In an arduous, lonely journey through a bleak and ravaged world, hope is your only companion—an emotive quality Far: Lone Sails captures exceptionally well with its visual storytelling and touching musical score.
As much of a story experience as a game, Far: Lone Sails, by Switzerland-based indie game developer Okomotive, is basically a sublime puzzle-solving side-scroller that tells its story through vast, muted landscapes, clever audio, and a musical score that is equal parts pleasant, haunting, and melancholy.
The game begins as a lone, shrouded figure stands at a grave beneath a dead tree against the backdrop of a desolate landscape. The moment you move toward the right side of the screen, you begin the journey away from death towards…something new. And hopefully something better.
Far: Lone Sails is intriguing in that it leaves you to ascertain its story—or even invent your own. Who died and who is our shrouded avatar? What happened to the world? Where are we going and what do we expect to find?
There is no combat and there are almost no direct threats. It’s nearly (but not completely) impossible to die or lose in any conventional sense. Even if the enormous steam-powered machine you drive towards your uncertain future runs out of fuel, you can still drag it along slowly on foot until you find some.
And during the puzzle-solving and platforming sequences, even if you fall you just glide safely to the ground. Inconvenient, but not lethal—but you’re not completely safe. Regardless, the game wants you to experience its story, so it challenges but never frustrates. You may well play through its entirety (3-4 hours) in a single sitting.
Far: Lone Sails lacks any tutorial, nor does it really need one. It uses simple visual cues to teach you how to play. Otherwise, there are no words and no rendered cinematics—just the muted colors of an ever-changing, desolate landscape, a musical score to add emotional depth, and your own curiosity and hope to see what lies at the end of the journey.
Interestingly, in my own play-through, I spun my own story into the game that affected how I played it. It didn’t hurt or hinder my game in any way, but by journey’s end I realized I had made story-based assumptions that affected my actions in the game. (I won’t reveal them here because I don’t want to potentially spoil your own experience.)
It’s still a game too
Far: Lone Sails gives you just enough to do in terms of gameplay without distracting you from or disrupting the story. It almost defies easy classification, but generally includes light platforming, puzzle-solving, a dash of resource management (to keep your iron chariot moving along), and even a little physics-based gameplay.
To keep your machine moving, you must scavenge resources, feed them to the engine, and punch the throttle to vent steam and give your iron behemoth a speed boost. This serves as a low-key minigame and occasionally adds some modest physics-based gameplay. For example, you might occasionally to build up speed and punch through a barrier, or stop your machine in a specific place.
In addition, you eventually acquire sails for your land rover, which you can unfurl to save fuel. A red flag atop your ship blows in the breeze to indicate wind power is available.
Like all machines, your vehicle must be repaired, and you’ll even need to put out occasional fires if it becomes damaged enough. The environment (acid rain!), crashing into things, and time can all slowly wear down your stalwart transport.
Overall: 8/10 – Highly Recommended
While perhaps not for everyone, Far: Lone Sails is beautifully executed on both a technical and artistic level. It povides a perfect balance of gameplay and story wrapped in an intriguing visual narrative that will entice you to see the end.
And when it does end, you will smile.