Hey! Hallie here!
I really like to consume cozy media once we start getting into the Fall weather, and that includes video games. So earlier this month I decided to look for a calm, cozy game to help me get into the Fall mood. I was also looking for something that could replace ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ for me now that I’m at the point where the game is tedious and not very replayable. While searching on TikTok for cozy game recommendations, I found ‘Spiritfarer’, a game that involves foraging, farming, and crafting as well as cute animals, but has a larger story and message to get across on top of that. Plus, you actually get to hug the animal creatures in the game! Naturally, I was sold. I took my time with this game so I could really appreciate the calming nature of it, but now I’ve finished it and I really can’t wait to talk about it! Before I get into this review know that I will mark spoiler areas, and also know that this game deals with the heavy subject of death. Avoid this if that’s triggering for you. Let’s get into this review!
I feel like the story is kind of essential to explaining everything else, including the way this game works, so I’m going to jump right into the deep stuff. In this game you play as Stella, a girl who’s constantly followed by her cat Daffodil, after she’s recruited by Charon, the ferryman for the dead in Greek mythology, to take over his job and ferry spirits into the afterlife. Throughout the game you meet various spirits, all of whom become some kind of animal once they join you on your boat, and you help them come to terms with their lives until they’re ready to go through the mysterious Everdoor and pass on into the afterlife. This entire scenario is one of the reasons why this game is so sad. You get to know all of the characters you encounter very well, but you also know from the moment you meet them that you’ll have to say goodbye to them. And though some of the characters seem happier or more content right before they go through the Everdoor, others seem to deteriorate until it feels like the Everdoor is their only option.
SPOILERS: For example, Summer is a snake you meet early in the game. In life she was the wife of Stella’s aunt, but she battled with cancer and died at an old age from her illness. By the time she goes through the Everdoor, she’s come to terms with the cancer that killed her and is ready to move on. But later you meet Alice, a hedgehog who you slowly realize is struggling with the dementia that she struggled with in life. By the time you take her through the Everdoor, you have to help her walk from location to location, and the only way she’ll let you help her pass on is if you wear clothing she associates with her daughter so she’ll mistake you for her. Other characters invoke tears by other means, though. Stanley, an eight-year-old boy who appears as a mushroom, is immediately sad simply because of his age. And by the end of the game you realize Stella herself, who worked as an end-of-life nurse that either helped or personally knew all of the lovely characters you meet throughout the game, is also in the process of trying to pass on to the afterlife.
The game isn’t all doom and gloom, though. It’s sad simply because it deals with the concept of death. But all the characters are bright and funny, with distinct personalities that are fun to learn and even more fun to interact with. The game even has a goofy sense of humor that’s best unveiled as you travel around the game map and interact with background characters. And though the story does always come back to the sad parts about death, it is far more focused on admiring the lives of each character you meet and the people they strive to become even after death. So get out the tissues, but know this game won’t be as downright depressing as other games are.
Like I said above, this is a foraging/farming/crafting game. But it definitely introduces enough new elements that it feels unique. Essentially, you’re given a large, customizable boat so you can ferry spirits into the afterlife. All the empty space on your boat is there so you can build what is basically an entire floating town. Amongst the things you can build on the boat are houses for every spirit you encounter, a kitchen, a farm, an orchard, a sawmill, and so much more. In order to get the materials you need to build these things, you need to sail your boat across the map to discover the many islands littered across it. On some islands you can buy the equipment you need from a greedy raccoon (That sounds familiar), while in others you can chop down trees, pick berries, and locate rare stones that you need for your endeavors. None of these islands feel similar, and all of the major locations have fun spirits to meet and stories to discover as well. As the game goes on you’ll be relying more on the materials you can grow or make yourself on your boat via easy mini games, but the game eases you into that nicely so you don’t feel rushed into building crafting stations for your boat.
Speaking of missions, all of them come from the spirits on the boat, who have various requests you must fulfill in order to help them pass on. Some missions are better than others, mostly because some characters are more likable than others, but none give you so many missions that you feel like a spirit is overstaying their welcome. Another nice thing about this game is, despite how much of the gameplay relies on gathering materials, it never feels grindy. None of the spirits will ever ask you to get a ridiculous amount of materials, and the materials you find or make are always plentiful enough that you don’t have to spend too much time gathering them. In other words, this game isn’t too difficult and doesn’t make you do anything that you don’t feel ready to tackle. It gives you plenty of things to do and plenty of missions to accomplish, but it lets you choose how much you want to do and how long you want to spend on each task. You don’t even have to ferry all of the spirits you meet to the Everdoor in order to complete the game. Just most of them. It’s a very mellow game that you can easily take at your own pace.
I loved ‘Spiritfarer’. The art style is gorgeous and hugging the characters in this game was so cathartic. It’s probably the most calming game I’ve played in a while. I love story-based games, and this is definitely one of those, but within the structure of the story it allowed me just enough freedom that I didn’t feel I was being pressured into anything. The game gave me time to explore, make things, sleep, play games, and chat with the spirits on my boat without making me feel like I had to rush to the next thing. And some of the characters I met are characters that will stick with me for a long time. This isn’t the happiest game, and there were definitely times I had to walk away from it for a while to process my emotions, but it isn’t the saddest game either. It’s just the right amount of meaningful, and that isn’t something you get from a cute platformer like this very often.
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!