I’ve been a big fan of Thunder Lotus for some time – investing quite a bit of time in their eldritch-inspired action platformer, Sundered. That’s why when I heard about their latest project being a resource management title that took a unique approach towards the journey of death and remembrance, I was thoroughly intrigued.
With The Game Awards airing tonight, Steam is featuring a handful of highly anticipated titles for a 48 hour sneak peek, with Spiritfarer being one of them. I decided to download the game and take my own (albeit brief) journey to get a better idea of what to expect from this game when it arrives.
In Spiritfarer, you play as Stella, an ever-smiling, energetic young captain (?) of a fairly large ship. On this ship are a handful of occupants – including a large, toad like creature named Atul, a deer named Gwen, and a snake named Summer. Your tasks for Summer are the substance of this brief (30-60 minute) demo.
As you explore the ship you discover there are a number of things you can do: from planting seeds and harvesting crops to fishing off the backside of the boat. As the captain/navigator, you set the ships course based on ever-changing objectives, and rather than a “fast-travel” approach, you use the travel time to your advantage to cook food for fellow shipmates, give much-needed hugs, or strike up a conversation.
As you do these various things for the others on your ship, their mood adjusts accordingly. You can check on how they’re doing at any time by reviewing their “mood” in the interaction menu.
In an intriguing segment that I didn’t quite grasp the importance of, Stella runs around the ship collecting a resource known as “Glims” from Lightning Strikes. I’m sure the currency is of value for some form of crafting or upgrade, but I didn’t come across it on my initial playthrough. The scene is certainly entertaining, and the task of trying to get to the various strike-locations is a simple-yet-fun minigame.
The alpha demo of Spiritfarer deals out these various mechanics and systems at an understandably fast speed, given the demo’s brevity. Yet, even in the short time I spent with it, there was something about the way Spiritfarer creates a sort of “warm melancholy” that is breathtakingly impressive.
Even fans unfamiliar with the game so far are clued in pretty early that the tasks you’re taking on are so that Summer can pass onto the next world in peace. While Stella doesn’t have any speaking lines, her continued characterization of smiling and offering warm hugs to anyone who will accept them leads you to believe she’s familiar with this sort of work.
Your mind eventually drifts to the other inhabitants of your ship, some of whom you may be growing close to.
Would you be assisting them in their own journeys to the next world eventually?
Would you be ready to say goodbye when that time came?
When the sensation struck me, I was thoroughly impressed. I was doing my best to make sure that Summer had everything she needed – a cozy home on the ship, retrieving a long-lost heirloom, helping her recall certain memories…
I wasn’t looking forward to the conclusion of these errands, but I knew that Summer was counting on me. Complementing this journey is the striking aesthetic – a terrific artistic style that brings the seafaring life into brilliant focus. The light of the day shifts as you travel, from bright early morning sun to the faded pinks and oranges of dusk, to star-filled evenings. As you run along the boat you can see your reflection shimmering in the water. Moving about the boat is fluid and intuitive, and all of the character models are excellently crafted.
Overall, my brief time with Spiritfarer was an absolute delight. I’m sure this game is going to completely destroy me emotionally once the full game comes out, but even after my brief time with the demo, it felt like leaving an encouraging conversation with an old friend. The final moments harken back to the awe-inspiring moments that help put Thunder Lotus on the map with Jotun and Sundered, and should be experienced firsthand.
You can find the demo here, but not for much longer. So I encourage you to give it a playthrough.
You won’t be disappointed.