Have you ever wanted to escape the harsh realities of life’s responsibilities and sail off onto the open ocean forever? Even if you haven’t, Spiritfarer will curate this dream you never knew you needed. This calming and charming management simulation is not just about cooking, smelting, looming, or sailing, but about what it’s like to depart from somebody who’s dying.
This game is the perfect amount of tasks and life lessons, balanced perfectly between its funny characters and beautiful art style. This is not a title you want to miss, especially if you’re a fan of Animal Crossing or Stardew Valley. Even if you’ve never played these types of games, if you have a Nintendo Switch I’m sure Spiritfarer would be a great addition to your collection
Story – Friends and Farewells
I went into Spiritfarer expecting much less than what I received. You play as Stella, a young girl with a friendly cat named Dandelion. You’re now tasked to be the Spiritfarer, helping spirits cross over from the living to the dead. You own a large boat, which you can use to cook, craft, garden, and house your guests. These characters range from sweethearts to sarcastic creatures, all with distinct and unique personalities.
Every character you meet and get to know on your journey has a story to tell. They’ve all had different lives, and your job is to help them get ready to pass over. It’s quite sad knowing these people you’ve grown to love are soon going to leave you, but that’s the beauty of this indie. Every story matters, and every character matters. There’s bound to be at least one person you bond or relate with throughout the journey.
There’s even more to the story than meets the eye. I’ll often be sailing to or from a destination until I suddenly see the sun become eclipsed from the moon. No explanation, just a strange little area on the map; quite intriguing. Or once you said goodbye to your first crewmate, Stella meets an entirely new and mysterious being. The story is far from over, and far from simple.
Gameplay – Intuitive Task Management
The very first thing you do in Spiritfarer is hug your best friend. Not only that, but the hugging is highly consensual, and once they’re happy enough, they’ll decline your requests for more. Also, each character has certain food tastes and help you grow your boat to be bigger and better. The thing I like about Spiritfarer is that nothing gets too repetitive, and nothing gets too stale.
After I pick my next destination, I’ll make sure to cook a meal, water my crops, and check to see if I want to build anything. If I do, I’ll either saw some wood, smelt some ores or loom my linen. I’m surprised that even after several hours, this hasn’t gotten tiring yet. Perhaps it’s because the further you play, the more things you unlock, and the more you can do on your boat. You’ll never get bored playing this, that’s for sure.
Those aren’t the only things you can do. As Stella, you take on quests, discover new islands and participate in a workplace union strike (not even kidding). You’ll also be able to unlock more mechanics as you play, such as double jumping or gliding. This creates new and exciting ways to interact with your environment, or find places that you couldn’t before. Just like I said, there’s almost never an end to the new things you’ll be able to do.
Certain areas on the beautiful islands you find won’t be discoverable unless you’ve unlocked more abilities, forcing you to come back later. That sounds kind of harsh, since the game never really forces you to do anything. You could fish all day for all they care. For a game that’s apparently 30+ hours, I still can’t believe there are islands I’ve yet to discover or chests I can’t find.
Graphics – Aesthetic Animations
I applaud the visuals and animations department of this studio. There’s never a dull moment for your eyes on the screen. Every movement by Stella or any character is smooth, fluid and so well animated you would think this game could be a fully-fledged cartoon. No matter what you do or perform, there’s not an ounce of janky or clunky movements.
The colouring of Spiritfarer goes perfectly with the visuals. Not that I have a degree in colours or anything, but I really find this world to be subtly vibrant. There were many moments playing this game where my eyes widened in awe at the spectacles they’ve created. Even limited to my small Switch screen (yes, I know I can just dock it, but I’m lazy), the look of the game enhances the feel of it immensely.
Not only that, but each character, item, or island you come across feels so connected in its style, but also is so unique in and of itself. I bet if I ever had the strength to get off of my chair and use my Switch on the tv, the movements would look crisp and the colours alive.
Audio – Pleasantly Beautiful
The soundtrack for Spiritfarer reminds me so much of why I love the music for Breath of the Wild. It’s not overbearing, but the music is still so serene and lovely that I don’t get tired of it. There’s music playing in the background of most places you go. No matter if you’re on a new island, or sailing on the ocean, the music melds so easily into the background that when you finally notice it, you realize you could listen to it for hours.
One of my favourite moments was when I learned how to help my plants grow. If you hold down the X button, Stella sits down with her instrument and plays a soft tune. Your crops sway to the music, and it makes them grow even faster. Not only is this a good mechanic for an impatient gamer like me, but Spiritfarer pulls a Guitar Hero and makes you hit the notes to the beat. It’s a nice, quiet moment between you and your cultivation.
I commend the team for doing such a good job on the soundtrack, so much so that I’d add it to my study music playlist. But we can’t forget about the smaller audios snippets. Each character you speak to has a specific voice only to them. Each task that you do perfectly, scores you a nice little jingle, like when I loom my linen to the exact size. When I reach my destination and hear a guitar, I know Francis the wandering merchant is paying me a visit.
Spiritfarer was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch.