I wish that I had paid more attention to the marketing. I have yet to play a game with metroidvania elements that I have liked, sadly. Hollow Knight to Super Metroid, I have bounced off them all. I thought Spiritfarer would be the one, with it’s penchant for kindness at the end of everything. With it’s gentle farming, warm writing, astonishing animation. It was not, so, in lieu of my genre biases, I’m going to write a bit about what worked.
Because I just fear I will never enjoy that style of gameplay, sadly. Spiritfarer seems to understand this, and across the 25 hour run time I met a wealth of interesting, fantastically written characters who emotionally really damn got to me at points. It’s a trying thing, helping the dead cross over. Finding peace in limbo. They nag, yes, and sometimes I just wanted to tell Atul to find his own damn food, please, I’m trying to fish. That sweet round lad just wanted to share it, and a flash of guilt would creep over me.
Balancing that cast is like spinning very slow plates. It’s gentle, laconic… cozy. It’s not demanding, but it is a constant thrum of activity as you sail between the places. It does mean a later stretch of what feels like obvious padding, but alleviated by seals, or turtles. The world is your friend here, the weighted blanket of it.
Where Spiritfarer shines the most is in the economy of it’s language. So much is said with so little, and it is so very impactful. You spend a handful of hours with each spirit, and it feels like a lifelong bond. It is, in some cases, born from a shared history, but mostly it is just their time upon your voyage. And here, it pulls out big emotions. And sticks them. I have heard from several friends how they were moved to tears by this game, and I am absolutely there with them. It is beautiful, helping someone find peace. Helping them move on.
Spiritfarer makes you reflect on death, and it’s inevitability. But it makes you believe that it isn’t the end. Not final, not scary. Something that happens, and that it is okay. I frequently wrestle with my own grief, and I felt that come up again playing this. Life can be full of moods and tones, and it is a very silly thing. Then it hurts. And then you move on, precisely when you’re ready. Spiritfarer helped me get ready, and for that I can’t thank it enough.
Even if it is a metroidvania.