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Spiritfarer - Video Game Review

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by Marisa Quinn-Haisu (subscribe)
My name is Marisa. I am a fiction writer, a blogger, and a freelance journalist.
Published October 6th 2021
A beautiful game about learning to accept death
Spiritfarer Video Game Review
An emotional journey awaits you

Spiritfarer is an indie management sim and sandbox action game that has been called a "cozy management game about death". A gorgeous and wonderfully unique game, Spiritfarer was developed and published by the Canadian studio Thunder Lotus Games. It was released digitally on Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Stadia on August 18, 2020. A physical collector's edition was released on Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch on 27 July 2021. Spiritfarer was labelled as one of the best "indie" games of 2020 after it surpassed 500,000 sales in under a year.

Spiritfarer Video Game Review
Build relationships with a cast of memorable characters and experience emotional stories

Spiritfarer is a peaceful, relaxing game about death. You control Stella, a palliative care nurse on the edge of death, who arrives in the afterlife with her cat Daffodil and meets Charon, the Spiritfarer of the dead. Charon feels it is time for him to pass on, so he makes Stella the new Spiritfarer. Stella inherits the Everlight, a magical tool that can become anything she needs, and she becomes the captain of a large boat. Together with Daffodil, Stella uses the Everlight to power her boat and explore the world of the afterlife. Along the way, she picks up the spirits of deceased people that she knew in life, and helps them complete their unfinished business before escorting them to the Everdoor and ensuring a peaceful end of life for them.

Spiritfarer Video Game Review
Unlock customisation options for your boat and build a loving home for your spirit friends.

I enjoyed playing Spiritfarer so much. The use of colour, the hand-drawn animations, the cast of characters, the emotional storytelling and the excellent soundtrack had me hooked from beginning to end. I was a bit hesitant to play it at first. A game about death sounded awfully sad. Spiritfarer can be very sad in some parts, but it is also breathtakingly beautiful and has a lot to say about life and death. This is a game that doesn't shy away from death and how it impacts people. Is it sombre sometimes? Yes. But it is also overwhelmingly positive, heartbreakingly emotional, and peaceful. There is no fighting death in Spiritfarer. It is natural, inevitable and embraced as an unavoidable conclusion to life. The lives of each of the spirits is celebrated from beginning to end.

Spiritfarer is an interesting mix of genres. It is 2D action metroidvania, a visual novel, a side-scrolling platform adventure and an Animal Crossing style management game all in the same breath. In the game, Stella devotes herself to caring for the spirits of her friends and family, just like she used to care for her patients as a palliative care nurse before she got sick. As captain of her boat, Stella must take up farming, fishing, meal preparation, crop harvesting and mine for minerals to help care for her passengers and craft upgrades for her boat. As the game progresses, you will unlock houses for each of the spirits to live in, as well as orchards, vegetable gardens, a sawmill to make wooden planks, a loom to make fabric, and more. You can stack buildings on top of each on the boat like a game of Tetris.

Spiritfarer Video Game Review
Gather resources to help care for your spirit passengers and craft upgrades for your boat.

As part of the management section of the game, you will be given tasks from each of the spirits to complete, but it will be up to you to decide which of them you will prioritise. A spirit could ask Stella to build them something, make their favourite dish, or travel to an island to collect an item for them. You could choose to complete these tasks if you want, or you could spend some time sitting on the end of your boat fishing, or experimenting in the kitchen cooking meals and learning new recipes. There is little pressure to grind in this game. You can take your time completing tasks. The more you care for your spirits, the more your relationship with them will improve. One of the things I liked most about this game was the backstories that each of the characters had. The more you talk to them, the more you learn about them. If I had to pick a favourite character in Spiritfarer, it would be Atul, a large frog man, who was Stella's uncle in real life. Atul was such a friendly character. He liked every dish that I cooked for him, he helped out around the boat, he gave me planks and collected food for me on the islands, and he gave the best hugs.

Spiritfarer Video Game Review
Guide the spirits of your love ones across a mystical sea and then release them into the afterlife

Spiritfarer would almost be a 10/10 perfect game for me, if it wasn't for a few small things about it that bugged me. I was a little underwhelmed by some of the island platforming levels. A lot of them felt too short and didn't have enough secrets for me to find. It was also common for a lot of the background characters on these levels to say nothing when interacted with or they would respond with just "hello". It was boring. I also felt like some of the characters were more likeable and had better background stories than some of the others. I got very attached to Atul, for example, but struggled to care too much for Beverly or Elena. I also felt like some of the characters had longer quests than others. Atul was on my boat for a long time, but Stanley, the ghost of an eight-year-old boy, left me pretty fast for the Everdoor which made me sad. If it wasn't for these little bumps in the narrative, I would easily label this game a masterpiece. I liked how it balanced platforming with exploration and resource management and its positive approach to death and grief gave me a lot to think about.
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Why? In Spiritfarer, you take on the role of Stella, ferrymaster of the dead, who must care for the spirits of the deceased and transport them to the afterlife.
Cost: $37 - $59.95
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