Spiritfarer Review: DABDA on Em
Kalvin Martinez / Feb 15th, 2021 No Comments
Grief is a powerful emotion. When we are faced with loss we struggle with grief and the stages associated with it. Whether you believe in the afterlife or not, there has to be an equally powerful sense of regret and stages of emotions related to that. Spiritfarer explores that idea.
Spiritfarer is a lot of things. An addictive management sim. A compelling adventure game. A visually stunning work. However, it is an exceptional exercise in catharsis and acceptance.
Stella wakes up in a boat with her faithful companion, Daffodil. She finds herself on the river Styx staring down the imposing figure of Charon. He explains to Stella that it is his last day, and she is going to be the new Spiritfarer helping souls cross through the Everdoor. Before crossing through the door himself, he provides Stella with the Everlight to help her guide the spirits. Not one to be left out, Daffodil crawls into Charon’s robe and secures an Everlight herself.
The first task Stella & Daffodil must complete is finding a ship worthy of sailing to the islands surrounding the Everdoor. By combing the islands, she’ll rescue stray spirits and be able to help them complete their last requests. It is an important task as dying souls can’t pass away on their own. She will be at their service until their dying breath. Fortunately, the first soul she meets is Gwen, a familiar face.
Not going to lie, Spiritfarer is going to make you cry. It deals with a heavy subject matter deftly with emotional weight, humor, and resonance. Many sublime moments between Stella and the passengers come when she ferries them through the Everdoor finally. In a transcendent synergy of writing, visuals, and music, Stella and you witness the beauty of acceptance.When that final hug is exchanged, it is obviously for the best. Yet it’s still bittersweet made even harder by the kind words they have for Stella.
The reason these moments pack the punch of Mike Tyson in his prime is the narrative’s structure. You spend a lot of time with each passenger learning their idiosyncrasies, their desires, and their regrets. More importantly, you get insights into who they were before and why their new form, despite the predicament, is an improvement. Then there is the whole thing where they knew Stella in real life and learning more about their past relationships adds to the inevitable heartbreak of them moving on.
Fulfilling each passenger’s final requests reveals a lot about them and what is holding them back. What would be fetch quests in lesser games become a kindness and a gift here. There are too many remarkably sweet and sad moments to recount in the game. Doing so would spoil and ruin the joy of discovering them yourself.
Comfort and Catharsis
It’s a long journey. Stella’s job isn’t easy. She must prepare a large amount of spirits to make their peace and accept what is to come. In order to do this she needs to ensure their needs are met.
While Stella’s main goal is to settle spirits’ unfinished business, she also has to keep in mind shelter and sustenance wants of the spirit dwellers. All spirits start out in the ship’s guest house when they first arrive. Eventually, they’ll ask Stella to build them their own abodes to feel more at home on the boat.
Building is a major component of Spiritfarer requiring Stella to find the necessary materials to construct domiciles that match each spirit’s personality. Exploring islands scattered around, Stella can find useful woods, ores, and seeds. Raw materials will be all that’s necessary to build basic structures.
However, things get more complicated as Stella discovers more spirits. Spirits’ wants become more in-depth and require more complex materials to construct like comet rocks and gold. Fortunately, progression is smartly done in Spiritfarer. Stella comes across new materials and blueprints (for houses and structures) as she progresses through spirit’s quests.
Construction plays a huge role in the game’s crafting (and resource accrual). Outside of the kitchen, some of the first structures Stella is asked to build are a loom, a garden, and a field. The loom allows Stella to spin yarn and eventually fabrics.
The garden and field let her plant seeds to harvest ingredients for meals and the loom. By tending to the seeds, Stella grows useful items that can be replenished (so long as she is good about earning Glims and salvaging wreckage to get more seeds).
Speaking of the kitchen, the guests upon Stella’s ship are a hungry lot… a real munch squad. Much like their unfinished business and private rooms, their diets and tastes are particular. Luckily, cooking in Spiritfarer is easy even a novice can cook a satisfying meal.
This ain’t no Cooking Mama or Cook, Serve, Delicious. The ship’s kitchen is more a “set it and forget it” deal. It begins sparse only able to accommodate single ingredients. Stella begins by simply making popcorn, poached fruit, steamed rice or a grilled fish.
When you upgrade the kitchen that’s where Stella’s recipes get more adventurous. With a fully upgraded kitchen, Stella can cook fried chicken, surf and turf, focaccia, and bouillabaisse. Perhaps Stella won’t be on the next season of Chef’s Table, but she’ll be able to make dishes to please the disparate tastes on the boat.
As Stella finds more spirits (and ushers others along), she can construct additional structures like a lumberyard and a foundry. This allows her to create better materials like wood plants and ingots. In turn, this lets her upgrade her ship fully and grow fruit and raise livestock like chicken and cattle.
The management side of Spiritfarer strikes the perfect balance between simplicity and complexity. While any given task may be easy to perform (with minor room for error), the way it all works together creates depth. Farming vegetables allows Stella to cook and craft thread, which in turns keeps spirits happy and lets her construct more elaborate structures. Everything feeds into itself in a cozy little system that holds your attention effortlessly.
Although, Spiritfarer has big management sim energy. It isn’t simply about ship life. There is a huge adventure side of things that comes alive with sailing to different islands. Sure, a lot of what you need on these islands are new raw materials. However, islands have mysteries to discover, new spirits to find, and side quests.
The meat and potatoes of Spiritfarer are the mainline quests for your spirit charges like helping Gwen re-visit her family home or helping Astrid negotiate fairer union terms and do a “Waiting to Exhale.” They aren’t the only ones looking for help.
Stella also finds spirits throughout the islands who need some help like a producer who needs someone to cast a star for his new movie, or a scrappy group of rappers who need someone to distribute new vinyl singles to their street team, or a lemonade operation who needs someone to secure a major lemon score. These side quests are delightful flights of fancy that add a wonderful pop of flavor to the game.
Navigating the final requests of the spirits takes Stella all over. She explores the high seas through harsh rocks, cold ice, and dense fog. By helping the spirits gain closure, she can ferry through the Everdoor onto their final destination. This is what makes the game such a sublime experience. It is exceptionally beautiful to witness these characters you’ve grown to love accept what awaits us all and how they appreciate Stella and what she has done.
Spiritfarer is a meal that Gwen would love to eat. Playing it is like reading your favorite book during a stormy day home from school, or eating a rich porridge your parent makes when you’re not feeling well. It is like a hug from Stella.
More than anything, it reminds you about the fragility and beauty of existence. Accepting that is easier when someone like Stella is helping you make peace with those terms. Both for those wayward souls she ferries and us.
Spiritfarer was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the developer.
tags: review , Spiritfarer , Spiritfarer review , Thunder Lotus Games