Spiritfarer Preview – Finding Beauty in Death

Death is often portrayed in games, more so in the sense of dying in combat which leads to a “Game Over.” Life after death, however, is a different story as it’s a subject matter that doesn’t necessarily get touched upon. Yet, developer Thunder Lotus Games is stepping into that uncharted territory with their upcoming cozy management game about death and dying, Spiritfarer.

While putting the words “cozy”, “management”, and “death” together may seem rather strange, almost insensitive in a way, it’s surprisingly the best way to describe what Spiritfarer has in store for players — embracing death and understanding how beautiful the afterlife can be. At PAX West 2019, we had the chance to go hands-on with the title to get a gist of how impactful Spiritfarer will be.

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Players will join Stella, a ferry master, along with her trusty feline friend Daffodil (who can be either an NPC or be controlled by a second player via local couch co-op.) As a dynamic duo, players will have the duty of helping recently deceased animal spirits to find true peace with their new afterlife. To accomplish this challenging task, final requests that spirits have need to be completed to send them off to the afterlife. These requests can be a wide range of things, like stopping by a specific location to get them a family heirloom.

The premise of Spiritfarer immediately struck a chord with me, as it reminded me of the many friends that have passed away in just this year alone and the lives they had. To be honest, I had that “lump in my throat” feeling while playing the Spiritfarer demo; since memories of those past friends came flooding back into my mind. Jo-Annie Gauthier, the “player 2” in my time with the demo, along with art director at Thunder Lotus Games, mentioned that Spiritfarer could potentially help players, such as myself, cope with death and grief.

Switching gears here, though, let’s go back to Stella who wasn’t the captain of just any ordinary ferry. Even though it was full of lingering spirits and dread, it was also full of life and opportunities. Whether it was tending a magical garden, going fishing at a perfect spot, making delicious meals in the kitchen, or even catching lightning during a thunderstorm, there never was a dull yet relaxing moment. While there was much to do that was already on the ferry already, that wasn’t all there was as I also discovered the option to build homes on the ferry itself.

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This where the “cozy management” side of Spiritfarer came into the picture once I came across a lost animal spirit that needed a home to stay in. Before bringing the spirit on board, though, I had to build them a house that was nice and cozy for them, a home sweet home, if you will. The house building mechanic was pretty unique, as it wasn’t a matter of plopping a house down somewhere and calling it a day — I had to make sure the size and location of each home matched precisely what the spirit was looking for. After doing this, thus fulfilling the spirt’s request, we traveled off to a portal to the afterlife, and with one final hug, they left the living world.

Hugs didn’t just happen this way, however, as hugs could be given at any time. Yes, there was literally a hug button, which was just awesome. Did I maybe give too many hugs? Hmm… perhaps, but hey, I thought it was lovely! But there’ll be more than hugs for players to enjoy, as players who fulfill specific requests will be granted with various abilities. For instance, I gained the power to double jump at one point during the demo I played.

While Spiritfarer may be focused on the concept of death and life after death, I absolutely have to mention it’s stunning and lively hand-drawn art style. Basically, I felt like I had jumped into a Studio Ghilbi film because of the game’s art style, and also because of how the animations were so fluid and how the music was so serene, bringing it to life.

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Even though I only played a small chunk of what’s to come, it seems like Spiritfarer will offer a beautiful and powerful journey filled with unforgettable moments that’ll bring me to tears and make me smile. I honestly can’t wait to go back into Spiritfarer and unwind for hours as I build my ferry, hug some friends, and be reassured that we’ll all float on okay in the end.

Spiritfarer is set to release on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One-via Xbox Game Pass, and PC-via Steam sometime in 2020.

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Brad Crespo

Editor-in-Chief - On a quest to play as many new games as possible while trying to finish an endless backlog.