15
May
2018

Far: Lone Sails is a poem disguised as a video game

Far: Lone Sails begins with a burial. Perhaps it’s the player character’s father or uncle that lies below the headstone. Maybe it’s their friend or mentor. Who they are isn’t as important as what they’ve meant to the main character — you, the player. Far leaves just enough to the imagination, while at the same time delivering a beautifully made, generously crafted world.

Far: Lone Sails is a fairly short experience, coming in around three-to-five hours. Much of the pleasure of the game comes from uncovering its surprisingly detailed mechanics, which I won’t spoil here in detail. Gameplay involves coaxing a massive rolling ship along an arid landscape from left to right. Inside the ship are buttons that you press by jumping on top of them or smacking them with your avatar’s head. You hit one button to feed energetic cubes and trash into a sort of boiler, then race across the decking to engage the engine or throw on the brake. There’s also a sail that you earn later in the game, which will mainly be used to travel long distances.

You will spend so much time inside this ship that it will become, in a way, more important than the tiny representation of your character. The effect of that importance is folded into the game’s narrative, but fueling and firing and urging the ship across the landscape, along with clever little physics-based puzzles scattered along the way, is the meat of the game.

The payoff, however, is standing at the prow, watching the fantastical landscape roll by in the background. Rather than perks and unlocks, the reward here is quiet contemplation.

The puzzles aren’t perfect and, frankly, neither is the physics simulation that underlies the game itself. But Far is greater than the sum of its parts. The care with which the small team at Okomotive created the surrounding environments more than makes up for any quirks and bugs, as does the surprising payoff in the final third of the game.

As one Redditor put it, Far could easily be titled Going Right Simulator: 2018, if not for the artifice of it all. There is a storyline, to be sure, but there’s no dialogue, and most of the lore’s fine details are withheld. Far is opaque enough that the player can overlay their own wants and needs right on top of it without worrying too much about authorial intent — just like a good poem.

What you will take away from Far is what you bring with you, but you will be better for the journey.

Far: Lone Sails runs $14.99 on Steam, and will be compatible with both Windows and Mac when it’s released on May 17. It’s also expected to launch on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

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