Do you know what I love about FAR: Lone Sails? It’s that I have no idea what the hell is going on. Not in the sense that I don’t know what I’m doing – despite the game’s lack of text, the puzzles and mechanics are beautifully signposted, so there weren’t any points where I was scratching my head, wondering what to do next. No, what I love is the way that it gives you a world and then lets you fill in the blanks.
The game begins with a girl(?) in red kneeling in front of the portrait of a man, which has been leaned against a tree. Who is this man? Her late father, perhaps? A departed leader of some sort? Is he actually dead? You don’t know – and you never find out, although later on the game drops a few hints. And that’s just brilliant.
My favourite films tend to be those which leave the viewer to decide what they’ve seen and to make sense of it. Mulholland Drive is a particular favourite – and in fact anything by David Lynch. Thinking about what could have happened is far more rewarding than having exposition served up to you on a plate. And so it is with FAR: Lone Sails – you never really know for certain what’s happening, but guessing is part of the game’s appeal.
Soon after leaving the portrait, the girl in red (or is it a boy?) boards a giant, steam-powered machine and heads off, her destination unknown. The game is a relentless drive from left to right, as the girl (boy?) raises gates and overcomes obstacles in the landship’s path, all the while collecting cans of fuel to drive the machine ever onwards. Sometimes you’ll find a new bit of equipment to add to the ship, like the titular sails; other times, parts might catch fire, prompting some hasty repairs. And all the while, the landscape changes, open fields making way to parched plains, all filled with tantalising hints about what could have happened to this strange land. Questions abound: where are all the people? Why are boats stranded in a desert? Was there a war? Catastrophic climate change? You don’t know – your only recourse is to keep going and see what happens next.
FAR: Lone Sails is a very short game – I finished the whole thing in a couple of hours – but it’s intensely beautiful while it lasts. And most important of all, it stuck in my brain for days afterwards. It’s games like this that really hammer home the notion that the most exciting projects around tend to come from tiny indie studios, where designers can spin something amazing out of the most unlikely subject matter.
FAR: Lone Sails was developed by Okomotive and is available on PC, Mac, PS4, Xbox One and Switch. We reviewed the Switch version.
Disclosure statement: review code for FAR: Lone Sails was provided by Mixtvision. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.