At PAX West 2019, we got the chance to see and play Spiritfarer, the upcoming “cozy management game about dying” from Thunder Lotus games. Spiritfarer was first revealed during the Xbox E3 2019 Press Conference, and was notable due to it’s colorful 2D animation style. I was on the fence about it at first, unsure about if I would like the gameplay, but now I can confidently say it’s one of my most anticipated upcoming indie titles.
Inspired by the Greek myth of Kharon, Spiritfarer has you play as Stella, a ferrymaster whose job is to help souls go on to the afterlife by befriending them and completing their various requests. Interestingly enough, at it’s core Spiritfarer is a management game where you have to travel across the sea, farm, harvest, fish, cook, mine, and craft in order to complete the aforementioned requests. Through completing these requests, you learn more about the spirits you encounter, listening to and understanding their stories until it’s eventually time to say goodbye. You can also hug any spirits in addition to talking to them, so if you feel a deep connection with them and their story you can show your affection in a wholesome way.
In addition to playing alone, up to two players can play cooperatively, with the second player playing as Daffodil the cat, who can help Stella with a number of different activities. It’s unknown just how much co-op adds to the experience, but it’s nice to have to have the option to play with another person. Some errands can be completed when traveling from one point to another on the map when going somewhere new to complete a request and the second player can sometimes help with these errands, such as planting and watering plants in the garden. New rooms have to be added to the boat to take part in these activities. You only select the placement of new rooms, which connect to other rooms on the boat through ladders, and otherwise they seem to already be finished once placed.
While Spiritfarer mostly focuses on the management of the boat and request completion, there are some light platforming elements, usually where you’ll have to jump somewhere to reach a specific item that will help you complete a request. One of the activities I did in my playthrough was collect glims from lightning by jumping to different spots on the boatbefore it hit. The controls were simple enough that performing this task was actually enjoyable, and there didn’t seem to be any kind of penalty if I missed my chance to catch some lightning so I completed the task with ease. It was unclear what the glims actually do though. You can also gain new skills such as a double jump by activating beacons in certain locations.
I was lucky enough to play co-op alongside the Art Director Jo-Annie Gauthier, as we discussed the different artistic influences that inspired the look and feel of the game. Jo-Annie mentioned that one of the biggest influences was the anime film Spirited Away as it deals with some similar subject matter, although the visual style of Spiritfarer is more simplistic and more akin to the visual style of series like Steven Universe, which Gauthier admitted she was a big fan of and may have had some influence without her realizing. The influence of Spirited Away also shines through Spiritfarer‘s music, which seems to have a similar composition in the few tracks I heard.
Spiritfarer seems like it could be a massive success if it’s able to execute everything right, and as of writing, it seems to be heading down the correct path to accomplish that. It’s more lighthearted approach to a heavy topic is something not seen all too often, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in the future it helps individuals both young and old process grief and other feelings after the loss of a loved one. Due to it’s artistic style, subject matter, and simple yet intriguing gameplay, Spiritfarer is definitely a game to keep an eye on leading up to its release.
Spiritfarer will be launching on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, and Nintendo Switch in 2020.