Spiritfarer has been described as a ‘cozy management game about death’. That’s exactly what it is. But for a game about death, it’s surprisingly cute, charming, and colourful. But does the bizarre mix of elements that this game brings pay off?
You play as a young woman named Stella who has been appointed as the new Spiritfarer. Her role is to grant spirits their final wishes before guiding them through the Everdoor and into the afterlife. As you journey throughout this magical world, you’ll encounter spirits to bring onto your ship and perform tasks for them.
Each of these spirits have their own stories about their lives and their death that they’ll drip-feed to you throughout the game. Most of these stories are a good combination of tragedy, heartbreak, but with still a touch of warmth. It was a surreal moment every time I brought a spirit to the Everdoor to say goodbye and I felt genuine emotion when they left.
My main criticism for the character’s stories were that they needed to be more fleshed out. They were also too vaguely told a lot of the time. Many times when I finished off a character’s storyline, I had to google what their story was all about, because they simply didn’t give enough information. Once I learned these character’s backstory and how they died, that’s when you really feel for them, but I just wish that happened more often while I actually played the game. Also I feel that there were perhaps too many characters throughout the game, and if they had less of them, there could have been time for a greater focus on each one.
In terms of gameplay, Spiritfarer is 90% resource management/crafting, and 10% platforming. You’ll spend the majority of the game gathering many resources (such as food, ores, wood, etc), crafting houses and stations on your ship, and traveling to the many islands where you’ll using basic platforming skills to get around.
Now spending most of your time gathering materials and crafting might sound grindy and repetitive, but I found it rather relaxing and satisfying. I’ll admit in the latter stages of the game, it does start to drag on, but overall I still managed to enjoy it. Some people might be completely bored by it, but this game’s aim is meant to be more chilled and laid-back, and I think it achieves that pretty well. Though if you hate fetch quests, I have bad news, as basically every quest is designed this way.
Some of the resource gathering and crafting felt a little pointless, mainly cooking food for the spirits on board your ship. Feeding them will improve their mood and you’ll gain perks from them, but these perks felt unnecessary as you can earn their rewards yourself easier and quicker. I dislike it in any game where you have to constantly keep characters fed, especially when the benefits aren’t really worth it. It’s especially bad when they keep complaining how hungry they are! I thought they were meant to already be dead?
The way the game’s progression works is done really well, in that as you explore and gather more materials, you’ll need to upgrade your ship to access more of the map. At the same time, you’ll also have to complete some character’s storylines to also progress, and you can tell everything was planned out very carefully and thoughtfully. There’s always something to do, and while you do receive many quests as the game goes on, it never gets to the point of being overwhelming.
In regards to the platforming you will unlock new abilities which also gives access to new areas, but it is done in a very light Metroidvania way, and is a nice break from always dealing with materials and crafting. Because this game wants to be a slow-paced and chilled experience, you can’t actually die (which makes sense given the game’s context), so you’ll never really feel much in the way of stress while you’re exploring.
You’ll immediately notice Spiritfarer’s visuals are beautiful and eye-popping. There’s vibrant colours galore and the animations are extremely well done and just so adorable. I think the game looking more on the bright and happy side is an attempt to hide the grim nature of what the game’s about, and not to depress the player too much.
This is definitely achieved as the game is full of charm, and I only ever really felt sadness when I had to say goodbye to each character.
Spiritfarer was a delightful surprise, full of charm and personality despite the sombre nature of the game’s story. The resource management and crafting are both enjoyable and satisfying, but do tend to drag on in the second half of the game.
Most character’s storylines will tug at the heartstrings, but I do wish they were more fleshed out, which would have made a more emotional impact. Sending off each character to the afterlife were moments that will stay with me for a while, and everyone even just a little bit interested in playing Spiritfarer, really needs to so they can experience these great moments.