Recently I had an opportunity to try out Spiritfarer from Thunder Lotus Games during the Spring edition of the Steam Game Festival. Having seen a trailer for Spiritfarer during an Indie World presentation by Nintendo, I was already eagerly awaiting the release, so given a chance to try it out, I jumped at the chance to play an alpha demo.
Players take on the role of Stella, the ferrymaster of the deceased, similar to Charon from Greek mythology. Where Charon ferried one person at a time across the river Styx, Stella has a large houseboat full of characters who aren’t quite ready to say goodbye. All of the characters I encountered were anthropomorphic animals which upped the charm significantly. Each character oozed personality making it very easy to get attached to them. I expect this is by design so that you will feel something when the characters eventually cross over.
Spiritfarer is described as a “cozy management game about dying.” Cozy and dying are not two words that I would put together, but the art style certainly makes the game look inviting and charming. Stella is given tasks to complete to help prepare the characters for their final goodbye, and at the same time she must care for the characters that are still living on the boat. Tasks included goals such as building additional rooms on the boat to travelling to remote locations to retrieve personal items. In addition to completing tasks, Stella has opportunities to fish from the stern of the boat, cook recipes in the kitchen, and plant seeds in the small garden located near the bow. While not a focus in the demo, crafting appears to be part of the game as well, as I collected several resources during my playtime. There was even a quick minigame where Stella had to catch lightning on the boat to collect the currency of the world, glims. With the fishing, farming, bright colors and charming characters, there is a very strong Animal Crossing vibe here.
The star of the demo, though, was Stella’s cat Daffodil. Whoever was in charge of animating her must be a cat person. One of my favorite moments with Daffodil happened when Stella fell into the water. Daffodil frantically ran back and forth across the deck until I hopped back up on the ship. I felt so bad I had to give her a hug (thanks to the dedicated hug button similar to A Bot and his Blob). Daffodil is also spotlighted in the load screens as she plays with a ball making the screens the cutest I’ve ever seen.
There are so many details hiding on plain sight in Spiritfarer if you pay attention. Just in the short time I played, I noticed a timer on the wall in the kitchen that helped me see when the dish would finish cooking. Characters need to eat, and I could see how hungry a character was based on how big of a bite is missing from the apple-shaped feed icon. All of this attention to detail proves to me that Thunder Lotus is creating a game that will be a hit.