When I had the chance to review FAR: Lone Sails before its release, I thought for sure it was going to be a huge deal. To me, it was similar to games like Limbo or Inside, but vehicular-based, and with themes that are more hopeful than dark. I was pretty excited to finally get my hands on FAR: Changing Tides, and I have to say: I’m really glad I had a chance to play it.
FAR: Changing Tides is a side scrolling adventure game. It is presented with very minimal story—in fact, there’s no dialogue in the game at all, with all of its narrative being revealed through backgrounds and environmental clues. You play as a nameless boy who must escape an apocalyptic event which has caused the surrounding cities to flood. As the boy, you can pick up objects, jump, push levers and more as you explore Changing Tides’ watery environments. But just like its predecessor, most of the game takes place on board a vehicle—this time, an actual boat instead of Lone Sails’ land ship.
This vehicle is your main mode of conveyance, your home, the primary location of the game, and a bit like a character itself. The ship in Changing Tides is a large, multi-room vessel, much like the Land Ship in Lone Sails. Similarly, you’ll need to fuel it, raise and lower its sails, and repair any damage it sustains. Just like in Lone Sails, in FAR: Changing Tides you don’t really have control over where the ship goes—it’s constantly travelling to the right. You can slow it down, though and even reverse to pick up items you may have crossed over—like debris that can be burned in the furnace to create steam to propel the ship. Eventually, however, you do get vertical control over your ship, as part of ship upgrades that you discover through the game.
FAR: Changing Tides has some brilliant game design. Each puzzle you solve is actually a lesson on how to play the game. Every upgrade you get for your ship requires you to somehow first use the mechanism that you’re acquiring before you even install it onto the ship. Even in the beginning of your journey you’re not immediately let into your large, multi-room vessel. Instead, you’re eased into it—lest you feel overwhelmed. Because of this, despite it being a game about operating a vehicle, that vehicle’s operation never feels overwhelming, thanks to the brilliant way in which developer Okomotive introduces each new element.
Not only is FAR: Changing Tides brilliantly designed, it’s also beautiful and immersive. I enjoyed the moments of serene sailing in Lone Sails, and Changing Tides features a fair amount of similar moments of travel. However, FAR: Changing Tides’ sails require constant manipulation to best catch the wind, requiring you to constantly fiddle with the controls. During those long moments of travel in Lone Sails I would use the time to run around organizing my fuel and other inventory. In Changing Tides I’m forced to stay at the helm if I want to maximize my speed. That said, you’ll still get a chance to fold those sails and go diving: FAR: Changing Tides eventually allows you to upgrade your boat into a submarine. While diving is mostly used to get around obstacles, I would have loved to see a little bit more gameplay involved with diving, instead of mostly using it as a way to get under obstructions.
While there are definitely some lost opportunities with the Changing Tides’ submersible sections, its biggest disappointment is its lack of emotional impact for me. FAR: Lone Sails was an emotional journey—one that battered and tested not only the Land Ship, but the player, while ending on a note of hope. FAR: Changing Tides feels mechanical and a little soulless, like it’s a mandatory venture—something to fill in the blanks before a possible sequel. Overall, Changing Tides lacked the build-up and climax that Lone Sails had.
Still, FAR: Changing Tides is a decent follow-up to FAR: Lone Sails. It sets the stage for a possible trilogy, and while there’s nothing concrete (that I’ve heard) I’m anticipating a third game to finish this possible trilogy in the making. Despite my few complaints with Changing Tides, I’m excited to see where a third game would take the series—and there’s definitely some room to add co-op. A FAR co-op game would be amazing. Here’s to hoping.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review.