Spiritfarer: a creative and immersive take on acceptance and letting go

There are several games that deal with loss, death and the need to accept and move on. One of them is Rakuen which I will review some other time, but it’s one of my absolute favourites. There’s Last Day of June, which I discussed a while ago. And there’s Spiritfarer, a stand-out, memorable game that’s a must-play and a must-have in my books.

An absolutely gorgeous, stylised game. Everdoor, the threshold of lives, where all quests must end.
  • It’s an atmospheric game, with beautiful OST and lovely stylised graphics.
  • The concept is a tribute to loved ones lost, and it borrows from mythology to talk about loss, letting go and moving on.
  • The world-building is phenomenal: lots of great places to visit and the world is vast, there’s lots to explore. The map is huge with interesting places that are fantasy versions of some real-world countries. Favourite places: Overbrook and all mist areas, the Japanese themed areas, the turtle sisters.
  • Lots to do: gather collections of items, fun minigames with interesting, fantastical resources, take care of animals, grow plants, explore the world, doing requests, expand your ships, you can even customise your protagonists. There are very fun ways of getting resources. My favourite activities are the nebula fibre minigame, comet rock minigame, growing and gathering resources (esp. from the turtle sister islands), collecting the treasure and items for more nice outfits at Susan’s (an art collector), and mining. And I love the abilities, especially light burst and the dash. And improved tools.
  • Characters: / Story: You meet a lovely cast of colourful characters that make you think, but I feel they could have used more emotional resonance. As it is, their stories don’t really squeeze my heart; the writing could have used a little something more. But I think they are meant as a tribute to real people. I think that’s absolutely lovely. Favourite characters: Stanley, and Beverly. Favourite questline: Jackie and Daria / Overbrook.
  • Aside from a clever and thoughtful story, the game also takes on the platformer genre and does something interesting with it: abilities, platforms – locations and some challenges are highly original and add to the immersion.
  • The gameplay is overall VERY satisfying, with a lot of surprises, hidden treasures and hidden locations to keep the interest.

The protagonist, Stella, wakes up on Charon’s boat. Charon tells her she is now in charge. Her task is to carry the souls of the dead, so she traverses the fantastical world on a ship, gathering the lost souls. They are spirits that take on their true animal forms once on board and they are all related to Stella. Over time, as we expand the ship, learn new and exciting, fun abilities and reveal more of the world, the connections and Stella’s backstory, as well as the real purpose of her task, become clear. We learn that she was a nurse and took care of the characters in some ways. I absolutely love how thought-out this is, the progress and revelations happen gradually and satisfyingly so. Everything in this game is meaningful in one way or another as we are taken on a journey that makes us think about life, the mistakes we make, the regrets we have and ultimately, how hard it is to let go. But also about how it’s ok to let go. It’s also about saying goodbye and cherishing the memories.

The immersion is phenomenal. I’m not usually a fan of platformer type games – and there’s a fair amount of that here – but it’s transformed in a way I’ve found very creative and absorbing. And fair to play. As clumsy as I am, I could overcome most challenges, though granted one of the minigame challenges did frustrate me a bit. And it’s more than that. It’s not just a creative take on platformers, it’s also a lovely and original take on sim/farming/resource management games. It makes fantastic use of elements known from all those types of games, mixes them and makes something sincere all in all. And immersive.

As we find and take spirits, we get obols which we can use at lovely shrines to unlock the special abilities that help us discover more of the world. They are super fun and exciting: zip, glide, double jump, light burst, dash.

Dash and light burst are particularly great. You need all the abilities to find all treasures – sometimes they are in tricky places and it’s a lot of fun to get them. The abilities are also required for minigames.

There are lots of incredibly fun activities and I just enjoy spending time in the game. You can grow various flowers, play music to help them grow, and gather ores and fibres, including fantastical ones. Fishing is fun, cooking is fun, and collecting items for the art collector Susan is a lot of fun too – you get rewards like extra outfits. Outfits are unlocked by a certain character. You can even grow ores on special turtle islands.

Fishing gets easier in the late game. Until then…it’s still fun!

In the process, you expand your ship and improve the stations and buildings.

You go from this…
to something like this. Navigating at night becomes possible later in the game. Again, it’s something really meaningful!
I really enjoy looking at it. You can sleep, but don’t have to. You can complete tasks on the ship instead. If you build well, the minigames will be easier too.

You need to upgrade your ship to progress as areas of the map are blocked. The upgrades are exciting and you look forward to every one of them. My favourite places are Japanese-themed and the Mist-related ones from the end game.

The world is beautiful
I just love these trees! The resources respawn/ regrow after a while.
find treasure and ore in difficult or surprising places!

What I like is that the maps show which place has what resources and what hasn’t been discovered yet, so you know where to return or go for what you need. There’s a safe travel mode – you don’t have to always go through minigames if you don’t want to.

Towards the end of the game, you also get improved tools that help you with mining and fishing. There’s really always something to look forward to in this game. I like how it’s balanced. The minigames are really fun, they require you to make fair use of all your abilities.

The minigames do match the character that gives it to you. I liked the Daria / Jackie questline which this minigame relates to.

Some of them require some patience. A late-game character gives you the challenge to complete a golden dragon challenge in under 7 minutes – that took some patience for someone as clumsy as I am. The golden dragon is a variant of a challenge given to you by an early-game character. In it, you essentially mine ore and help a dragon burdened by it. You need to use your abilities like dash, and glide to succeed. It’s fun, but the golden dragon was a bit hard.

The quartz dragon is the first dragon challenge you get. So relieved to be rid of the rocks, poor thing.

The mining in this game is super fun. There’s just literally always something to keep you immersed and engaged.

I understand it’s a tribute to some loved ones and definitely works as a story about moving on and letting go, there is a lot to think about. When the characters depart, they become star constellations and leave you with spirit flowers.

They are always with you

The Everdoor, where you take them, has a nice sequence in general. But they are still with you, even when they leave. And…there’s something really nice at the very end, before you complete the very last quest, but I won’t spoil it. You have to experience it. I like it when a character called Lily appears. It’s towards the end of the game and you can admire how the ship is transformed too and filled with flowers after ferrying and saying goodbye to many characters, not just building the stations and expanding its size.

My favourite character is probably Stanley

Stanleu is cheerful and appears in a special way.

and Beverly and the Turtle sisters that let you grow ores! But I like quests for Daria and Jackie most because they are interesting, the endgame bit in general has some really nice places. If you have trouble continuing Jackie / Daria quests at some point, here’s a tip: you have to zipline back to Daria’s room and talk to her. It will trigger the rest of the questline. It’s not immediately obvious in the game and requires exploration and curiosity to discover, that’s why I love it.

It’s really atmospheric and ticks nearly all of my boxes, except I don’t find it quite emotional enough. While I feel the sincerity of the idea, the characters don’t really speak to me. I should be sorry to see them go, but I don’t, I accept it, I feel like the character-building/ writing is a bit on the weak side for me…but in one way or another, they are memorable. They are there for Stella as she was for them, they teach Stella something, they are there to tell her something.

There are some really colourful characters that additionally help you travel or sell you things.

However, instead of showing more, letting us experience those stories in more personal quests or even visions, I feel like the dev went for too much talking. I love long texts but when they contribute to building emotion, here, I felt they were a bit dry. What I do like are the scenes after you returned a soul through the door. You meet Hades. Those scenes show something and contribute meaningfully to the overall concept of the game. That said, I do think it’s a thoughtful game and like a novel. It’s immersive, it’s creative, it’s thoughtful and it is sincere.

It’s a standout game worth having as it’s immersive for the type of things you have to do alone, the concept, the immersion and the great use of known tropes and ideas. It’s a game worth every minute spent on it. And a must-have. I wish the OST had all the character tracks released, though. I love them. The music is great and definitely among my top favourite game OSTs. The art is just lovely. The activities are super fun. Once I finished the game, I immediately went for a second round and am replaying it as I type this post. It’s a satisfying 50 hours, well-spent. Just play it!

And though the end must come at some point, it’s a really worthwhile, satisfying journey.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s