I don’t really know where to start with Spiritfarer other than saying it is amazing and one of the most charming games I have played this year. It oozes a heartwarming and emotional spirit that matches the care and love I found in similar games, like Pyre. But, it takes that energy and slots it into a genre that is usually stressful and hard to enjoy, blending two seemingly disparate things together into one charming and cuddly package.
Spiritfarer PS4 Review
A Cozy Management Sim
Management sims are often regarded as stressful and complex games where you have to keep track of more meters and systems that you can count, which is why I have never really been able to get into the genre. Once what I was building started to become too complex I couldn’t keep up. However, Spiritfarer throws that out of the window for a more relaxing experience where you build up your boat and house spirits before they decide they are happy to be fared off into the afterlife.
Thunder Lotus Games has been actively calling the game a cozy management sim and there is simply no better way to explain it. What the team here have done is taken a complex and often frustrating genre but toned the harshness down and combined it with an emotional and touching story that rivals the human connection I felt in games like Transistor and Pyre.
In fact, Spiritfarer feels very-much like a Supergiant game. It has the gorgeous art-style, stellar music, addictive gameplay, and loveable characters that have made Supergiant’s work over the last ten years so special. And, as someone who adores both Transistor and Pyre and is very much looking forward to Hades, this is the highest compliment I can give Spiritfarer. It breathes the same energy as those games did but brings its own ideas with it.
A Trip Across The Ocean
The general flow of Spiritfarer has you travelling from island to island on your boat, collecting resources to cook or craft items and move on to the next day repeating the same thing as you slowly build your boat up from a small bland pile of wood to a hulking great ship with more rooms and houses than you ever thought could fit on a boat.
Between building up your boat you will complete missions for the various spirits you house on your boat, ensuring everything is to their satisfaction and that they are happy in the days before they are ready to pass over to the afterlife.
This gameplay flow is great and feels far more structured than something you would find in a traditional management game. The boat and everyone on it is manageable and not too overwhelming, allowing you to keep track of everything you need to do and not feel swamped in tasks, which is often the case in traditional games of this genre.
On top of that, trips on you boat happen in realtime and you will see yourself move across the ocean on the game’s map, meaning that you can complete tasks whilst on your journey, such as fishing or cooking meals to feed your spirits and keep them happy.
Additionally, there are a number of mini-games in Spiritfarer. For example, if you pass through a lightning storm you are able to collect that lightning by standing in the spots where it is going to strike and storing it, using it later for crafting or to sell. On top of that, fabric and wooden planks can be crafted by spinning it or moving a saw along a track.
All of these small mini-games can be played whilst on your boat and travelling from one island to another, which gives the game a great sense of efficiency and the feeling that you are always getting something done, rather than barely checking something off a long list of tasks to complete.
Collecting And Crafting
When you step off the boat, the game offers small islands to explore. Some are filled with resources to collect and others feature vendors and towns of spirits you can talk to and get to know. These land sections are where the game’s gorgeous art style and animations really shine, with you and your companion summoning a shiny gold saw to cut down a tree or a giant pickaxe to break some rock and collect the ore.
Spiritfarer is a truly gorgeous game and this is where it shows. It might even be the prettiest game I have played this year.
Once you have collected those materials from the environment or from vendors you can combine them together to create new meals or materials. On top of that, they contribute to building new rooms on your boat and improving them with features like the ability to cook multiple items together. You can also add decorations to a spirit’s bedroom, personalising it for them, just before you fare them into the afterlife.
Every aspect of the crafting and boat building aspect of Spiritfarer is delightful and it is a great game to hop into and slowly progress your way through, without feeling the need to constantly return.
A Delightful Game That Changes The Genre
Spiritfarer is a game that will change the management sim genre from here on out. It abandons the stress and anxiety that usually accompanies the genre and swaps it out for a comforting and relaxing journey. Combine that with a jaw-dropping art style, touching gameplay mechanics and heartwarming story, and Thunder Lotus Games have created one of the most relaxing and best indie titles of the year. It is a must-play for fans of the genre and those who aren’t.
Spiritfarer is out now on PS4.
Review copy provided by publisher.