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Review: FAR: Lone Sails is a Beautiful, Atmospheric Masterpiece

Image courtesy Okomotive

FAR: Lone Sails is the tale of a journey across a dead or dying world, rendered in a beautiful watercolor-esque art style. The debut title of Swiss developer Okomotive, I could tell from the opening moments that it was going to be something special. Most easily compared to titles like Inside or Limbo, FAR: Lone Sails is a puzzle-platformer with a minimalist style in both art and storytelling, but unlike those previous titles, the majority of FAR: Lone Sails is vehicular-based, as you journey in a large landship.

Image courtesy Okomotive

Like any protagonist with a ship that helps define them, FAR: Lone Sails’ adventurer is only one half of the cast. The vessel you travel on is a literal landship, designed to travel across the now dried-out lakes, which are littered with the remains of a civilization now dead, or breathing its last breaths. You are slowly eased into the operations of this vessel: at first, you can only move your vessel forward using the on-board engine; eventually you will have the additions of repair stations, fire hoses, and sails.

Image courtesy Okomotive

The ship gameplay is incredibly satisfying. There are large red buttons to press (complete with satisfying click) that operate each of the ship’s functions. To power the engines, you press in the “go” button. While your engine is running, steam builds up and your fuel depletes. Steam must be vented to prevent damage or fire, and fuel must be scavenged during your journey.  This is the sort of gameplay that lends itself to multiplayer. Being a cooperative title seems great at first,  but the confines of the interior of the ship in addition to the mood of the narrative make it perfect as a single player experience. Since your ship is the size of a house (and, incidentally, it serves as your character’s home during the journey) it takes A LOT of fuel. Luckily, as its title suggests, you eventually become equipped with a sail that eases the fuel burden—but it can only be used when you have favorable winds.

Image courtesy Okomotive

My biggest gripe with controlling your vessel are those big red buttons, specifically, the elevator that is used to bring you from the first deck to the top of the ship can be finicky, and in times of heavy mico-management I tended to accidentally lower instead of raise it. In fact, those big red buttons that are used to control your ship’s functions tend to be a little too easy to push sometimes. Since the majority of the gameplay takes place on the landship, there is a chance of tedium. Fortunately, Okomotive found the fun in driving and maintaining the large vessel, as well as clearing away obstacles in its path so you may proceed forward.

Image courtesy Okomotive

Pacing in FAR: Lone Sails is near perfect. The time you end up spending with the game never feels too long, or too short, despite this being a relatively short title. I really tried to savor it, but despite that, I finished FAR: Lone Sails in a little less than four hours. There is a bit of exploration that can be done, and a few things that reveal the history of the dying world around you, but most of your time will be spend on your vessel.  If you’re anything like me, by at least the middle of the game you will have your ship packed with all sorts of random crap discovered along the journey. I ended up being a real pack rat—luckily, almost any object can be converted to fuel.

Image courtesy Okomotive

Despite the little bits of exploration, I didn’t discover much room for replayability in the traditional sense—there aren’t many secrets to discover, and (as far as I could tell) there aren’t any true discoverable secrets that will gamily tell you how clever you are for finding them. Of course, this a title I will play again—either to show others, or to experience the sublime joy of tinkering, driving, and travelling through FAR: Lone Sails.

Image courtesy Okomotive

FAR: Lone Sails is a title that I will show people to justify that games are indeed art. Every detail—from the backgrounds, to the animations; and from the music to the sound effects–is impeccable, and gorgeous. The sound design really stands out, with the aforementioned satisfying clicks, the sound of rain and hail striking the ship’s hull, and the breezy calm you’ll feel standing on top of the ship with your sails unfurled. The music is pretty minimalistic, but it builds in the appropriate places to enhance the impact. The story itself, also incredibly minimal, is told through images and hints about the dead world you’re exploring. Though completely sans dialogue, it manages to convey a melancholy poignancy while at the same time exuding hope and perseverance. Almost every facet is considered, and well done.

Image courtesy Okomotive

FAR: Lone Sails is something special. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I played through it in a single sitting, glued to the screen as one would be to a perfect book or a great movie.  Available now on PC via Steam and the Humble Store, a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One release is coming at a currently undetermined date.

A copy of this game was provided to us for review purposes

 

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