Spiritfarer is a brand new management game from Thunder Lotus Games and is available on PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch. The game is also available on Xbox Game Pass. There are not many games like Spiritfarer and if a studio could make this concept work then it 100% would be Thunder Lotus. The reason for that is how the studio manages to take a genre like Metroidvania or Management and spice it up with hand-drawn assets, relaxing music, and a deeply thought-out scenario. This is our Spiritfarer review on PC and let’s say it was quite a ride.
I would love to start by saying that since childhood I was terrified by the concept of death and what comes after it. This is reasoning enough for me to feel anxious about starting Spiritfarer. The game is more or less 30 hours long and that’s more than enough for its story to unfold.
You play as Stella, a Spiritfarer taking souls to their last destination. This is far from a single mission though as all those souls you take to the afterlife will form connections with you, will share their stories, and “give you a piece of their heart” in the meantime.
Spiritfarer is basically a time management game. You have to manage the Spiritfarer’s ship, add rooms, upgrade them, talk with spirits, and travel through the map to explore new islands. Both the ship and the map have diversity in what you can do. Basically you choose a destination and until you get there you engage in mini-games on your ship. Pretty much every action you need to do on your ship is a simple mini-game.
Cutting wood, cooking, forging ores are all done through mini-games. This is the perfect way for such a game to make waiting times more fun and I personally loved it all way through.
Mini-games can get somewhat repetitive from time to time but after you realize that you are reaching the final hour, you start appreciating them even more. Especially when traveling long distances, I found myself creating more and more resources through mini-games just for the fun of it.
The more your ship grows and the more activities you have, you start feeling the pressure of time. The fact that you have to care for the spirits on your ship, like feeding them and hugging them, enhances that feeling even more since the happier they get, the more they help on your daily chores.
Activities on the ship aren’t the only minigames though. The map also includes some rather interesting minigames in the form of events like catching jellyfishes and thunders. Those are too super fun although you get the option to skip them if you don’t feel like spending the time.
Much like previous Thunder Lotus Games’ title Sundered, Spiritfarer too follows the Metroidvania type of power unlocks. Ship upgrades will unlock new areas on the map, character unlocks will allow you to reach places you couldn’t before and new spirits will unlock new minigames, coordinates, and activities on the ship.
Spiritfarer can also be played in co-op mode with Daffodil, Stella’s cat as the second player. This speeds up activities even more and is particularly fun as you and your teammate try to tackle all chores efficiently.
The gameplay isn’t the only thing that shines in Spiritfarer though. The narrative is strong with this one. Every spirit that joins your ship crew has a unique back story and is unable to move on without finding closure. Spiritfarer will tackle the subject of letting go in a perfect way, with Stella following spirits to their journey of “finding the thorn” that makes them unrest.
I found the procedure extremely cathartic. Some would say that getting spirits to their final destination makes gameplay suffer as spirits gain boosts that help with managing your ship but seeing it from an emotional aspect, you want those spirits to find rest and keeping them hanging on kinda rules out the game’s purpose.
Even so, I need to take the time and say how much I missed Summer trying to make plants grow faster by playing music to them and Atul’s excitement over food. Each spirit has such a strong presence with its personality that, trust me, you’ll miss them too.
Thunder Lotus has a unique way of presenting their games through hand-drawn assets and powerful animations. I found some parts of it to be similar to those that I’ve seen in Sundered, which is something I could appreciate. Spiritfarer doesn’t expect much from your system to run perfectly and its simple controls make gameplay run faster and smoother than I expected. Graphics reminded me a lot of Studio Ghibli movies, with animal-like characters and vivid colors that can resonate with younger ages as well as older people. This game is suited for everyone as soon as they expect a soothing experience and not yet another heavy action title.
One area where I think Spiritfarer doesn’t excel is its soundtrack. I would love Thunder Lotus to add a few more tracks while you are on the ship since it can get a bit repetitive after the first few hours. However, in minigames, the tension is set through its audio. Even with a small selection of background music, I can appreciate the fact that the music was exactly what it needed to be in terms of emotions.
Concluding with the Spiritfarer review, it’s hard not to praise it for its uniqueness. Its controls and overall gameplay are oddly satisfying even if repetitive at times. It’s graphics are extremely cared and its narrative is as emotional as it can get. I have to be honest, Spiritfarer is not a game that everyone can enjoy equally.
It includes minimum action and its relaxing nature won’t find everyone a fan. However, if you like emotional and easy-going simulation games, you’ll find a hidden gem in Spiritfarer.
The way Spiritfarer tackles the subject of death, which is universally the most definite subject on the planet is cathartic and you might find thinking about stuff you weren’t before. After the end of the game I couldn’t help but hope that I would love to see a continuation of Spiritfarer, seeing Stella reunite with all those spirits and see how they now see the problems they had before moving on. That would be a blessing. Thunder Lotus, please??