Loss is a part of life. Of course, death is the great loss we all fear, but throughout our journeys we’ll face breakups, friends drifting away, relationships torn apart, displacement from the things and people we know and love. In some shape or form, loss comes for all of us, and while we may know that it’s simply a part of living, that rarely negates the grief we feel when it comes to farewells.
Truth be told, I’ve been sitting on this review for a long time, and it was my own loss that led me to finally pick it up and begin exploring. The resulting grief left a lot of my usual joys feeling rather empty, and with already being in a slump when it came to gaming, my to-do list went untouched. As a big believer in self-motivation, I spent week after week listing off overdue reviews and ideas in my planner, telling myself I would eventually get through them. And finally, one day, I actually started – with Spiritfarer.
Spiritfarer has been fairly described as a game about death, but it’s important to give some context to that word. Death often conjures up a dark, empty, dismal fate – nothingness at best, morbidity at worst. Spiritfarer asks us to look at more than just the end. It asks us to think about the culmination of a life fully lived – the families we had, the friends and lovers we adventured with, and the world we knew. The Spiritfarer’s job isn’t an easy one – in fact, having to steel yourself to say goodbye over and over is incredibly difficult – but it is an important and meaningful one. Your job is to help souls find their closure and ferry them to the afterlife when they’re ready to move on.
Outfitted with a hardy ship, you’ll travel the world, occasionally picking up spirits along the way. When they join you, you’ll be tasked with bringing them food, lifting their spirits, and occasionally fulfilling requests big and small – at least until they’re ready to pass on into whatever is next.
Punctuating the story are simple but enjoyable moments of gameplay. In cities and in mini-games on the ship, you’ll get to platform, including riding zip lines, floating, and bouncing to new heights. Each character gives access to a mini-game that helps with collecting important resources (my favorite involves chasing comets as they plummet around you brightly). When you visit areas of the world, you’ll get to jump and explore through mines and across buildings to collect materials and discover treasures. All those resources can be used for micromanagement and building up your ship – cook, create a cabin for each spirit, and farm during your travel time to create a home.
It feels strange to call a game about dying “cozy,” and I would be lying if I said I didn’t find myself crying more than once. I’m terrible at goodbyes – have you ever met those people who always hang on a little longer than they should? Spiritfarer does give you a little extra time if you need it. You can continue to fulfill requests and sometimes spirits tell you they’re ready to leave before you’ve fully finished. But they’ll always remind you that they’re ready now – in some cases it even seems like prolonging the inevitable is only making it worse for them.
Throughout the story, I found myself becoming better at taking care of my spirits. At first I held on, not wanting to say my goodbyes and miss characters I had come to love. But soon I started to really think about what it means to let something – or someone – go. Fictional or not, Spiritfarer is an emotional, cathartic exploration of knowing when it’s time to move on, and doing what’s right not just for you, but for others.
To me, Spiritfarer is a healing game. It helped me work through things that I didn’t know how to approach, while reminding me of the joy that exploring a new world and meeting new characters can bring. It’s an emotional game with a painful topic, but it’s also a very comforting experience. Spiritfarer’s concept of death isn’t one of pure sadness and loss, but one of the importance of life, the memories we hold, and the good and the bad that make our story truly ours.