Spiritfarer: Is this cozy management sim worth it?

Spiritfarer is an indie game developed by Thunder Lotus Games, first released in August 2020. Thunder Lotus continued to release updates for free, delighting players.

As of Dec 2021, the final update was released and the game was renamed; “Spiritfarer: Farewell Edition”. 

Spiritfarer is available on most platforms: Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, Playstation, Epic Games Store, Netflix. 

If you like cozy management games with a strong, emotional narrative, this game should be in your collection. Here’s my review of Spiritfarer, with no spoilers:

The Spiritfarer story

You play as Stella, a newly minted Spiritfarer who is tasked with releasing the deceased into the afterlife. Expect a good mix of action, town boat building and a bittersweet story told with great pacing, visually pleasant art style and a well crafted soundtrack.

The plot takes inspiration from The River Styx, a watery way linking Earth and afterlife where the ferryman transports spirits safely to the afterlife for a token fee.

As a cozy management RPG, you will fish, farm, cook and gather resources to build your boat as a ferryman. Along the way, you welcome spirits to journey along with you. 

Your aim would be to ferry them to the afterlife via the Everdoor.

However, they are not ready for the journey. It’s up to you to help them resolve their psychological hurdles often having to do with their fears or regrets. 

And that’s where Spiritfarer shines.

Each spirit’s backstory is well written and delivered, helping us to connect with them emotionally, even if we may not like them. 

Spiritfarer Gameplay

Spiritfarer is a side-scrolling game where you manage a boat, travel across the seas to explore new islands and find new spirits to join your boat. 

Once you unlock new spirits, you’ll invite them onto your boat, build a room for them, keep them happy with hugs (a lot of hugs) and food that suits their taste, while fulfilling their requests.

As you progress, you’ll upgrade your boat and unlock more terrain to explore. 

Your aim is to prepare the spirits for their final journey to the afterlife.

A well paced game that keeps you hooked

Spiritfarer is well paced with new capabilities and minigames being unlocked with different milestones. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are objectives that you should be clearing in order to complete the game. However, while you can rush through the game to unlock all the features and aim to complete the game, players like me who prefer to explore and go slow do not feel punished for not advancing the story at a quicker speed.

Exploring the seas for new islands, random junk and simply fishing in the storm offer a cozy playing experience. 

Also, the game gives you a great sense of progress no matter your speed – you get to unlock a larger boat, build more houses and facilities on it (and occasionally rearranging them), unlock boat upgrades that allow you to explore a wider terrain as time passes and unlock new abilities for Stella which allows you to access new areas of previously visited islands.

In fact, I’ve played through this game twice, am on my third playthrough and still am as hooked onto it, much thanks to the storyline and the game mechanics.

Mini games that keep you entertained

Farming and resource gathering can get repetitive and boring, but Spiritfarer nailed the formula. There are several ways to collect resources and each is presented as a different minigame, providing a good variety.

I was kept entertained as I worked to gather resources and build my boat.

Simple tasks like speeding up your crop growth are made fun with a rhythm game while weaving fabrics requires you to time your movement on the loom. Collecting bottled Ectoplasm requires you to dash and jump around your boat chasing dust shades, while fishing requires you to time your fight against the fish while avoiding the dreadful experience of breaking your fishing line. 

And that’s not all the minigames too (there’s crafting, smelting, cooking and more), but I’ll not spoil it for you.

The variety of minigames and the well paced progression reduces the need for repetitive grinding which I think was a well thought out design by Thunder Lotus Games.

These minigames are usually played on your boat, so they will also affect how you design your boat.

Emotional Journey interwoven with a beautiful soundtrack

Someone once said “Music is the soundtrack of our lives”. And Spiritfarer’s music is the perfect example.

Don’t watch the cutscenes without your sound on!

Here’s the animated trailer to give you an idea of the soundtrack:

If you’d like to listen to the well-composed score, the Spiritfarer OST is on Spotify too.

Released in the perfect time

Spiritfarer was released in August 2020, right in the height of the Covid pandemic when the world was dealing with deaths, fear and anxiety of a global viral disease.

We all have had to deal with the pandemic in our own ways. 

And Spiritfarer offered a comforting experience to handling the grief of death, in the age of fear, anger and frustration.

Also, it is worth noting that Spiritfarer is quite inclusive, one of the spirit spent many of her happy days with Stella’s aunt…

Life goes on

Dealing with death and dying is hard. And while Spiritfarer approaches this solemn theme via a game, it doesn’t focus too much on the negativity nor provide a high-brow perspective. Instead, it reminds us that oftentimes, death isn’t as dramatic IRL.

We can celebrate the lives of those whom we have met in our own journeys. We can hold them in our memories. 

And after spending over 40+ hours in the game, it inadvertently ended. The song “What Will You Leave Behind” came on and I cried

It was a perfect ending to Spiritfarer, the cozy game about dying. 

The song reminds us that “we will learn how to say goodbye”. And its title serves as a reminder that our lives will go on – so, What Will You Leave Behind?

If you’d like to learn more about the development of the game and its theme on dealing with death, watch this:

Spiritfarer: Should you buy?

It’s a resounding yes from me.

You’ll not regret having experience the emotional journey that Spiritfarer delivers.

But if you’re still on the fence, here’re some questions you may have in mind:

Is Spiritfarer an endless game?

No. 

After the final send off, the credit rolls and the game officially ends. However, your save point will likely be just before the send off. So you can continue playing from the last save point, especially if you’re aiming for a 100% completion.

Is Spiritfarer a relaxing game?

Yes. 

Good pacing paired with beautiful art style and music, Spiritfarer is a relaxing, cozy game that gets emotional as you send off the various spirits.


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