You’d think that a game about aiding the souls of the recently deceased in completing their various unfinished businesses would be a downer, but Spiritfarer just might be one of the most pleasant gaming experiences I’ve had this year.
I Spiritfarer, you play as a young child who has been tasked with taking up the morose mantle of being the new Charon, or as you might better know them, the ferryman of the river Styx. You and your adorable magic cat, commandeer a massive boat in the hopes of collecting the souls of the departed and helping them find peace in the afterlife. The boat serves as your primary play space, where you’ll have to fish, cook food, grow vegetables, smelt metals, spin yarn and more in an effort to keep the recently departed happy.
All of the souls onboard your vessel have their own specific tastes and desires, from dietary restrictions to more personalized dwelling spaces. As time goes on you’ll start balancing several objectives at once, like taking food out of the oven or watering plants, all of which give the impression of urgency without actually being stressful. It’s extremely low stakes with the notable exception being whenever your passengers exhibit a change in moods, which is when I as a player will hurl food and affection at them until they smile again.
I mean that fairly literally as well. In Spiritfarer, the main ways you raise the mood of a disgruntled passenger is to either give them food they like, build them a room they want, or to just hug them. There’s a hug option for each of the passengers which is great, but it’s also the most crushing feeling in the world when they say that they’re good on hugs for the day. It’s so brutal.
But that brutality is lessened by the gorgeous artwork and animation in the game. The way the plumes of light cut through the gaps of buildings on your boat at sunset is truly something to behold. Even when you disembark from your boat and head onto an island, Spiritfarer displays some truly jaw dropping vistas.
But Spiritfarer isn’t just a pretty looking management sim, it’s also got some light platforming and adventure elements that hold up as well. The platforming isn’t going to blow anyone away by any stretch, but it feels fairly snappy and responsive enough. It only really became an issue when I would try to be faster than the game could really contend with. For instance, there are these lightning storms you can fly through, and during that voyage you can race from point to point in an attempt to collect some lighting in a bottle, which I’m pretty sure is either money or a crafting resource. When you’re trying to be fast and precise, the platforming in Spiritfarer doesn’t really hold up.
That’s fair though. Spiritfarer isn’t an action game as much as it’s an adventure game. In between managing your relationships with passengers, growing crops, and crafting things, you also have to find more lost souls and complete objectives for the ones already onboard. Sometimes it’s about revisiting a childhood home and confronting the memories that linger in there, and sometimes it’s about being a union representative for spirits that are being taken advantage of by their boss.
One of the only issues I have with Spiritfarer has a lot to do with completing these quests. You have a mission log where you can refresh yourself on what someone wants, or where you should go, but the souls that require you to travel around and collect or build something for them before they join you lack any indication of where that person is.
For example, I found a spirit that wanted me to bring back their lost sheep. One of these overly rambunctious sheep happened to be on another island which I managed to find fairly easily, but the mission log didn’t tell me where the spirit who wanted the sheep actually was. This was a problem because it had been two days between finding the sheep and wanting to bring it back to the spirit. After some searching, I caved in and just consulted the internet which revealed that I was nowhere even close to finding the spirit.
Outside of that however, Spiritfarer has been an utter delight to play. It has that insidious “just one more thing,” quality about it that routinely has turned hour long game sessions into 3 hour affairs. I cannot sing its praises enough and wholeheartedly recommend you give it a shot if you’re looking for that pleasant oasis in this desert of misery we currently live in.