Swiss developer Okomotive has finally unleashed the follow up to 2018’s Far: Lone Sails and it is available to play from day one on Xbox Game Pass.
What a time to be alive!
The original game was universally praised for its art style and micromanagement game mechanics, but it is generally accepted that most players considered it to be too short. Set in the same universe but revolving around mastering a somewhat different form of transportation, this title has a lot to live up to.
Join me as I harness the wind and take a ‘deep dive’ in the XboxEra review of Far: Changing Tides.
As a continuation of Lone Sails, we again find ourselves in a post-apocalyptic ‘Ballardian’ world that the developer has bought to life with stunning hand-drawn locations. The art style itself reminds me of ‘Disco Elysium’ as it has the same ‘oil-based paint’ look and feel.
The game boasts a soundscape that is capable of not only drawing you deep beneath the waves but also chilling you to the bone in the sections based around freezing ice floes. Paired with an original soundtrack by Joel Schoch (which straight away made me think of the keening violin of Warren Ellis), I could not help but be drawn completely into my strange new environment.
Whereas the original game was centred around a girl controlling a land-based vehicle on a side-scrolling journey, things have been shaken up somewhat this time around. Playing as a male character I found myself in a city that had been completely flooded. After exploring the limited local area and gaining a diving suit with a propulsion boost, the only course of action available was to set off on another epic journey in a vehicle that looked like a cross between a Victorian paddle steamer and a tall ship.
The unique premise of these games is that by zooming in on the vessel players can see a cross-section of its internal compartments. These areas contain different pieces of machinery that must be manipulated in real-time to gain momentum in any direction. While this sounds complicated and stressful – it isn’t.
Push the button
After pushing a button to raise the mast and then connecting a rope to the deck, the sails will bulge into life, but only if there is a breeze behind the ship. Interestingly, the game requires you to capture the wind at the right angle by moving a lever back and forth. It is not generally possible to just coast along with the sails in one position for long periods. There is a sweet spot marked at the top of the mast which is best aimed to get all of the sails billowing away at the same time.
Using this form of energy alone I was able to progress to the first obstacle. The Far series follows a pattern in that gameplay consists of traveling to an environmental obstacle which is essentially a puzzle. Leaving your vessel and solving the puzzle will present you with an exit from your predicament or reward you with some type of upgrade to the ship. These upgrades offer something different that can be used in conjunction with the others already installed to progress to the next obstacle. It is then a matter of rinsing and repeating this pattern until you get to the final destination that marks the conclusion of the game.
Pretty quickly I had a furnace-driven engine installed. Paired with a giant set of mechanical oars forward momentum was then possible at times when there was no wind available. This means of propulsion was a mainstay of the first game but brings with it the task of scavenging for items that can be burnt within it as fuel. Pretty much any items that can be found are suitable to be burnt and there is more of this than is actually required, but fuel is not exactly abundant. Discovering and salvaging resources from seabed-based containers is a worthwhile exercise, so it is lucky that there is a crane of sorts at the stern of the vessel, or at least there is after you have accidentally ripped off the previous one and solved a puzzle to replace it.
The addition of extra modules for your ship makes standard traversal more challenging with higher levels of micromanagement required. Using the sails and engine at the same time will get you more speed, but you have to watch out for other hazards such as the engine overheating, as this will trip the engine out and waste the energy already gained from the furnace. Trips can be prevented by cooling the engine with a cold water hose just as it starts to glow red. In later stages of the game, it is necessary to do this regularly to build up enough pressure to enable a powerful boost function. This boost allows both faster movement when traveling and the transfer of large amounts of energy to long-abandoned technology when docked.
Running into objects with the sails in operation will cause them to become damaged, signified by them sparking and smoking. It is important to avoid this happening by dropping the sails and mast before you make contact with anything stationary. Failing to do so will require repairs to be made using a scavenged repair tool before the sails can be used again. Multiple parts of the ship can be put out of operation during the voyage so it is important to hold these repair tools in reserve when you find them. If you have an engine out of action requiring repair and there is no wind or your sails are shredded you will not be going anywhere.
The unique upgrade that really changes the direction of this game as opposed to ‘Lone Sails’ is the ‘Diving Module’. Once attached, the craft becomes a fully-fledged Submarine. The introduction of vertical movement shifts the game out of the standard side-scrolling proposition that fans of the series would expect and brings with it a new depth to both world exploration and puzzle design. Balancing control of all these features makes life a more complicated challenge but it never becomes a chore or punishes the player unnecessarily. This allows the game to remain firmly in the relaxploration realm.
There is also no combat and no way of dying on this journey. Although it is possible to get stuck, there is always a way out of a situation before it gets rage-inducing. I struggled with one puzzle and continually used up all of the fuel without completing the required result. Forgivingly the game would furnish me with more fuel in the same area to signal that I was doing something wrong, the only inconvenience being that I had to dive to the seabed repeatedly to retrieve it.
As stated before, this is clearly a game designed to be enjoyed in a chilled manner. At about double the length of the first game when I reached the satisfying conclusion of the journey, this experience does not start to get boring or slip into padded-out territory.
The controls are simple and while the game objective is never really explained, everything is designed in such a way that intuition was able to guide me from start to finish fluidly.
Is that possible?
Dropping just below the waterline brought on a realistic feeling of unease due to the motion of the ocean and the environmental sound effects making me feel as if I was actually slipping beneath the waves. This attention to detail along with the glowing Jellyfish at night, giant Rays swimming in pairs, and families of Moose that are glimpsed in the background of a ruined planet add depth to the game and bring the environment to life.
The game ran well on my Series X and there were no glitches or issues. In terms of accessibility, the game had nothing extra to offer than standard options.
As a fan of the first game, I really enjoyed this one. Enough changes have been introduced to prevent it from feeling like a DLC and familiarity with the previous game is helpful but not essential as you can intuitively pick up the key gameplay mechanics pretty quickly.
Game length is about right and although there is very little narrative, the story does come full circle and has a satisfying conclusion. If you are looking for a chilled-out, unusual puzzle-solving game I heartily recommend this one. It has been available to play from day one on Game Pass so there is no reason not to jump in and check it out.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, PS4|PS5, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||March 1st, 2022|
Far: Changing Tides$19.99
- Impressively chilled gameplay.
- Atmospheric soundscape and soundtrack.
- Very intuitive game cycle.
- A continuation of Far: Lone Sails
- It is possible to lose fuel that has been transported a long way.
- The 'Wind from Nowhere' is sometimes a bit annoying.
- The puzzles may not be challenging enough for some gamers.