Sometimes I am awarded the privilege of playing games like Far: Lone Sails. I know that somewhat gives my opinion away early, but it truly deserves it. The only trouble with games like F: LS is how little I feel I can give away in a review. I am of the opinion that one experiences something like this best when going into it blind, so I will endeavor to tell you about it as best as I can without spoiling anything.
To say there are a “few good things” about Far: Lone Sails is an understatement because it is nothing but good things. The visuals, the music, the gameplay, the story, everything is awesome. Alright, sorry, sorry. No more gushing, professional review time. F: LS is a story orientated game in which you are a small child covered in enough red fabric to hide any form of gender.
You move around the world running and jumping, as well as having the ability to pick things up. Eventually, you enter the vehicle, which you pilot by pushing various buttons around the ship. You need to manage energy, steam build up that can boost your speed, fix any broken parts and collect random scrap to converts into energy for the engine. All of this is very intuitive, making you feel like you are really a small child trying to pilot a house-sized ship. Eventually, the ship gets upgraded as you travel throughout the world, adding many useful features. There are also various parts of the game in which the ship has been stopped, so you exit it to solve puzzles that will let you progress.
The game uses semi 3D models on a 2D landscape, reminiscent of Inside and Limbo, in which you and all interactable objects are on the same plane. Okomotive compensates for the limited area of movement by creating grand landscapes in the background and giving you a zoom function. The camera will occasionally wrestle control from you to zoom out and show you the world. In any other game, the camera wrestling would have been a flaw. However, in Far: Lone Sails, seeing the barren landscape behind you makes you feel very small and insignificant. It helps create this feeling of being on an epic journey. The above-mentioned ship-exiting sequences also remind you how small you truly are, no longer zoomed in on in the ship’s hull and exposed to the world. The stark red of your clothing helps you stand out in the rather pale environments you tend to visit through this journey. This also helps with the storytelling. They show you the story, instead of “telling” it. In my opinion, this is the best kind of storytelling.
Some of you may remember a while ago I berated Extinction for telling rather than showing. Far: Lone Sails is the exact opposite of that, using backgrounds to tell a story. Huge ruins of cities and construction areas tell us about a civilization. The lack of people tells us of some kind of mass migration or tragic event. The barren landscape tells us that this place is not hostile, but abandoned. You are alone. Absolutely and truly alone, and no one even had to tell you about it. This is actually where my first real criticisms come in. It is very difficult to tell a story in the background, so subtlety must be carefully handled. At one point that I can distinctly remember, a cable car is taking you past a sign. Now, I had already noticed the sign while walking earlier, and you pass right in front of it in the cable car. However, the game takes it a step further and makes a light flash above the sign, as if crying “Look here, look here!” in the process. This is the only instance of this in the game though, which I think deserves some recognition.
The sound design is also something to behold. Loops of light orchestral music, sad strumming of wood instruments, and jaunty tunes occasionally have this way of making the wastes feel alive. The word of the day is atmospheric, and the music in this game is key to that. So many games fall down in sound design, but even the rhythmic sounds of your ship have this way of fitting in. Everything feels like it was put there for a reason, and executes its job perfectly. During the credits, the various musicians went past, and every single one of them brought their A-game. I know I promised a while ago to stop gushing, but believe me, I have. This soundtrack made the experience for me, it kept me playing and made every area interesting. There is a part of the game in which you acquire a radio, and it plays jaunty, almost jazz-like music, reminding me that I am on an adventure. The music complements the background and gameplay perfectly, making my job very difficult indeed.
You see, the unfortunate part of being a professional critic is when you have nothing to complain about in a game, people tend to think you are being biased. So I have dedicated the rest of this paragraph to all of the criticisms I have of Far: Lone Sails. The picture chugged once or twice, freezing for an instant and snapping forward. The puzzles are all rather simple, basically just variations on “push the button and feed the energy machine scrap.” The game isn’t really all that challenging as a whole, but it isn’t supposed to be. Do not come to Far: Lone Sails expecting to build a skill set and overcome obstacles. This is an experience where you need to take everything in, so if you prefer action over absorbing scenery, then this game probably isn’t for you.
While I really enjoyed the game, I found that I tended to forget about it while not playing. The game is also ridiculously short. I finished it in about two hours. It does feel longer, but this may be a deal breaker for some people. I also felt there were a lot of unanswered questions about the story. Then again, half the fun of these games is waiting for some nerd on YouTube to look through the game eight times and piece together the story for us.
You’ll notice earlier I used the word “journey”. This is the most accurate term I can think of for Far: Lone Sails. You aren’t here for some challenges, or to hear a story master tell you a tale. You are here to take it all in, experience the ride of a lifetime. The game may not be pulse-pounding action throughout but it is engaging and exciting, and most importantly absorbing.
I mention above that the game can be rather forgettable while you aren’t playing. However, when you are playing, it becomes the only thing you can think about. I found myself having to try really hard to press the quit button, just because I wanted to see what the next area looked like. It isn’t necessarily absorbing like Skyrim or God of War, where you forget about eating and discover that missing a week of your life has dire consequences. It’s more absorbing, like a good song, where you zone into it and nothing else. You are aware of everything around you, but the flavor of the room has changed to the experience in front of you. This is probably why the experience felt so much longer and more satisfying than a two hour game should.
In conclusion, I should be crucifying this game. If you can look past all the love notes I write it throughout the review, you’ll notice I list a lot of negative qualities. If it weren’t for the amazing presentation, the wonderful look and atmosphere, I wouldn’t even be recommending this. I am though, because it is something you NEED to play. Games like these are why I became a critic, because they are art. It’s certainly short, but so densely packed with story and scenery, that I can forgive it. It is a bit unclear and abrupt, but it was meant to be that way. Everything feels planned out and crafted perfectly. This is going to be the highest I have ever scored a game, but so far, no other game has deserved it more. Well done!
A PC review copy of Far: Lone Sails was provided by Mixtvision for the purpose of this review.