FAR: Lone Sails (2018)
This is my last review before I go out of town on holiday break. I will keep playing and writing while on vacation, but expect my next reviews to be all from Switch games (and perhaps be a little delayed). I have been wanting to spend a little more time on my PC lately before I leave it all alone for 3 weeks. FAR: Lone Sails has been on a wishlist for a long time now because of, strangely enough, actor Kumail Nanjiani's 2019 tweet about the game. The tweet seems to be gone now, but he actually mentions the game in an interview here. FAR: Lone Sails is a atmospheric adventure game through a solitary and barren world in a unsual steam locomotive. FAR: Lone Sails is a beautiful journey in which you are one with your vessel, operating it like a puzzle while also facing challenges of the road.
FAR: Lone Sails starts off with the protagonist standing over a grave and photograph of what can be assumed to be a deceased family member or friend. The protagonist remains a mystery for much of the game - they wear a red cloak so you don't see much of their actual appearance, reminiscent of the experience I had when playing Journey. Moving away from the grave you step into a large house and learn how to interact with the world. I was relieved that this game allows you to control the camera to zoom in and out, as its standard angle is a wide view of the world where the character looks tiny. I do wish for certain puzzle segments it would allow me hold the camera angle close without having to hold down the button for it. After leaving your house, all there is ahead is wide open land and a strange-looking large vehicle waiting for you. It's the same strange machine that you found a drawing for in the house, so it can be assumed that perhaps it was built either by you or the person who passed away.
FAR: Lone Sails gives you no real introduction to the "machine" vehicle, nor does it tell you how to operate it. I was worried it would be confusing, but I quickly realized it was all pretty intuitive and straightforward. Inside the machine looks somewhat like a short train, except with some big buttons inside. I would compare the gameplay inside of this machine to a sort of puzzle-box toy. There's some many buttons to press and items to move, it feels like you have control of it all and you're allowed to do whatever you want with it. You can easily get the vessel moving, but you have to make sure you're also checking multiple things at the same time - the steam meter, the fuel, and the road ahead. My personal experience? I ended up de-prioritizing the "looking at the road ahead" part, therefore crashing more than I'd like to admit. In my defense, though, there are certain obstacles in this game that you are supposed to crash through. It's not always clear if you should or shouldn't, but the consequences for making that mistake aren't actually too costly. The first time I crashed and the machine caught of fire I obviously panicked, but if you put the fire out in time and fix the damage when needed, you'll be able to carry on just fine. I absolutely loved being in this weird little train-boat-thing, pushing all the buttons, and going up and down the elevator. It's such a perfect combination to being doing somewhat repetitive but satisfying tasks while also watching environment outside change as you travel on. It's a lot less work and more cruising when you're able to install a sail to your machine, turning it into a sort of land boat that can be pushed by the wind.
Although the environment reminded me quite a bit of Inside, with its gray skies and desolate fields, the world didn't elicit that same feeling of fear and desperation. It seemed to me more abandoned than a destroyed. You never encounter another human on your path, although you do see peacefully grazing animals. Despite this lonely and gray world, FAR: Lone Sails has absolutely beautiful, painted-looking landscapes and environments that were often worth coming to a brake and getting out of the vehicle to really take in. This beautiful style, combined with the soft and jazzy soundtrack that would ebb and flow during the adventure, made for such a soothing and engrossing experience.
FAR: Lone Sails is to steam locomotives what Hayao Miyazaki films are to airplanes. In other words, it seems to portray a great respect and awe for this technology while also making it slightly fantastical. It's unclear what sort of energy this machine runs on so I don't know if I should really call it a steam engine. You can feed it different boxes and barrels of unknown "energy", and it'll accept other items as well. It sort of starts to feel like a living thing, like a partner on your journey that protects you, but you also need to protect it. You'll often times need to go on foot to clear the path ahead, or find shelter from the harsh weather to keep the vessel safe.
FAR: Lone Sails is probably one of the best indies I've played this year. I sat down to start playing it one afternoon and completely lost myself in it for hours, suddenly come to the end on the same night. With how short it is, I could see myself playing it again, especially to get a couple more achievements and take in some details more carefully. There is a story there, only told quietly through your experience, and I'd like to see if I can understand more about the character you play and the desolate world they inhabit. If you like atmospheric games like Journey and enjoy puzzles where you push a lot of buttons (who doesn't though?), I highly recommend it.
FAR: Lone Sails is available for PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Google Play, and App Store.
Played on: PC
Last Played: 12/7/2020
Playtime: 4 hrs