Spiritfarer is a peaceful management game about dying. The game was a finalist in Seumas McNally Grand Prize during 2021’s Independent Games Festival (IGF). In the game, you play as Stella, who is the master of a boat for the spirits of the deceased. It is a platforming game that mainly takes place on said boat. The boat may be upgraded as you explore the world and befriend new spirits. The goal is to spend time with the spirit passengers, create memories with them and ultimately say goodbye to them and release them into the afterlife.
- The game is somewhat about resource-gathering, town management, and crafting, like many other games. Yet, it is very unique.
- Core mechanics are very simple and the real emphasis is on simplicity.
- For example, there is no need to maximize efficiency, grind, or hurry. Instead, the game offers a peaceful, relaxing, and feel-good experience.
- The game is very linear in its progression.
- You interact and progress in the game through text-based interactions with the spirit companions.
- One unique mechanic is that you can give every character in the game a hug, something that fortifies the emphasis on wholesomeness and feel-good.
- The game is very linearly story-driven.
- You explore the world, upgrade and rearrange a boat filled with spirits who ask you to perform quests for them.
- You are never forced to do a quest, and you can prioritize which of the spirit’s quest lines to perform next.
- It tackles the very heavy topic of death, but it does so with colourful graphics and hugs that make you feel good.
- Beautifully hand-painted illustrations and animations.
- The soundscape of the game is one of the best I have experienced in a long time. The whimsical soundtracks that play make the player settle in a good mood. The ambient sounds are peaceful and relaxing. The soundscape is just enough, not too little sound nor too much, and the quality manages to create a peaceful experience.
- Although the game has astonishing 2D graphics, the requirements to run are not too high.
- Available for PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch.
Lens #1: The Lens of Emotion
This game is about caring for other people, and then letting them go. This can lead to some parts of the game getting very emotional. Even though you do not spend a lot of time with the spirits, you can make deep connections with them, and parting ways with them and releasing them to the next realm can get very sad.
This is something that I think was very much intentional by the creators of the game. The game creators have a completely unique take on death, and prioritises feeling good and staying positive even when faced with such an emotional topic.
Lens #20: The Lens of Pleasure
When applying the Lens of Pleasure to Spiritfarer, there are some attributes (from LeBlanc’s Taxonomy of Game Pleasures) that have been emphasised by the game creators.
- Sensation. The game is very much about using your senses, seeing beautiful illustrations, and hearing calming music that appeals to the pleasures of sensation.
- Fantasy. There is pleasure in imagining a fantasy world and embodying a character that you are not. In this game, you play as Stella, and make very real connections, even though it is just in a fantasy world, which is very pleasurable.
Lens #21: The Lens of Flow
The game does not have a predefined, communicated goal. You play at your own pace, without any need to hurry up and you do what you enjoy. The overarching goal is to say goodbye to every spirit that you have made connections with after fulfilling their requests. The game only has one set ending so the long-term goal is the same for all players. But this is not a game played for completion. Actually, it more often than not invites the player to get distracted from the goals. Instead, the player may do what they desire, take how long they want, and prioritize to their own liking.
Since the game is not oriented towards completion or challenges, the goals are not designed to be challenging. The quests get a bit more complex over time, but there is no real way to fail with the tasks. This definitely requires a certain type of player, and a player in a certain mood to play this game. For the game to be enjoyable, the player must be willing to explore and experience, else it will just be a very straightforward and non-challenging game that does not bring much joy.
Lens #79: The Lens of Freedom
When first playing the game, I thought it followed a very clear predefined route with little to no choice or branching available to the player. For example, the dialogues are text-based with no interaction. Additionally, for the first three spirits that you connect with, they are pretty much along a path determined for all players. I thought this was very constraining which was not what I desired with the game.
After that, there are more degrees of freedom and the linearity of the game gets less apparent. It is important to realise that you should not feel any stress when playing this game. Since it is not about completion, it is about the player’s experience. When you zone out of the tasks and play at your own pace, the game gets so much better.