FAR: Lone Sails is grouped with those games that I would describe as “Keep going right till you can’t anymore”. It’s a common trope in many indie games nowadays and it seems to be growing in popularity.
That description is not meant to undermine these games however, because some in this vein are absolutely incredible; Playdead’s “Inside” and “Limbo” come to mind. FAR is also fantastic, an unreserved complete recommendation for anyone who enjoys video games. This is the first game by indie studio Okomotive and as an experience it’s a triumph in almost every way. It’s an engaging and emotional trip to the very end and makes few missteps.
FAR: Lone Sails has no dialogue and almost no explanation of the controls or the goal of the game, but it’s so impeccably designed that it doesn’t need them. The game gracefully pushes and teaches you the mechanics, so that everything comes to the player intuitively. There are a lot of gameplay mechanics that the player needs to learn in order to perform functionally. FAR teaches you how to pick stuff up and from that point onwards it says almost nothing else. It’s truly impressive how much information the game conveys with so little.
The character moves through the world by himself and he’s the only living thing that you see throughout your trip, however the relationship that he builds during the game is the main emotional thrust of the story. It’s not a relationship with another person but with a vehicle. His endearing and jury rigged giant two wheeled bus. This is FAR’s main gameplay hook, the player has to drive this bus to an unknown location for ambiguous purposes. This bus gets more and more complicated as the trip goes on and the player has to manage and fix the bus to keep it working. Just the simple act of getting it to move is a process and requires constant management. It’s surprisingly engaging and once you get the hang of it, you start to feel like the world’s best engineer. It’s incredibly rewarding and thrilling when you start going at high speeds and everything is working just right.
The player will slowly grow attached to this machine as the experience progresses; it starts to feel like your baby that you have to constantly push forward. I was surprised with how much I actually cared about it by the end of the game. I started to panic if anything bad happened and as it’s really the only other character in the game, you can’t help but start to feel a connection to it. The whole story revolves around this machine so the emotional connection adds to the impact.
The game will throw many obstacles at you, both in and out of your machine. Often, at times, the player will have to leave the vehicle to fix something in the way, ensuring the bus doesn’t get stuck. These puzzles are often not too difficult but they provide a nice detour from the management of running bus. Events will happen when you’re driving as well that can cause parts of the vehicle to break or even catch on fire; these are always thrilling and creates a challenging balance between fixing and driving the vessel.
All of this is accentuated by an absolutely excellent musical score that fits every moment perfectly, it seems like the sound design was incredibly meticulous and detailed. Adventurous and upbeat music plays when you’re tearing down the road with your bus, intense beats slam when everything seems to be falling apart, and sometimes there’s complete silence – always at the right time of course. FAR shows how much a game can be improved with excellent sound design, the game reaches so many emotional highs and lows with the help of the musical backdrop that it presents.
The visuals are completely gorgeous as well. Almost every frame in this game could be screenshotted and put in a frame and nobody would know the difference. FAR: Lone Sails on Xbox One looks like it was constructed by paintbrush and it seems they have thought in detail about how every moment would look. The emotion that the player feels is almost conveyed in the environment at every point in the experience. Without a doubt, FAR is a truly wonderful audio visual experience. I was constantly impressed with what I was seeing and hearing.
The plot is unclear in an attempt to be ambiguous, and that ends up being my biggest complaint about the game. I enjoy ambiguous or mysterious stories as they allow the player to search out the answers and build the details themselves, however FAR is so unclear about the world and what’s happening, that it starts to feel a little empty. Nothing is really ever explained and by the end of the game I wasn’t really sure what had happened; after a second playthrough I had some guesses but it didn’t seem like there were many clues to confirm my suspicions. I just wish there was more in terms of details about the world.
Some players may find it too short as well, but I found it perfectly paced – always engaging and never with filler. I do wish there was more though but I was completely satisfied by the time I got to the end.
FAR: Lone Sails is a trip that once you play, you won’t forget anytime soon. It’s beautiful and emotional in a raw way that very few games manage; with no words, it strikes straight to the heart. It’s a wonderful experience from start to finish, and I wholeheartedly suggest anyone to play it who has the slightest of interest.