Studio: Thunder Lotus
Released: August 18, 2020
Spiritfarer is a sweet, organizational game of preparing loved ones to pass on and dealing with mortality. The main character, Stella, gets tasked by the ancient being Charon with assuming the role of the titular “Spiritfarer,” a shepherd of sorts for spirits caught in-between life and the unknown realm that exists beyond a stone archway known as the “Everdoor.”
Unlike the Charon of legend, who brings his passengers travel along the river Styx deep in the cavernous underworld, the realm in-between life and death for Spiritfarer consists of several islands with their own communities of spirits, upon vast, animated seas and under skies that shift gently from sunny mornings to starry nights. Stella (accompanied by her cat Daffodil) carries the spirits who choose to step onto her vessel from one destination to the next, gathering materials to build homes and other facilities on the desk to make them comfortable, until they are ready to leave for the Everdoor.
All the spirit passengers, once human, appear on the ship as anthropomorphic animals (with the exception of Stanley, a child who takes the shape of a mushroom), each with their own musical theme, storyline to explore, and issues to overcome. Stella works tirelessly to help them come to terms with situations that might have confused or troubled them greatly throughout their lives, fulfilling a role not only of a captain, but also of a therapist.
As the game progresses, however, it becomes clear that more than a few of the passengers have had close connections to Stella, also a spirit, throughout her life. The very first passenger, for instance, is a deer named Gwen, who used to be like an older sister to Stella. Another passenger is an outgoing frog, Atul, who was Stella’s uncle. The list goes on, making this game not just one where the player learns about the spirits who become Stella’s passengers, but Stella as well.
The theme of death can be a sensitive and hard one for any medium to tackle, which makes it all the more remarkable that Spiritfarer does so gracefully. There is love woven into each character and twist in the plot, where players can take their time in becoming fond of the spirits they encounter and exploring the world, without a time limit or pressure. Alongside a beautiful soundtrack, the ability to fish, and the means to play around with the various facilities on the ship, it is easy to get lost in Spiritfarer for hours on end.
Because Spiritfarer may be a game about death, but it is very much a game about life as well.