Bittersweet Goodbyes in Spiritfarer | Game Review

Spiritfarer tackles the topic of death with poise while wrenching your heart out… Stanley, nooo!

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Spiritfarer Features

  • Release Date: 18 Aug, 2020
  • Developer / Publisher: Thunder Lotus Games
  • Platforms: PC (Steam), Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Seris S/X, iOS and Android
  • Genre: Co-op, Puzzle, Platformer
  • Coziness Rating: 5 out of 5* – Bottled coziness

What is Spiritfarer All About?

Spiritfarer is based on an old Greek mythology—the story of the river Styx.

If you’ve ever watched Disney’s Hercules then you’ll be familiar with the story. Deceased spirits are ferried down the river by Charon to the afterlife. In this case the baton, as it where, is passed over to Stella, a young woman who’s on her own personal journey down the Styx.

Charon also gives Stella the Everlight, a magical tool that can power her boat and transform into several different tools. And it will also unlock some new abilities later in the game.

Along with your companion Daffodil the Cat – an optional cooperative 2-player mode – you travel by boat between islands discovering stuck spirits that are in need of your help moving on.

Each spirit is painted as an animal that most closely resembles their personality in their human life. 

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My Experience of Spiritfarer

No fairy-tale endings here, unfortunately, only bittersweet goodbyes. I can’t figure out why I keep doing this to myself. Somehow I keep ending up choosing games that delve into deep and heavy topics recently.

Spiritfarer is a cozy management game about dying and it does it so well. There were so many interesting characters on Stella’s boat that I became somewhat of a hoarder, my favs being Alice, Stanley and Atul.

So, when our conversations took a turn, and they expressed a desire to say a final goodbye, I was genuinely taken aback. I will never be able to let another villager in Animal Crossing go ever again, this game has broken me.

Spiritfarer is a cozy management game about dying. You play Stella, ferrymaster to the deceased, a Spiritfarer. Build a boat to explore the world, then befriend and care for spirits before finally releasing them into the afterlife. Farm, mine, fish, harvest, cook, and craft your way across mystical seas. Join the adventure as Daffodil the cat, in two-player cooperative play. Spend relaxing quality time with your spirit passengers, create lasting memories, and, ultimately, learn how to say goodbye to your cherished friends. What will you leave behind?

Spiritfarer – Steam
Game - Spiritfarer Her Cozy Gaming - Best Cozy Couch Co-op Games on Nintendo Switch Tags: cozy couch co-op games on switch, Nintendo Switch, coop games, cute co-op games, cozy co-op games on switch, best switch games, cozy gamer, cozy gaming community, crafting, management, cozy management game, best management games on Switch

Sea Legs

Once onboard your ship you befriend and tend to each character. As your adorable crew of new spirits grows so does your ship. Each spirit requires its own room which involves fetch quests and plenty of crafting.

Onboard you’ll eventually have rooms for sowing seeds, cooking comfort meals, sawing and sewing, plus melting metals. I loved this way of resource management because I could easily see it all happening while I went off to do a spot of fishing or speak with a spirit.

If you find yourself running out of room for all your guests and trying to play Tetris as you build your boat upwards you’ll need to go for upgrades back at the docks. 

Characters and Backstories

Take some time to relax and listen to your passengers’ stories, their joys, and their sorrows. Just be there for them as they process what’s happening to them.

It can be tempting to sail to each island picking up every spirit, but as in life, making friends takes time, and learning what they like and dislike is important to the development of their story and their connection to yours.

Go slow because I promise you once their journey is over you’ll have wished you spent more time with them. Is it okay that as a grown woman, I still weep because Stanley is gone?

Game: Spiritfarer, 
Tags: Cozy management game about dying, best cozy game, cozy games 2020, spiritfarer game review, her cozy gaming, Wendy England
Image from Thunder Lotus Digital Art Book

The Story Behind Spiritfarer Explained

I’m going to be 100% honest with you and say that I didn’t get what all the fuss was about to begin with.

When I played Spiritfarer for the first time I sincerely didn’t understand how each spirit was connected to Stella or why she was the only human.

I know they mention their connections to each other in passing but after a while, there were so many new shipmates that I’d get confused and give up trying to remember the plot. When Stella was given flashbacks of her own memories I didn’t truly grasp what was happening to her.

That’s why once I’d played Spiritfarer through for the first time I went down a Google rabbit hole searching for the story behind it all—who was Stella in her past life? I wasn’t ready for what I discovered.

So according to a past Reddit post, a developer for Thunder Lotus Games said they “wanted the game to stay vague and let the player interpret it as they want.” But that wasn’t enough for the fanbase so they later released a Digital Art Book with the complete Lore of Stella and her friends.

If you played on Nintendo Switch like I did you can read a summary of the Lore on Nerd Stash, though I’d love to get hold of a physical copy of the book one day.

I’m starting quite a collection of cozy games and collectibles now. 

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Can I Get a Hug Please?

The hardest scenes for me were the spirits’ final moments as you row them to the gate. It was where the characters came to life, a poor choice of words I know, but this is where they are at their most vulnerable.

Spiritfarer is heavy on dialogue. After all, there’s a lot to unpack, and with 14 spirits to listen to this game will take you some time to complete. In all, it took me 30+ hours to play Spiritfarer in its entirety.

Most likely because I spent an abnormal amount of time hugging each spirit. Gwen gave the best hugs. At first, she was reluctant but then you can see her embrace it and lean in. I didn’t want her to ever let go.

Stanley on the other hand, well he was a surprise hugger, that pounce and squash was the best. I can’t thank the developers enough for giving each character their own unique hug mechanic. Hugging is so underrated, it surprises me how little of it there is in games.

Did you know that a 20-second hug reduces the harmful effects of stress and relieves blood pressure? Hugs are so important. They are a sign that we care.

In Spiritfarer hugs are more than an afterthought, they improve the mood of your character after they’ve been dwelling too long on their past life. A hug gives them the strength to keep going. 

Game: Spiritfarer, 
Tags: Cozy management game about dying, best cozy game, cozy games 2020, spiritfarer game review, her cozy gaming, Wendy England
Screengrabs from gameplay by Wendy England

Events and Mini-Games in Spiritfarer

With each new spirit that boards your boat, they will introduce you to an event.

Each new event can be started by sailing into a highlighted area of the map or by talking to the character. And later, once they have departed your boat you’ll be able to continue playing the mini-games by interacting with their door.

These games within the main game don’t take much time, they are for necessary resources that you’ll need along your journey. I’ll list below which event gives you what resource because honestly, I kept forgetting myself.

List of Resources*

SPIRITRESOURCEEVENT
GwenBright JellyJellyfish
AtulLightning in a BottleThunderstorm
SummerQuartz & Ore’sDragon
AstridPlantingTurtle Sisters
GiovanniComet RockMeteor Shower
GustavFireglow SeedsFireflies
AliceNebula FibreNebula Pillbugs
Bruce & MickeyPulsar OrePulsar Rays
ElenaPulsar OreDeadly Pulsar Rays
Gold OreGolden Dragon
Lightning in a BottleSevere Thunderstorm
*For more information see Spiritfarer Wiki

One of my favorite mini games is singing to the plants.

Once Summer has introduced you to growing crops you’ll be able to go to your little farms dotted about your boat at any time and play your guitar to them.

As you hit the right note at the perfect time, cat Daffodil serenades you with a charming tune, and in the blink of an eye, your plants begin to flourish. However, your plants will grow anyway without all this quick minigame, it’ll just take them a bit longer.

Even when I didn’t need my crops I still had a little sing song with Daffodil. I promise that this song will live on in your heart as it now does mine.

Is Spiritfarer Worth Buying?

Spiritfarer is a balm for those of us who’ve ever lost a loved one. The gameplay loop is satisfying and it succeeded in doing what every good cozy game does—it took my mind off the stresses in my own life.

Even fishing was fun for me. Fishing didn’t detract from the main story because I could sit down and enjoy it while my guests slept or while I waited for my boat to reach its destination. It’s small details like this that elevate a game from grindy to cozy.

Another feather in Spiritfarer’s nautical hat on my personal cozy scale is how it made me reflect on the relationships in my own family and how little time I have with them.

For a game with a topic of death, it’s not at all depressing, rather it uplifts and inspires while being incredibly soothing to the soul. Spiritfarer is one of the most emotional management games I’ve probably ever played.

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Buying Options

Steam

£24.99

Play now

Switch

£23.79

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*affiliate links

Prices correct at time of publishing

Pros: Heartbreakingly poignant and worth a replay

Cons: None

Wendy
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3 Comments

  1. I loved Spiritfarer. It helped me a lot coping with my mom’s cancer diagnosis (no worries, she’s in remission so far) and I really owe my sanity to it. This is a wonderful review. Thank you!

    1. Hi Alexia! I’m so sorry that you (and her!) had to go through such a terrible time. Cancer is no joke. The impact it has on everyone involved is heartbreaking. I’m so happy you found solace in Spiritfarer! The story is incredibly touching and cathartic, I wish more people knew about it. Thank you for your kind words and I wish you and your family many happy times ahead 🙂

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