When Spiritfarer briefly popped up during Sunday’s Xbox live event, I made a note to grab some gameplay time at E3. It’s coming to Xbox Game Pass upon its release next year, as well as Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Windows PC.
I spent about 15 minutes playing early missions. It’s a painterly, whimsical game with some impressively deep themes. I play as a ferryman, transporting newly arrived souls onto the next world. These souls are humans, but they manifest as animals, revealing their inner personalities. They give me jobs to do as a kind of last wish. As the game progresses, its narrative opens out into a tale of acceptance, and finding comfort in existence.
At an early point in the game, it becomes clear that Spiritfarer is structured in much the same way as Nintendo’s Animal Crossing series, with lots of diversions, conversations and characters. But there are big differences; it’s in two-dimensions, it’s hand painted and it’s also influenced by platform games. There’s less of a focus on acquisition, and more on creating closer relationships.
I find myself undertaking various jobs, including fetch-quests, building, farming, fishing and playing mini-games, like collecting lightning bolts as they strike my boat. The game takes me to an island, where more characters and tasks await. By fulfilling the wishes of these characters, I ease their path to the next world.
The developers tell me that some of the “dead” characters are influenced by beloved friends and family members who have passed, but who left a great impression in their lifetimes. This alone makes me want to play the game. In any case, if you’re an Animal Crossing fan, or into indie games with a dash of feeling, this is definitely one to watch.