About a year ago, I gave a new indie game a try. While I love indie titles, the unfortunate reality is that nine out of ten of them are forgettable.
I have played thousands of games from developers large and small over the past three decades. There have been hidden gems, a lot of stinkers, and a handful of memorable games that will stick with me for a long time. FAR: Lone Sails is one of those memorable games, and I’m glad that a wider audience will get to experience it now that it is out on consoles as well as PC.
I wasn’t actually sure what to expect when I first started up the game upon its initial PC release in 2018. They start you off on what appears to be a dead planet. Other than the main character, there are no signs of life. Was there a nuclear apocalypse? Did a climate disaster wipe out civilization? We don’t know.
What we do know is that FAR takes place on an Earth-like planet where an advanced civilization developed heavy industry and steampunk-inspired machinery. Right off the bat, you come across a unique vehicle that helps you travel across wind-swept plains, swampy wetlands, and snowy mountain passages along a linear side-scrolling path.
The developers were intentional with their design. They decided to take a minimalist approach, allowing gamers to experiment and explore without annoying tutorials or obstructive text boxes. It was a wise decision because the beautiful views that you take in while you explore this desolate world and uncover some of the mysteries of an apparently-lost civilization go unspoiled thanks to the lack of on-screen clutter.
At its core, though, FAR is an adventure game with a heavy emphasis on resource management, light platforming, and clever (if not simple) puzzle solving. You have to learn how to operate your vehicle, collect fuel, and maintain the various components that keep the machine humming. Hazards, such as roadblocks and weather, can cause fires that need to be put out and malfunctions that need to be repaired. To ultimately reach your final destination, you will need to be strategic with your use of resources to maximize the ship’s performance.
By itself, the gameplay is fairly pedestrian. It’s nothing to write home about. But taken as a whole package, FAR is something special. That’s because the developers seamlessly weaved the game’s mechanics with a beautiful art direction and an equally complementary soundtrack.
If you just look at FAR’s basic gameplay elements in isolation, it’s an unremarkable title. It’s when the gameplay, the visual style, and the music come together that the game truly sings. FAR: Lone Sails is the type of game that you show someone if they question whether video games can be art.
It’s even more stunning to experience playing the PS4 version on a big screen with surround sound.
Look, this game is not for everybody. I get that. It’s relatively slow. It’s not particularly exciting. Although there are tense moments, they are somewhat sparse throughout the roughly three hours that it takes to beat FAR in the first playthrough. That said, if life is defined by the journey rather than the destination, FAR is a journey well worth taking.