FAR: Changing Tides is another contemplative and cinematic puzzle adventure, a follow-up of sorts to the exquisite FAR: Lone Sails.
Okomotive’s 2018 game FAR: Lone Sails was an unexpected discovery. A brief but memorable journey across a desolate landscape that conjured those “deep feels” that video game enthusiasts get excited about.
Sense of loneliness? Check. Melancholic mood? You betchya. An obscure narrative that alludes to humankind’s relationship with nature and technology? Now we’re talking.
The game’s magic also comes from a perfectly balanced blend of exploration, machine maintenance, and environmental puzzle solving. I discovered FAR: Lone Sails late, but it was easily one of the best games I played last year. The prospect of a more ambitious sequel – or, as Okomotive prefers to pitch it, companion piece – is intriguing.
The result is a game that, at face value, is more of the same writ large. The promise of more scale, more intricacy, and more feels.
FAR: Changing Tides is built around the same concept of traversing a post-apocalyptic world in a vehicle that requires near-constant maintenance. In the FAR: Lone Sails, you explore the wastelands in a contraption best described as a land yacht. This time around, you’re in command of a larger, water-bound vessel that can travel above and – once upgraded – below the waves.
It’s a more complex beast to maintain compared to Lone Sails‘ comparatively spritely mode of conveyance. In part, this comes from its size. From the crows-nest and winch deck to the storage bays and the engine room, there are a lot of plates to spin if you want to keep your ship travelling at the optimum speed.
Satisfaction comes once again from harnessing the powers of nature and industry and discovering the sweet spot between the two. You’ll need to raise sail, keep fuel flowing, and cool the engine, among many other activities.
As the game progresses, it becomes an awful lot to manage. One unfortunate side effect of the ship’s size is that it takes longer to get from one room to another and requires more attention and focus. On a few occasions, I missed a visual set piece in the world outside as I was busy fixing a broken component or stoking the fires.
Much of the first game’s appeal was in seeing your efforts presented against the backdrop of a bleak but frequently spectacular world. Here, despite the larger scale, your focus is too often drawn inwards. The experience is also complicated by some vagary of control that wasn’t a problem the first time around.
Piloting a submersible gives the game more depth, literally, but it also dampens the experience with some drab excursions beneath the waves. Distant horizons – even those of the post-apocalyptic variety – can offer grandeur and beauty. Murky seabeds littered with sunken machinery just don’t have the same allure, and these moments suck momentum from the journey.
None of this is to say that FAR: Changing Tides is truly disappointing. It just has a different focus. The drive to keep your vessel moving is still compelling, and the satisfaction of running a well-oiled ship never gets old.
The environmental puzzles you encounter are also more extravagant. You’ll venture higher and deeper. You’ll explore submerged buildings, fix curious machines, unfurl iron windmills, and pull lots and lots of levers to open up a path forward. Cyan-coloured markers clearly highlight points of interaction, but puzzle solutions are never obvious. You are encouraged to experiment, and you won’t encounter anything you can’t solve given some persistence.
Each moment of environmental manipulation is usually rewarded with a lengthy period of traversal, during which Joel Schoch’s fantastic soundtrack swells to deliver an emotional payoff. It compensates for every stumble and stutter along the way.
So maybe “companion piece” is the correct term. Between FAR: Lone Sails and FAR: Changing Tides, you can choose between two similar but subtly different experiences. One that emphasises the journey and conjures a sense of wonder, or one that shares the same themes but emphasises the minutiae of mechanical tinkering.
The best thing to do is not choose and simply play both. Despite some deviations from the scenic route, FAR: Changing Tides takes its players on another memorable voyage.
Game: FAR: Changing Tides
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Publisher: Frontier Developments plc
Release Date: Out Now