Spiritfarer is a beautiful game. No matter where I was in Spiritfarer, I was greeted with beautiful animations, interesting characters, and a world that I wanted to explore. Even after twenty hours, I can still say the game’s style really shined after having explored a decent amount of it.
Spiritfarer has the player taking on the role of Stella, and in co-op also Daffodil, a male cat. At the beginning of the game Stella takes on the roll of the Spiritfarer, taking from Charon. She is tasked with taking spirits she finds who are ready to pass on to the Everdoor, the game’s path to Hades.
But this is the end of each spirit’s journey. Most spirits will join Stella’s voyage for many hours, far longer than players might expect at the beginning. Stella will get a number of requests from her passengers, which will involve her having to manage a number of resources, and priority for requests.
Each of the passengers on the boat will also help out at times, if Stella keeps them happy, mostly satisfying their requests, giving them some physical contact (Beautifully animated hugs) and feeding them their food, which each character having favorite choices.
There’s a solid story that starts to piece itself together in the final hours of the game. It’s a lovely message, and Spiritfarer delivers it well once you reach that point, however this is a story that develops over the course of tens of hours, and the earlier sections don’t really reveal the path the story it’s on until you are suddenly struck with it.
Each character has their own story, mixing parts of their life and experiences so players will grow to care about each of them and potentially not want to see them leave. This easily could have been a major part of the gameplay, and it’s an interesting concept to see how long players can hang on to each character.
Unfortunately, that’s where Spiritfarer has made some decisions that harm this feeling. The world is a series of islands with large barriers between sections of them. To reach a new set of islands, the main ship needs upgrades, such as the ability to break through ice. To earn those upgrades, players will purchase them, but will need a specific resource that can only be earned when a spirit goes through the Everdoor.
This doesn’t sound too bad on paper, but unfortunately most of the character’s quest progression and resources is locked behind these new areas. To get the first major upgrade, I was forced to say goodbye to a dear friend on the trip. This is a rather major moment… or should have been.
Instead I was stuck at that point in the story, where I couldn’t progress any quests, and couldn’t get the next resource. Looking online I found out that one of the spirit’s quest had stalled out, and there was a dialogue that had to happen to push the story forward, which then involved hunting for them and finding the character, and after that they left the trip, and became a resource for my upgrade.
If this happened once, I probably wouldn’t complain as it’s an interesting choice and moment for the game. Instead this happened Three times. There are only three major upgrades, but all three required an internet search to figure out what I was missing. And worse if these quests lag behind you are often just waiting for them to progress. There’s a point where a character needed to wait six in game days, there’s luckily a counter on the quest list, but six days is at least two or three hours, and my character had nothing else to do because everything was gated with these new areas.
I don’t hate Spiritfarer, but unfortunately the way the progress and upgrades works in Spiritfarer takes a very chill and relaxed game and adds just one annoying mechanic that taints the whole experience, having been hit by this problem so many times, I question if I’m just that unlucky or the game itself has a flaw that really pulls it back from the progression it’s so close to.
I personally stopped playing the game after about twenty or so hours, with quite a few hours left idle in menus as well. I’m definitely in the final act of the game, but I also am not sure I want to continue to poor hours. The fetch quests involved have gotten to the point where I’m feeling like I’m almost on a treadmill, and part of that is the new expansions in the game. It’s more of the great gameplay, but after 20 hours I don’t know if I really need even more of it, and unfortunately the game requires more patience near the end of the game, as players will be asked to travel farther differences, but also has seen so much of the game.
Like I said, I don’t hate Spiritfarer, but I’ve reach the point that the shiny new game is no longer that shiny. The experience is good, and I’d easily recommend the experience. However I am stopping with the understanding the goal might be only a few hours away, because I’m good with where I am.
Should you play Spiritfarer? Yes. Will you enjoy it? Absolutely. Will you beat the entire game? I didn’t. But 20 hours played on a beautiful indie game that I mostly enjoyed is a statement I can’t make about many games.