'Spiritfarer,' A Game of Hugging and Letting Go, Is Perfect For Right Now

Saying goodbye at the Everdoor is difficult: By the time you bid your spirit pals adieu you’ve learned their likes and dislikes, their thorny past, their hopes, their regrets. Even as you progress in the game, meet new characters, and help them move into the afterlife, that sense of loss never quite evaporates, though new friendships ease the grief. Eventually, you learn to live with it.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/n7wywg/spiritfarer-a-game-of-hugging-and-letting-go-is-perfect-for-right-now
1 Like

I cannot give a recommendation to Spiritfarer.

Its largest problem is that there is just way too much video game within it and it dilutes all attempts at story and character building because between each beat is an hour of cutting logs and watering crops and fishing and trying to do an inconsistent double jump between platforms to find secret treasure chests.

But also there isn’t really a story. They give you less information about what is going on than any Dark Souls game does. I don’t know what this world is, I don’t know who Stella is. I don’t know why she was given this job. I don’t know what any of the background npcs are. I don’t know what this cutscene character is or what any of the imagery shown within it means. I barely know anything about the characters that join the boat and you spend hours… wait sorry, minutes spread over hours interacting with.

I also didn’t really care about the majority of the characters. The first couple you get are pretty good, and there’s one or two later that are interesting, but the rest are either just kind of there or are aggressively assholeish in their behavior that I eventually stopped interacting with them entirely other than doing their story quests as fast as I could to get rid of them. The one character I really grew attached to i’m not sure if that’s because of the quality of the writing or because she coincidentally shared a name and many many (weirdly many) character traits with my current ttrpg character. If that personal connection wasn’t created by the game at all but is just a fluke coincidence.

So when I was surprisingly given the option to end the game despite having three spirits left I haven’t completed the stories of I took it, because I just didn’t care anymore.

This kind of Stardey Valley farming sim is great for highly-structured addictive gameplay loops, but I don’t think it’s very conducive to establishing an emotional core to the story. It’s charming and it feels good to build a big house-boat, yet it’s also a little emotionally vacant.

2 Likes

Okay, wow I’ve had a totally different experience with his game than y’all. At first I was overwhelmed because it seemed like there was so much to do and I wasn’t sure how I should be structuring my days to maximize efficiency… then I realized there’s absolutely no point to being efficient in this game. Nothing bad happens if you don’t feed your spirits, or if you don’t water your crops, or if you leave food in the oven for too long. It’s utterly uninterested in punishing you for anything, and as a result it’s an excellent game to laze about in, soaking up the atmosphere without any particular goal.

As far as the story goes I’m enjoying it so far, though I understand why it could come across as overly vague for others. For me it’s more about the mood it sets than the actual plot beats. I also think it’s a very good example of how to do this sort of whimsical, twee writing; this style of writing has become overwhelmingly popular in games over the last decade, but when it isn’t done well it can feel glib and obscure the emotional stakes of the story and characters. Here, it never feels forced and makes sense in-universe because the entire point of the game is that people are using cute animals as facades while they work through the issues that haunt them even in death.Sure, Gwen is a cute deer lady who loves popcorn, but she’s also a person who’s clearly experienced significant pain and those two aspects of her personality never feel at odds with one another. If anything I appreciate that it’s so vague, because it allows you to draw your own conclusions and bring whatever you want to the story.

I totally get it if it doesn’t work for you, I just wanted to add another perspective because I’ve found myself slowly falling in love with this game the more I play it. It’s also probably helped that I’m working through it very slowly, usually in 1-2 hour chunks ever few nights, so it never turns into a slog of grinding for resources just so I can move onto the next part of the story. Plus I’m an emotional wreck right now, so I’m open to the idea that I’m finding meaning where I usually wouldn’t.

2 Likes

There’s no way for me to check time played so i’m going to have to guess, but it should be noted that that opinion of mine solidified after ~30 hours of the mechanics piling up and grinding me down.

Nothing happens if you don’t water your crops or don’t feed your spirits, ok. But you still need to go back and forth to places to get resources, you still need to spend time with the crafting minigames. And you really should water your crops because you need a ton of linen to spin into fabric to make the house that you need to continue that character’s quest. Because if you don’t do those things you won’t progress in requests and so you won’t see any of the story or character beats. The grind is required to complete the game.

Sure it’s fun and hard-hitting emotionally while Gwen and Summer are around. Lots of reviews portray that feeling, and I shared it. I wonder if for most people that lasts all the way to Mickey and Elena though.

1 Like

They certainly front-load the characters that’ll resonate with people the most, and I think there were some places where they could have had different pacing to make up for that (like how Atul’s arc goes on for longer than others). But that honestly didn’t bother me or worsen the experience? They make the end characters have much shorter arcs (minus Mickey, but I think I enjoyed their arc more than most people), and I found the slow ramp of systems to be satisfying overall for the duration of the experience. I do think the ability to end early is good though because yeah, by the time you hit that point, yeah, you might not resonate with the spirits left on your ship.

The emotional peak in the game for me was probably around 3/4’s the way through. I had a string of passings that were particularly emotional for me happen in rapid succession during a session and I just had to quit the game for a bit and stare at my ceiling for a while. But I admire the game for never feeling like it was being manipulative.

1 Like

When Astrid told me she was ready to go I immediately started crying.

I probably wouldn’t be as frustrated with it if there wasn’t evidence that there’s something real in there.

1 Like

I really like this game, and haven’t had any real issues keeping up with the supplh and demand. I think the game does a good job taking you back to earlier islands for story reasons whenever I founs myself low on resources found on/near those islands, and onlg rarely did I need to explicitly hunt something down (I needed more linen fibres to upgrade my sheep pens, since I’d converted mosf to thread earlier). I think the game rewards only making what you need when you need it, which is a little unusual for the genre and took me a while to get uses to.

It’s nice having a more chill pace farming sim, I sometimes feel very min/max-y and rushed in SDV, SoS, etc.

The stories are charming enough, only a few have made me feel anything strong (Astrid and Summer, especially), but they aren’t bad. I like the conceits of a lot of their last requests. And the humour around the world works for me. I like a lot of the worldbuilding.

The only major negative for me is that I have a hard time building up my Bounce, but honestly that’s a weirdly universal problem in video games. I need game devs to accept that the timing on building up bigger bounces is never right, just do it automatically pleaseee.

I ended up really enjoying the game quite a lot! The music and art style did a lot of heavy lifting for me (as they normally do). The platforming sections seemed almost out of place at times in the game. I thought the farming stuff didn’t feel good (why must I go inside a little building to water 3 things individually). But the way in which it is a game that openly talks about death, making meaning in life, and love really overpowered any negative thoughts I had as far as the gameplay aspects were concerned.

But I also felt that the last 1/4 of the game or so; I was just kind of grinding it out to finish it. Maybe the game should have been like… 7 less hours or so, too.

My girlfriend, who has only played ACNH and a tiny bit of Stardew, played this and really loved it. She wasn’t like BLOWN AWAY by the story or characters but she liked them enough and laughed a bunch throughout the game. However she completely ate up the gameplay loops. She loooooooved doing all the tasks, the farming, the crafting, the building, that the game required absolutely no combat(a requirement she has for games, fighting is super boring to her).

Now I’m looking for more games on Switch like this that don’t require any combat which is surprisingly hard! The usual farming and crafting indie stuff nowadays(Forager, Stardew etc) all require fighting.