Far: Lone Sails
The identity of the protagonist and their ultimate goal is never totally clear during the course of Far: Lone Sails. In this way, it recalls games like Inside and Little Nightmares; it creates a compelling narrative based almost entirely on a mysterious, horrific mood. Far: Lone Sails stands alongside other games in this difficult-to-define genre, but it also sets itself apart in a big way with a lumbering, upgradable vehicle that carries you through a desolate world.
In Far: Lone Sails, you are taking your vehicle (effectively a mobile home) from left to right on a 2D plane. You stop only to refuel and solve puzzles to eliminate obstacles that prevent you from moving forward. As you travel, you come across assorted pieces that can be used to improve your vehicle. Sails, for example, let you move without consuming fuel as long as the wind is in your favor, while a vacuum upgrade lets you grab fuel without having to stop and exit your vehicle.
The connection I built with this vehicle was a strong one. It doubles as your home as you make your way and you must take care of it, repairing its occasional damage, and making sure its fuel stays topped off. You attach upgrades to it as you progress, and I was excited to come across each one as they make your transportation stronger and more efficient. Exiting the vehicle and moving away from it, which is necessary to solve puzzles, made me more uncomfortable as I moved further away. I felt exposed and in danger without it. That connection is exploited to great effect at a few key moments over the course of the adventure.
The puzzles never push the player too hard, but that is not a complaint. None of the mechanics feel overused, and it also does a good job at giving you tools and letting the puzzles themselves explain how those tools can be used. A winch on the front, for example, is available from the beginning, but its use does not become apparent until much later. The puzzles are also consistently surprising in that you may be working toward what appears to be an obvious solution, only to discover the button you pressed does something entirely different and exciting. On one occasion, I thought I was simply opening a door to move forward, but as the pieces collapsed around me and fell into place, I realized I had created a ferry to take me from side of a lake to another.
Events outside the vehicle can be just as compelling as those inside. Whatever happened to this world (and why the protagonist is so eager to keep moving) is never totally clear, but whatever it was, it wasn’t good. By just looking at the environment as you travel through it, you get a powerful sense of broken dreams. I often felt like I was in a world that was building to something amazing, only to have the rug pulled out from underneath it at the last second. I was impressed by how well the emotional state of the world came across, even without knowing what calamity had led it to this state.
For all the landscape does to tell its story, and the impressive engineering of the vehicle on display, I wish the protagonist’s design fell in line with the rest of the excellent art. Images in various locations hint that this world was once populated by normal humans, but the protagonists looks a bit like a collection of red cardboard boxes and it clashed with the otherwise compelling aesthetic.
Far: Lone Sails is the kind of game that sticks with you after seeing credits. It delivers a fascinating mystery in a strange land with engaging puzzles, and couples that with a relationship between the player and their oversized mode of transportation. A few areas lack polish and some of the physics felt off here and there, but none of that stopped the story from engaging me in a big way.