Published on August 25th, 2021 | by Hugh Mitchell
Spiritfarer Review #NintendoSwitch
Summary: Spiritfarer is an absolutely gorgeous adventure that tells a heartfelt tale of love and loss.
Hug your friends!
Spiritfarer is a classic example of a game that is far greater than the sum of its parts. On paper I can describe it as an excellent 2D open-world adventure game with compelling crafting and management elements. But what I can’t put into words is the way Spiritfarer reached into my soul and emotionally affected me in ways that no other game has done before. A touching story of death, grief and acceptance; Spiritfarer’s gorgeous art style and fantastical sense of whimsy takes the painful subject of loss and turns it into a beautiful message of joy that many of us could really use right now.
As alluded to above, Spiritfarer is equal parts graphic novel, open-world adventure game and 2D platformer, with a hefty dose of crafting and relationship management thrown in the mix. This may sound like a grab-bag of disparate gameplay mechanics, but Spiritfarer manages to distil the crucial elements from each of these genres and combine them into a singular gameplay experience that is compelling, satisfying and fun, all while telling its heartfelt story.
You play as Stella, a young human who wakes up in the afterlife to be informed she must replace Charon as the new Spiritfarer, a powerful being charged with the duty of retrieving lost souls in the afterlife and guiding them into the great beyond. Unfortunately, this task isn’t as simple as picking up these lost souls and dropping them off at the pearly gates with a wave and a kiss on the cheek. Each of the souls you must assist are friends or family from Stella’s past life and they need to find some sort of closure before they can willingly move on. To help these lost souls you’ll need to make them happy and comfortable first and foremost, before exploring the vast ocean of the afterlife searching for memories that will allow them to accept their fate and move on.
To make a spirit happy and comfortable, you must first invite them onto your ship and construct a place of residence for them. This is where the crafting and management aspects of Spiritfarer come into play. To upgrade your ship or build new amenities, you will need to collect resources from various locations throughout the ocean of the afterlife. This can be as simple as visiting an island and chopping trees to collect wood, or mining ore from a vein. These materials can then be processed in a workshop to form higher-quality resources, which are used to build more elaborate amenities or residences for new spirits. This classic feedback loop of crafting to upgrade and upgrading to craft is balanced quite well in Spiritfarer as the upgrade paths generally feel manageable and don’t often require grinding for resources or scouring for missing components – though this can happen on occasion.
I began this review by talking about Spiritfarer’s narrative and gameplay, but in truth the most impressive aspect of Spiritfarer is its aesthetic. From top to bottom, Spiritfarer looks and sounds fantastic. Highly detailed sprites with elegant flowing animations prance about the gorgeously vibrant backgrounds and set pieces, while beautiful orchestral music perfectly encapsulates the mood and emotion of the scene. The game looks absolutely gorgeous both in motion and during any downtime that you may find yourself in. The one caveat here is that the Switch’s smaller screen can sometimes result in text looking too small when playing in portable mode and some details may be easy to miss. However this is a minor issue that I encountered rather infrequently.
Spiritfarer is a real treasure. It’s rare to find a game that hits the homerun of being fun to play and gorgeous to look at, while also having a touching narrative to tie it all together. The crafting and exploration gameplay elements are by no means revolutionary, but they are executed superbly to be both compelling and satisfying, whilst complimenting the story structure of the game. If my word and the screenshots alone aren’t enough to convince you this is one of the best looking games around, check out some videos of it in action to see what I mean. Overall, Spiritfarer is an easy recommendation for anyone reading this article; pick it up and allow it to wash over you like an emotional detox for your soul.