Spiritfarer Preview: A Beautiful Seafaring Journey About Death and Loss

by David Sanchez December 26, 2019 @ 9:48 am

This preview is based on the limited time Steam demo of Spiritfarer, which is no longer available to download.

I had a smile on my face after I’d wrapped up the Spiritfarer demo on Steam. Yes, this is a game about death, loss, and letting go, but it’s a beautiful game, and it presents those otherwise sorrowful themes in an elegant way. We caught an early glimpse of Spiritfarer during Microsoft’s Xbox One E3 presentation. Brief as it may have been, I instantly became intrigued by the game, and I was stoked to see more of it. After spending about an hour with the demo, Spiritfarer immediately became one of my most anticipated games of 2020.

Wind Waker Meets Stardew Valley

There are a couple very clear influences in Spiritfarer. The game reminds me of a 2D Wind Waker, with its emphasis on sailing the high seas and exploring new lands by boat. It also throws in a little Stardew Valley, as there are multiple characters to build relationships with and some farming gameplay. At least as far as the demo goes, Spiritfarer does both of these things really well.

The initial moments of the demo introduced me to a small part of the game’s cast. You play as Stella, the titular Spiritfarer whose job is to guide ailing, dying, and lost souls so they can finally go on to the afterlife. The main objective in the demo was to aid Summer, an elderly snake, and guide her to her resting place. Also on Stella’s boat were a cheery frog and a pensive deer.

Character interactions are an important part of Spiritfarer. You could say the wrong thing to characters and completely ruin their mood. On the flip-side, having a good conversation, offering gifts, and hugging characters — if they’re in a hugging mood — all boost those folks’ feelings.

There are plenty side jobs for you to take part in such as fishing. You can also plant, water, and harvest crops that you can use to make delicious dishes. There’s plenty of item collection and scavenging, which ties in to the game’s building mechanics. The building was as simple as talking to a character and making sure I had all the right items to build a structure. It was nothing too deep, and I look forward to seeing if and how the building and crafting mechanics will evolve as the game spends more time in development.

The actual sailing mechanics were simple in the best possible way. Rather than forcing you to sail across a barren ocean, you simply go to your map, set a destination, and you’re on your way. In the meantime, you can speak with characters on your boat, assist them with small objectives, do some fishing, and collect the fruits of your farming labors.

Summer’s End

Speaking with Summer the snake, it was clear that she was exhausted and ready to move on. As depressing as it may seem, Stella’s mission in the demo was to ensure that Summer enjoy her last few moments so that her death could be peaceful and happy.

I helped Summer by building a house for her complete with a garden. These were her requests, and as a Spiritfarer, it’s what Stella is meant to do. I was able to grant her these wishes by going to a nearby port town and meeting new characters who helped me out. By the end of the demo, Summer thanked Stella and enjoyed her new abode.

In the final moments of the demo, I set a new waypoint and set sail once again. This led to the demo’s conclusion, but not before introducing a spectacular, gargantuan beast, which emerged from the sea. The creature design was gorgeous and fantastical, and I uttered an audible, “Oh,whaaat” as I witnessed it rise from the depths of the ocean.

The visual presentation of Spiritfarer is beautiful thanks to hand-drawn animations that breathe unique life into each of the characters and the game world itself. Stella’s movements are fluid, and it’s a sight to behold her using her oversized hat to glide through the sky, or watching her hug characters or pet her cat, Daffodil. The sound design is equally great, with catchy, mesmerizing themes and enjoyable sound effects.

What I gathered from the Spiritfarer demo is that the game is very much intended to be a chill game. Sure, the themes of death and the afterlife are heavy, but the game presents those themes in an almost serene manner. It forces you to face death and accept the fact that letting go is as much a part of the journey as embracing these characters. What I played of the game was memorable and gorgeous, and I can’t wait to see more of Spiritfarer.

Spiritfarer is due out in 2020, and it will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Mac, and Linux.

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