Spiritfarer is All About Making Friends With the Deceased

Animals Crossing Over

I have a few weaknesses that will instantly interest me in a game: Stealth games that don’t let you shoot your way out. Exploring creepy forgotten ruins and piecing the lore together. NPCs that give you actual directions instead of putting a big marker on your map. After playing Spiritfarer for 10 seconds, I found another weakness – being able to hug almost every character you meet. Sure it may be a gimmick, but it’s also the most genuine way to show your appreciation for a non-player character in any game in recent memory. Think about all the friends you’ve made in Animal Crossing that never really knew how much they meant to you. With Spiritfarer, you get a double-edged sword of being able to connect with the people you meet and make an impact in their lives (afterlives?), but must be ready to eventually say goodbye.

In this management-sim of sorts developed by Thunder Lotus, you play as Stella, a girl tasked with ferrying the deceased and preparing them to make that final step into the beyond, and you can tell she loves her job. Each character who finds their way onto your ferry (personified as some truly adorable looking animals) will have their own needs you’ll need to care for, and stories to share with you. In my time with the demo, I met a woman who took the form of a snake stuffed into a giant robe (She pulled the look off very well), and as I learned more about her life story, it became apparent she wasn’t ready to move on just yet. I was able to build her a small home on my ferry by talking to a shipwright – a jovial-looking shark with an impressive amount of dad jokes (I was told by the developers that he has a dad joke cooldown timer!). I decided to test the limits of my little ferry by building the home as far up in a corner as I could, and was impressed by how seamless the task was. Rooftops would shift and flatten as I hovered over potential spots, and ladders quickly connected up to make every part of the ship accessible. My ship only had a few occupants at the time, but I’m looking forward to seeing just how customizable and huge I can make my ferry when Spiritfarer arrives in 2020 on PC and consoles.

Exit Theatre Mode

I also appreciated how spry and nimble Stella is at getting around her ferry and the islands you can visit. She can platform between ledges and windowsills, slide down rooftops, and glide from one end of the boat to the other using her hat as a parachute. It’s made even more charming with the subtle attention to detail in the gorgeous hand-drawn art-style. Sources of light in Spiritfarer absolutely pop against the background, and you can seamlessly transition into indoor areas to find nifty little details in the environment. As for the characters themselves, Stella will beam with pride after helping someone out, and each character is so animated in their idle movements and actions that they radiate with personality. You can even give a hug to Stella’s cat, Daffodil, who follows you everywhere you go, and can apparently be controlled by a second player.

After getting a request to find a lost heirloom at a spirit’s former home, I busied myself with fishing, cooking, gardening, and even catching lightning strikes while the boat automatically sailed to the point I marked on the map. It was a great way to keep me active instead of fast-traveling or just staring at a map while the minutes ticked by, and completing tasks for my new friends scratched that Animal Crossing itch. I wasn’t able to complete all of the tasks given to me by the spirit before my time ended – which might have been a blessing because I don’t know if saying goodbye was going to get me all weepy. Still, I can definitely seeing myself sinking a lot of time into Spiritfarer, as should anyone who is looking to get a bit more feeling and personality in their comfy management sims.

Brendan Graeber is IGN’s Guides Editor, and wishes every game let you hug your pals. Even Doom! Follow him on twitter @Ragga_Fragga.

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