PAX Aus 2019: Hands-on with Spiritfarer

by Paul RobertsOctober 21, 2019

Spiritfarer is coming to the Nintendo Switch in 2020, but lucky for us there was a demo on hand at PAX Australia 2019. Paul got to play it and here are his thoughts;

I played as Stella the spiritfarer, the ferry master responsible for ferrying the deceased to the afterlife. It’s not as simple as just sailing there, it’s also a spiritual journey and one filled with hugs!

The bulk of the demo took place on the houseboat, where you’re introduced to helping the spirits that temporarily inhabit the boat before moving on. The spirits take the form of anthropomorphic animals, in the case of the demo the main focus was on the snake called Summer. To help care for Summer, she requires a meditation room. Stella needs to set sail for a location where someone can help build the additional room onto the boat. 

The trip from location to location takes time, and along the way, I was introduced to fishing. Fishing is not only a nice diversion while travelling, but also provides more resources. It was really straight forward, once you have something on the line, it’s just a matter of reeling it in while ensuring there isn’t too much tension. 

Upon arriving at the first location I had to get the meditation room built amongst the rooms already on there. It sounds like there’s going to be specific requests to the placement of rooms, but fortunately, Summer wasn’t picky this time. When placing a room it felt really flexible on where it could be built, and it doesn’t need to be completely supported sitting on top of another room. 

Rooms need resources to be built, and for the sake of the demo, I was given everything I needed to build. To my understanding, you’ll need to gather the resources yourself in the game. With the room built, it’s time to check up on Summer to see what else you can do. There was a missing piece of jewellery of great significance that she wanted me to help find and bring to her. 

When talking with the spirits, you’ll find you have options to talk, give and hug. Hugging wasn’t required in the demo, but that didn’t stop me from giving everyone I came across a big hug. The look and feel of the animation is already so lovely, and seeing Stella give a caring and comforting hug makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. Not every moment is appropriate to use it, and spirits will decline if they aren’t ready for one.

On the way to the next location a storm started up and I was told to go catch some lightning with Stella’s pendant she wears. This had me leaping all over the boat in the rain, trying to get to points where the ground was beginning to crackle with electricity. The goal is to get there before the lightning hits that spot. After collecting lightning for a while, I found I could stop doing the activity if I talked to my frog friend who was giving all the boat tutorials.

Once we arrived at the next location it didn’t take long to find the item but it was out of reach. Summer gave me a coin I could use at a nearby shrine, giving me the ability to double jump. The most important of upgrades when platforms are involved as far as I’m concerned. After using my new found jump I was easily able to jump up and get the item before Summer talked a bit more about the necklace, and having found it, she was now ready to cross over. This meant sailing out to another location. On the way there I was given seeds by one of the other spirits to plant on the boat. While I didn’t get to do anything other than plant them, it looks like you’ll be raising crops to harvest the food/resources for use with caring for the spirits in your charge. 

Once arriving at the location, Summer was ready to be guided on. Stella holds up a lantern to light the way at the bow of the boat. A giant glowing spirit appeared, bringing an end to the demo. While I couldn’t hear anything from the game at the PAX booth, it was hard not to imagine a swell in the music at this moment. Regardless I came away from Spiritfarer with a much better idea of what the game is.

One thing I noticed immediately when playing the demo was that the movement feels good, Stella moves quickly, and even better is that she has a double jump. It may not feel necessary to some to have this in a game built around a narrative like this, but it makes a world of difference when both parts of the game are a pleasant experience.

Couldn’t hear any sound but looked like it would sound amazing, I look forward to getting to hear the game along with playing it in 2020. It’s unknown how involved each spirits needs are, it does seem like there is plenty more to do and that it will get more complex than someone who was very easy going on their journey. More importantly, it’s all about the journey for each spirit, for Stella, and of course yourself. It’s a journey I am excited to play when it’s out next year. (The journey of playing the game, not passing over to the afterlife!)

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About The Author
Paul Roberts
Lego enthusiast, Picross Master and appreciator of games.

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