This is the RPS Advent Calendar, in which we reveal one of our favourite PC games of 2020 on each day. Head back to the calendar to open another door.
It’s day five of the RPS Advent Calendar. What’s behind the door today? Surely it can’t be time to say goodbye already?
Ah, goodbyes can be bittersweet. Cathart with us in Spiritfarer!
Jake: I’m a firm believer that it’s important to have a good cry every now and then. Whether it’s a sad movie you’re sticking on, or that bit in Shadow Of The Colossus where you realise you’re the baddie, it’s great to let it all out once in a while. Spiritfarer made me cry, a lot. Death is a core mechanic as you meet new characters and help them fulfill their last wishes, before ferrying them to the great beyond. There’s sadness in the introduction of every colourful character you meet, as you know that you’ll soon be saying goodbye for the last time.
I never quite got over the death of the very first spirit you meet in Spiritfarer, a chain-smoking deer named Gwen. I loved having her around, and when it was time to take her to the Everdoor, I made her a black coffee (her favourite) and sat next to her for the entire duration of her final journey. I was lucky to get these last moments with Gwen, as other characters slip away without any notice whatsoever. Some deteriorate quickly, while others sneak off of your ship while you sleep. Each spirit is unique, with a unique way of passing on.
Despite being solely concerned with the cheery subject of death, Spiritfarer is actually fun to play. There’s a management-sim element to your ship, as you collect resources from around the world and use them to craft new buildings and homes for your crew. There’s mining, a guitar minigame and even platforming puzzles. It’s got that great loop often found in farming games. You pull up to a new area, mine everything in sight and then build a new thing that lets you mine rarer items. Seeing your ship grow as you stack ramshackle buildings on top of each other is lovely, as is the satisfying clunk as it sails into a new port for the first time. It’s almost enough to take your mind off of all the death.
Alice Bee: In a world where being kind can feel difficult sometimes, Spiritfarer teaches you to do everything for kindness. It’s a management game where you grow plants and work and cook and build but you don’t do it for yourself. You don’t tend your orchard so you can store all your apples for next winter. You don’t turn logs into plants to build a bigger, better house for yourself. You do it to build nice homes for your mates, even though they won’t be staying in them long.
And you won’t mind. You’ll spend ages experimenting with different ingredients in the kitchen, trying to find out what everyone’s favourite foods are. You’ll collect rare minerals and pound them to dust and turn them into sheets of crystal, so you can make nice ornaments for them. And your reward is: they are happy. You are kind to them, and they are kind to you.
I rearranged the whole structure of my boat just so an elderly hedgehog didn’t have to go up and down ladders to her room. Also, she liked the aforementioned orchards, so I made sure they were close to her home as well. Everyone has one character in Spiritfarer that gets to them, see, so for Jake it was Gwen, but for me it was the hedgehog who reminded me of my granny.