One of the first things I got to sit down and play within PAX East’s infamous Indie Mega Booth was the next title from Thunder Lotus, Spiritfarer. First announced in a Microsoft E3 press conference, Spiritfarer is a 2D adventure game about, essentially, someone who helps spirits pass on to the other side.
I think I had a lot of preconceptions about how Spiritfarer would play, but living in it, even for just 10 to 15 minutes, I got a lot different an impression than that initial trailer. There is a lot more simulation to Spiritfarer, and it falls into a much more meditative experience like a Stardew Valley. Your boat is home to many spirits from around the islands you’re exploring, and all of them seem to be animals, like a Snake or a big Toad. You can go up and chat with any of these spirits and some of them have quests and objectives to give.
What helps Spiritfarer stand apart is the level of micro with these relationships. From the demo, I was helping a Snake spirit get through her final requests, and while it seemed she left at the end, there was still a lot of micro I could manage with the other spirits. I could hug, feed, or just chat with any of the other spirits, growing my affinity with them. And I just want to go back real quick and and emphasize that you can just hug any other character on your boat. Including your little cat, Daffodil.
It may seem weird to focus in on this, but what stood out above anything else in Spiritfarer is the wholesomeness that permeated every aspect of its gameplay. You can hug any of your spirits, you can lean down and hug your cat, you can cook food (which cooks in real time, and you have to take it out of the oven in time so it comes out right), you can give gifts to your spirits, all these things to bring you closer. When you hug them, they’ll let you know how a hug can just make you feel better. When you randomly chat with other spirits on the islands you visit, sometimes they’ll vent about their problems, sometimes they’ll just chat about life. No matter what, every interaction I had with the characters of the world felt warm, it felt welcoming, and it set a tone of warmth that reached out and touched every part of the already lovely aesthetic.
Thunder Lotus has always had masterful 2D art, look at Sundered or Jotun and you’ll see that clear as day. What I like about the aesthetic here is how customizable it becomes when you start managing your boat. With all these spirits on your boat, you can build homes for them, build special rooms that let you grow crops or cook, which were the only two I saw in my demo. There is so much room for this to grow, and I’m really interested to see what specific lodgings each new spirit brings and if there are more simulation mechanics that come with them.
I don’t know what the through line of Spiritfarer will feel like, but the first impressions felt slow, meditative, and simply wonderful. I can tell when spirits pass on things will get emotional, surreal, and continue the beauty that supports everything else there is on display, and I’m really excited to just spend time in this world.
I played my demo on a PC with an Xbox One controller but a representative from Thunder Lotus let me know it would be coming to all platforms: PC, XBO, PS4, and Switch.