Spiritfarer is one of those games that I liked more and less than I expected at the same time. As a management game, it was … ok, I guess. The pacing was weird and frustrating. However, thematically and as a series of character studies, it was brilliant and heart-wrenching, and so much more powerful than I was anticipating.
You are put into the role of Stella (and her faithful companion, Daffodil), who have just being their tenure as the Spiritfarer – an entity responsible for rounding up spirits, and delivering them to the Everdoor. More importantly (and taking up the bulk of the gameplay), you are also helping them finish up whatever they need to do (or have done) before they can move on to their final rest.
I spent about 24 hours with Spiritfarer over the course of a couple of weeks, and that took me to the credits. There are things you can continue to do after the game ends, but I don’t know if I’ll go back. I only had two character stories left unfinished, and if I’m being completely honest, I actually wish the entire game was about half as long.
The art and music are lovely, the writing is excellent overall, and the characters are artfully depicted. But the mechanics of the game means that character development comes slowly as you muddle your way through fulfilling requests. For me, because some stories felt so drawn out, it lessened the impact.
That’s where the management flaws come in. Gathering resources can be tedious – traversing the map is especially slow early game, and resource nodes are limited and will need to recharge. You will need to get currency (Glims) as well as resources to perform upgrades to your ship which are needed to open up areas of the map, as well as increase the size of your ship and unlock additional blueprints. In case that’s not enough unlockables for you, you also need to collect Obols from the spirits in your care to deposit at shrines for new movement abilities, which allow you to go to previously inaccessible places.
It’s a lot, and it feels gargantuan what to prioritize because you just want to figure out where to get the one thing you need to move a quest along.
If you are comfortable with a some tedious and oh-so-slow gameplay, the emotional payoff is immense. I fully admit there were tears, and twice as many times when there were sniffles. Spiritfarer doesn’t just tug on your heartstrings – it ties them to a truck and steps on the gas.
If you are comfortable with the pervasive death theme, the slow pace of the game, and a story that’s told more through character development than plot, Spiritfarer is probably worth your time, but I hesitate to say that it would be enjoyable. There are a lot of things that this game does well, but – at least for me – fun never really entered into the equation. I was absolutely captivated and invested, but I don’t know that at any point, I was actually enjoying the gameplay.