Living games with only a world, a sound and a memory.
Trying to find the words to describe this game has been a struggle for me. I’m torn, to be honest. Half of me wants to grab your shoulders and shake you wildly, yelling “You NEED to play this!”. The other half of me doesn’t like to share my feelings with strangers and would rather just keep this all to myself. It feels… personal. But I think it’s finally time for me to share it with you.
FAR: Lone Sails is an adventure. There is no dialogue. No narrator. The story is a mystery from the second you enter its world until hours later when you finally leave. It is up to you as the audience to interpret what that story really is. The following is my interpretation. I understand that this game could mean something else entirely to another, but this is what it makes me feel. I’m not so great with words, and I often wish I could paint my feelings rather than explain them. But this game… this game seems to do just that. So please bare with me while I try to put their paintings into words.
An obvious starting point is the game’s most striking feature: the artwork.
I find it inspiring when an artist can create something so uniquely beautiful all the while setting strict limitations for themselves. FAR does just that. The art is simple, in a way. Mostly only shades of red and grey are ever used. But it’s oh so complex and brilliant in so many ways too. The artwork is definitely what stands out about this game immediately. Personally, that’s what drew me to it. But there’s something else just below the surface. Something that gives this game so much life.
I think it’s the audio.
After entering the world of FAR, you’ll quickly stumble upon a vehicle of sorts that you’re clearly supposed to start. There is no tutorial. You must rely on your own instincts and logic (heating water causes steam, etc.) to figure out how to get this great rig moving. While there are many incredible moments in this game, I don’t know if anything ever really tops that feeling as everything starts to click for you and, at last, the rig springs to life. The engine begins to rumble, the music bursts from seemingly nowhere, and, suddenly, you feel a sense of purpose.
These great moments stem from the creator’s uncanny way of using sound to trigger emotions. The rain, for example, sounds real. Exactly as you may have heard it before. I’ve always loved rain and especially so in video games. From a simple level that includes it like Tiger Temple in Crash Team Racing, to something more natural like a sudden rainstorm in Horizon: Zero Dawn. When it starts to rain in a video game, something special happens. But when it starts to rain in FAR: Lone Sails, something more pronounced happened for me… it jogged a memory. The sound of the rain pounding on the metal roof of my rig was so real that I could almost smell the rainfall. I felt like a kid. And that… that’s a hard thing for me to explain.
I grew up with a sailor for a dad. He doesn’t hop in a yacht on the weekend and sail for luxury. When I say he’s a sailor… I mean that’s his life. He lives on a sailboat. The man I know always has… I hope he always will.
As I played this game, I could almost smell the diesel engine and taste the salty sea spray.
My dad didn’t read me bedtime stories, he created them. I don’t know what inspired him, but at night he’d tell me a fictional story right off the top of his head. There was an ongoing narrative. A stray dog running from one thing and seeking another. Sometimes the dog was alone, sometimes he found friends. Sometimes he hopped on a freight train and other times he was a stow away on a cargo ship. These stories set a high bar for me. It takes a heck of a story to scratch that creative itch.
The creators of FAR took a risk: they don’t explain the story, but instead leave it to their audience to interpret. I think sometimes that’s just what we need. We don’t need you to spell it out for us. Hold our hand. We need a world and a sound, and a memory to be triggered, and we can work out the details for ourselves.
If you want a game with a complete narrative, FAR is not for you. If you want combat or action filled sequences, FAR is not for you.
But if you have this feeling deep inside that there’s more out there for you and you just can’t quite put your finger on where you belong… maybe this game can help.
At the very least, maybe you can bask in the rain and feel it’s touch. That’s more than enough for some of us.