Far: Lone Sails is a peculiar game, that much has to be said. Straight off the bat I could tell that it’s an adventure that’s likely only going to appeal to a specific crowd, but regardless, give yourself to it, because it’s certainly an experience that stands out. There’s not much to talk about in regards to the story, in fact, much of the narrative is laid out for you to interpret how you see fit. The premise thrusts you into the role of a lone sailor, one that traverses a dried-out ocean in search of life, and in search of meaning. It’s very well done.
The game constantly showcases signs of desolation, a long stretch that’s every bit as desperate as it is daunting. Throughout the entirety of play, one theme is dominant above all else; post-apocalypse. You’ll religiously stumble across structures and signs that point to locales that were clearly thriving with civilization at one point, but now remain mere memories of a time humanity took the world for granted. It’s a touching tale if you interpret it correctly, but that’s not at all to say that the game doesn’t come without a few issues.
Far: Lone Sails is very easy to pick up and play. Players take on the role of the aforementioned sailor, with the game playing out from a side-scrolling perspective. Leaving your coastal home, you soon stumble upon your very own vessel; a cross between a boat and a train. Using this vessel, you’ll travel the thousands of miles that sit between you and the endgame, solving some tricky obstacles and tending to tasks along the way. The whole adventure takes roughly two hours to complete in total, with little replay value thereafter.
Still, even just the one run was worth my time and effort. Guiding the sailor on foot amounts to left and right movement, jumping, and interacting with environmental objects. You’ll use these functions to operate your vessel, which comes with mechanics of its own that you’ll need to be constantly mindful of. The crux of play in all of this? Move. Move, move, and move some more. So long as you’re moving, you’re making progress. The catch, however, is maintaining your movement and ensuring that your vessel is taken care of.
To begin with, your vessel is merely a shell. There’s little on show and even less to be mindful of. However, later on in, you’ll start expanding on your vessel; sails, repair kits, hoovers, and so on. There’s two modes of movement, through wind, and through the burning of fuel. You’re only able to move with the wind in open areas, but you’re free to burn as much fuel as you like at any given time. The kicker? Doing so will likely see you running low on fuel supplies, so it pays off to ensure that you use your resources wisely.
Mercifully, resources are scattered all over, and pretty much anything that isn’t tied down can be used as fuel. You’ll pick up an item, but it in the burner, your vessel will convert it to energy. Naturally, different items and objects will vary in the amount of fuel given, and some even have adverse effects. Throw in a gas canister, and some compartments of your vessel will set alight. The key here is to ensure that you always have energy in the tank to move on, and to further ensure that you relieve your engines of steam at the correct time.
Doing so will grant you with a short burst of speed, whereas failing to do so will result in a blowout. When you’re in need of a repair, you’ll simply grab your repair kit, head on over to the component that needs repairing, and stand there until the deed is done. The same methodology is applied to putting out fires, only you’ll use a hose instead of a repair kit. That’s the sum of the vessel’s depth. There’s more to it than that, but these components are the mandatory components. So, how does the game play outside of all of that? Quite easily.
The aim of play is to make it to the far end of your locale; and in doing so, you’ll move through a wide range of varying locales; all of which house unique elements such as storms, volcanic eruptions, and so on. Visually, it’s a treat to behold. The game does a stellar job at making sure that you’ve always got something new, exciting, and thought provoking to look at. It’s a shame, then, that the gameplay itself is so laid back. I’m not the brightest bulb in the packet, and with that in mind, even I found the game to be a bit too easy for the most part.
Fuel management never really becomes that much of an issue when burnable items are strewn all over. Hell, I was quite clumsy with my reserves, and even then I had plenty of objects to burn along the way. It would have been nice to see more desperation present here; less items to be found, and less items that can be burned, to name a few. Something to bolster that sense of need. Instead, you’ll regularly stop your vessel to pick up supplies, and then move onward to new ground. There’s almost no challenge present on this front.
I can say the same about the game’s environmental puzzles. These arrive in two forms; through the terrain, and through structural blocks. The former becomes apparent when you’ve an uphill climb ahead of you, and you need to ensure that you’ve enough steam built up to make it over the hump. That’s about it. The latter, on the other hand, is much more hands-on. In Far: Lone Sails, you’ll often come up against structures that block your path. Some can be beaten down by the vessel, whereas others need a hands-on approach.
When that happens, you’ll leave your vessel and traverse these locations on foot. Though, much of this tends to revolve around the same theme; press a button, lift a platform, hop back in your vessel, and off you go. There are times in which you’ll need to load fuel into a machine to activate a button, or, overcome blocks with the items from your vessel, but it’s all painfully straightforward regardless. This holds the game back quite a bit. Far: Lone Sails would have been all the better if it had been developed to be remotely challenging.
Instead, it just feels like a breeze in the park. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful journey, but it lacks the mechanical depth of its more robust contemporaries. Outside of that, there’s little to discuss. You’ll move, you’ll solve light puzzles, you’ll tend to your vessel, and you’ll hit the endgame in no time at all. What truly takes center stage here is the game’s atmosphere. Far: Lone Sails is a game that constantly toys with your perception. Take the radio, for example. There’s an achievement for burning this when you come across it.
I heard the music, found the radio, and tossed it into the burner. Then the realization hit me… I had just disposed of the one thing that added some extra character to the trek. It’s a clever way to instill emotion on the developer’s part, I only wish this was more prominent throughout. Still, as it stands, this is well worth your time if you’ve a love for these sorts of games. It looks sensational, with a desperate yet defined color palate on show to encourage forward thinking, all of which is tied up nicely and neatly by stellar audio presentation.
Far: Lone Sails is a game that says a great deal without ever uttering a single word. Much like Dear Esther, it’s a journey that can be interpreted in many ways, and as such, your view of its gorgeously desperate world will constantly vary throughout. It’s a shame, however, that such a compelling canvas is slightly held back by its simplicity and its short length. Still, it’s a fascinating tale that deserves attention, just don’t expect too much from its gameplay.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.