For anyone that has experienced Okomotive’s previous offering, FAR: Lone Sails, this sequel presents some comforting familiarity. Once again, your avatar — in this case a lone adventurer named Toe — is tasked with travelling across a 2D landscape with the aid of a vehicle, to reach an unspecified goal. And once again, the journey involves a gentle mix of resource management, vehicle operation, and puzzle-based obstructions along the way. Initially the route must be made on foot, or by swimming in the deep waters that have unexpectedly become a theme of life in FAR’s world. The natural surroundings are pierced with derelict structures, and newspapers float in the water featuring headlines hinting at a great wave that has washed daily life aside.
The sense of being the captain of your own ship is truly enchanting. Spiritfarer provided the tools to shape your ship and its contents to your requirements, but Changing Tides asks that you get your hands dirty and take direct control of the mechanics of your vessel. You’ll need to raise the mast and turn the sails to catch the wind at just the right angle to maximise your speed, and a later upgrade allows you to use the ship’s furnace to burn scrap and power the paddles, an alternative means of motion when the wind isn’t providing enough of a nudge.
The ship feels like a character in itself — an essential companion to Toe — and the emotional connection grows with the thrill of each moment that the vessel gains a new ability, or the peril when stormy waters crash against the hull and lightning cracks overhead. There are moments when damage can hinder your progress, but a quick fix with a repair kit ensures plain sailing again. You can leave the ship at any time to dive to the ocean floor, and these moments of idle exploration may occasionally reap more scrap to throw in the furnace, or better still an item that hints at life before the flood: a wooden toy or a pot plant. These additional objects are purely cosmetic, but their discovery invites a little personalisation to your vessel, adding to the emotional pull of the tale.
There are occasions when Toe will have to leave the ship to solve a puzzle and remove an obstacle. Objects in your surroundings that you can interact with are coloured in a particular shade of blue, and the tasks presented can vary in difficulty. There is little guidance to these puzzles, or indeed, even the practicalities of how to operate your ship. An intentional design element, perhaps: the overriding feeling is that you are alone, and that — against the odds — you must reach your destination.
The controls for Toe and the ship are efficiently mapped to the various Switch controls. Shoulder buttons can be pressed to zoom in and out with ease, which provides the opportunity to dip the camera beneath the water’s surface as you power across the waves. When a whale’s tail flicks above the water in the distance, for instance, the natural temptation to dip the camera below and take a closer look is dutifully rewarded. Generally, the controls feel subtly refined compared to FAR: Lone Sails.
Despite the ominous context of a great tidal cleansing, Changing Tides is a relaxed excursion. Accompanied by stunning scenery and a dynamic soundtrack which adapts smoothly to Toe’s progress, events flow naturally without a hint of premeditated programming. There are moments on the journey which will leave you gasping. When, for example, the ship gains the ability to dive beneath the water and adopt the talents of a submarine, it feels like a truly empowering moment. There’s a profound sense of isolation and a battle for survival, but in the context of the power and fragility of nature, Changing Tides becomes one of those immersive experiences that only a finely crafted indie game can deliver.
There are occasional moments when your intentions for Toe don’t translate smoothly on-screen: an attempt to climb a ladder, for example, may result in the unintentional click of an adjacent switch, or you may find Toe picking up a piece of equipment rather than pulling the lever you were aiming for. But hey, ships are meant to be cramped, aren’t they? In the unlikely event that you fail to immerse yourself in the sublime visuals and mesmerising soundtrack, you may find the sedate pace causes your attention to drift. If you can wholeheartedly embrace the journey however, FAR: Changing Tides is worth exploring.
Anyone that has played the previous FAR release will benefit from a little additional context to the story arc, but Changing Tides still works as a standalone tale. You will most likely reach Toe’s destination within three or four hours of play, but there are many memorable moments compacted into the voyage. The versatility of the lead character and the ship on which they travel is impressively executed, and that attachment will be with you long after the closing credits. Let’s hope FAR finds another tale for us to be pioneers on the lonely seas.
FAR: Changing Tides Review £14.99
FAR: Changing Tides is an emotionally charged voyage that revels in the thrill of exploring the unknown, proving that the journey is more important than the destination. Painstakingly crafted and beautifully presented, this is an essential experience.