want their own accommodation and will suggest you build various improvements on your boat to meet their needs. So, in the end you will have a boat with about thirty small structures that you will stack up little by little. You can access each of them via ladders or simply by jumping from one to another but we’ll come back to that later.
Each room, and in particular the guest accommodation, is carefully designed using soft, warm colours. Each accommodation reflects its owner, inside and out: sober, cosy, messy or luxurious…
Even if your boat ends up looking like a giant Tetris game, more or less well arranged, the whole remains pretty and harmonious. And then this customisation of the boat is comforting because it is your home. In fact, once you have brought a soul to the gate of the Eternal Threshold, you will have plenty of memories of it on your boat.
Personally, although I’m a bit sad to see these empty homes on my boat: every time my character walks past one of them, I can’t help but recall a happy memory with its former owner.
The Spiritfarer Archipelago
The Spiritfarer archipelago is made up of several dozen places to visit. Little by little, the game’s scenario will take you to each of these places to recover a lost soul, find materials or simply complete some side quests.
The islands are all different, ranging from Japanese countryside landscapes, to mountains, to small villages and big bright cities.
Personally, I preferred the typical Japanese villages rather than the big cities, but each of these landscapes has its own charm. Each island, or almost, represents an environment, a place of life emblematic of our society; by bringing a discrete caricatural note to it. I’m thinking in particular of the island that represents a factory with a horrible boss who doesn’t understand anything and employees on strike…
In short, the islands of Spiritfarer represent real life places, while gently caricaturing them for the needs of the game and making them sometimes ultra comforting, sometimes a bit stifling, but always in a spirit of palpable kindness.
A gameplay without difficulty but distracting
Spiritfarer is a difficult game to categorise because it has a narrative side with the stories of the souls, a management side to take care of them and meet their needs, an RPG side with the various quests to accomplish and a platform side to collect certain resources. Quite a mix, but it works perfectly together.
Generally speaking, the gameplay is designed in such a way that you can’t lose. So you could say that it’s an easy game; but it relies on the player’s feelings and on the fact that he will try to do his best to welcome every soul on his boat. Therefore, even if it’s not an obligation, you’ll want to find out everything about each character: their taste in food, their character, what makes them happy… Moreover, each one of them has a mood gauge that you’ll surely want to raise towards the green to make your passenger happy. But how do you do this? Simply by playing and enjoying the game!
Creating a real hotel on your boat
As I said before, each soul you are going to welcome on your boat will need his or her own little corner: a personalized room. You will also need a kitchen to prepare food for them, a garden and a field to grow your vegetables, a sawmill to transform raw materials into building materials, etc.
So you will become a real cruise ship manager! You will be able to manage the maintenance, the resources and the passengers.
In addition to using your ship’s facilities to transform raw materials into construction materials, you will have to travel from island to island to find these raw materials: mines, wood or simply shops. This part of the game will push you to explore each island to discover its secrets and treasures.
This part of the game between hotel management and exploration offers a sort of soothing routine to the game: every day you will make food for your passengers, answer their requests, search for materials and finally make or build something. It’s quite rewarding to see the mood of your passengers improve and your ship grow. And all this without stress because you have plenty of time to make the boat.
During your travels, you will meet various characters who will ask you for help. Whether it’s a harvesting quest, a distribution quest or a simple service quest, the quests will have several goals: to bring some content to the game, to unlock improvement plans for your structures, to push you to explore and of course to bring you money or items that will be useful.
The quest to improve your ship and some of the items that will be entrusted to you by the passengers are almost indispensable. They will allow you to progress in the adventure.
The platforming, distraction side of the game
As your adventure progresses, you will unlock abilities for Stella that will allow her to jump higher, glide… These abilities will allow you to explore each island of the archipelago in depth as they are often composed of several levels of height. Indeed, many places are not accessible at the beginning of the game without it being frustrating. But as you progress, each skill will allow Stella to explore the islands faster and more lightly and will make it easier to move around on her boat.
Earlier I said that your boat would end up looking like a kind of Tetris with about 30 pieces stacked on top of each other. This is exactly the case and you can climb on each block to form a huge platform style playground. Quickly, you’ll be running and gliding through your ship, jumping from room to room rather than using the ladders.
In addition, as you pass through certain areas of the sea, material gathering events will be triggered, resulting in agility mini-games on the platforms aboard your boat. For example, you will need to position yourself just below the lightning to collect bottled lightning during a storm. Lightning strikes every flat area of your boat.
These harvesting phases in platform mode are short and very diverse. They are quite simple and will often take your mind off of things after bringing a character back to the gate of the Eternal Threshold.
When I started writing this review, I had welcomed 7 or 8 souls on my boat and I already had a lot of affection for these characters who had become my passengers and friends. Today, I finished the game and its free DLC in just over 45 hours. The DLC really brings a nice ending to the game.
I really enjoyed my adventure in Spiritfarer. I felt a lot of emotions, including grief, but still felt safe and not guided or restricted in how I could play or approach each character’s story. I’d love the game to continue for a while after the DLC ends so I can hug all my former passengers again (as you may have noticed, I’m very cuddly!). In the end, I’ll remember the bonds I formed with these characters rather than the fact that I had to part with them by driving them to the gate of the Eternal Threshold.
Spiritfarer is a game full of gentleness and kindness that deals with a subject as difficult and delicate as death and the loss of a loved one. I had a great time in this game and had a beautiful human experience through a game. The loss of a loved one is not easy to talk about, even with those close to you. This game allowed me to free some emotions that I had blocked deep inside me after the loss of loved ones.
In short, I honestly recommend it. The game is well made and well thought out and will offer you a great adventure.