A much-anticipated game called Far: Changing Tides is out soon and I thought this a good time to review its prequel, a game that I desperately wanted to play 3 years ago but never got around to. Now thanks to Mixtvision's generosity here we are.
Let's start off with a quick description and a few details. FAR: Lone Sails is a physics-based exploration adventure/puzzle-platform game developed by the Swiss development company Okomotive, and published by Mixtvision.
FAR: Lone Sails starts off with you–a tiny hooded (presumably young female) figure–visiting a grave, leaving it sadly and passing through a wrecked house (presumably your former home) and wandering a bleak landscape, which leads to a beach. Eventually you come across a massive land cruiser called the Okomotive–which, by an amazing coincidence, is also the name of the developer! We're not told what kind of apocalypse has befallen this world, but safe to say you're all alone and the sea has practically dried up–not a good sign.
After fiddling with various buttons and figuring out how to feed the boiler with energy, you find you can make the land cruiser's engine fire up and make it travel to the right. I thought it was a steam engine but it's not quite that "simple." Burning stuff fills the "energy" tank, which for some strange reason produces water under pressure. Pressing the throttle button and running the engine raises the steam pressure, which needs to be vented regularly with a nearby valve. This venting procedure also results in a 'turbo-like' boost which is great if you come to a hill or just want to travel more quickly. The energy in the tank needs to be replenished regularly, so you need to keep an eye out for any fuel cans and drums (they come in two sizes) along the way. There are also highly flammable containers that will give you a full tank–but be warned, they also damage the engine.
The controls are simplicity itself; you move with the left stick, jump with 'A' and pick up/drop stuff with 'B' or 'X'. The Okomotive's control buttons are pressed by jumping into them or leaning on them. The Left trigger zooms the view in and the Right trigger zooms out, so you can get a close-up view of the interior and quickly zoom out to see what's coming up ahead, and much like the classic Limbo 'ahead' is always in the right side of the screen, you very rarely backtrack.
Apart from the vital fuel supplies you can add things to the Okomotive like lanterns, a repair torch and even a radio. I soon got fed up with the tedious jazz music it played so slung it out—apparently I should have burned it as fuel as there's an achievement for doing that!
Before long you find a second method of propulsion, and add a huge set of sails. It's not all 'plain sailing' though, and while some obstacles can simply be smashed through, you'll be forced to stop at some and perform a little platform-puzzling to progress. These can range from simple to head-scratching, but they're never less than logical and the zoom mode really helps.
Keeping the Okomotive running smoothly can be tricky, and sometimes I felt a lot like a circus clown trying to keep plates spinning on waggly poles. Fires can start and repairs will be required–for various reasons. Most of the time though, it's a piece of cake.
The things that irritated me in Lone Sails? Well… the Okomotive feels like it was designed by a discordant civil service committee, and is designed to be as fiddly to operate as possible. The lift (which you use a LOT) is a pain in the arse, and it's not clear enough when you've extinguished a fire or completed repairs on a damaged part of the ship. The other thing? Foreground scenery can get in your way, the only way to clear your view being to move the ship slightly—and that's it–I honestly love everything else about the game, although it's only 2D and it should be depressing as hell, it's not, and it has a similar ambiance to PlayStation classics like Ico, Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian.
I guess that if I was being greedy, Far: Lone Sails could have been longer. As bleak as the game world is, I'd have liked to spend more time there, maybe exploring on foot more and finding more gadgets to attach to the Okomotive. However, unlike many games, it does have replay value.
FAR: Lone Sails was released on Microsoft Windows and macOS in May 2018, with Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions arriving in April 2019, a Nintendo Switch release coming later that year. Currently priced at only £12.49 on the Xbox Store, this game is a 'diamond in the rough', and I'm so glad I finally got around to playing it.