A Simulator Game With Spirit


Courtesy of: Thunder Lotus Games

The cover art for Spiritfarer.

     Spiritfarer is an indie hit made by Thunder Lotus Games from last year that follows a standard adventure simulator format. You explore an open world and gather resources to upgrade your boat. Spiritfarer is also one of the most emotionally impactful games in its genre. This is because it turns the weaknesses of other titles like Animal Crossing into features that make the emotions hit even harder.

     In Spiritfarer, you have taken the place of the old guide across the river Styx. Throughout your journey, you pick up spirits with their own unfinished business and trauma and you help them move on to the afterlife. This end goal of bringing spirits to the afterlife is where the game shifts. In most games in the same genre, a character leaving or moving out is an inconvenience, but ultimately tolerable. Spiritfarer makes this movement help the story and give the game progression. When a character moves on in Spiritfarer their home becomes a memorial to them and cannot be removed from your ship. This gives the game a sense of loss that few other games capture while pushing you to pursue new areas to make room for new guests. You grow attached to the characters by helping them and you have to come to terms with their lives and move on when the gameplay keeps you moving forward.

Screenshot of one of the port towns in-game. (Courtesy of: Thunder Lotus Games)

     Another way Spiritfarer flips common gameplay loops on their heads is with resources. Most games, like Stardew Valley, have farming and mining as a means to get more money or to give as gifts to townspeople to make them like you. Spiritfarer also has farming and mining, but when you have a guest that loves certain things you can center your farms around those things. When they leave,  you will still have all their stuff around you. You can still sell these crops and resources, but Spiritfarer makes these simple items have sentimental value, even if you only knew a character for a matter of hours. Spiritfarer makes you attached to these characters and then simulates grief over losing them in a way few games manage to. The game has sold 500,000 copies and was nominated for six awards including the Hugo award for best videogame and several nominations from the British Academy of film and television arts (BAFTA) and the game awards. Spiritfarer is a one-of-a-kind game that takes tropes of simulation games and gives them emotional value. Spiritfarer makes the loss a feature and it is one of the most impactful games in its genre.