FAR: Lone Sails
PS4 version tested
Review code provided
Full Steam Ahead!
If I felt inclined to be a lazy journalist I could probably try and sum up FAR: Lone Sails by Okomotive as Yarny goes yachting. After all the protagonist is bright red and you travel from left to right across the screen, solving puzzles as you go to progress to the end. That’s if I was feeling lazy, but I’m not because FAR: Lone Sails is such a beautifully charming, mesmerising game that I’m going to gush on about it some more.
Now this review is a bit of a cheeky one as I got my hands on a U.S code, and being one of those stiff upper lip, tea drinking UK types a bit of subterfuge was required as I really wanted to play this game. I’d already heard great things about it including a review from one of our very own, BreadRoll. So I set up a naughty second PS4 account and I now have a double life and a secret identity in Sacramento, California… shhhhhh!
I’ve played quite a few of the more modern side-scrollers; Limbo, Unravel and Little Nightmares to name a few, and like these fine examples of the genre FAR: Lone Sails is another engrossing and at times haunting addition to the catalogue.
Much like Limbo, and to some extent the other games previously mentioned, there’s little in the way of an introduction or narrative to begin with. You start very simply in your ramshackle house before you gather up your mailbox (if you keep this with you to the end you get an achievement) and walk down a deserted beach to your steam-powered land-boat rig thingy.
To be honest, the entire time I was travelling along through the various beautiful, desolate and post-apocalyptic landscapes, I was unsure of what to call my sometimes steam-powered, sometimes wind-powered vehicle. With its rusty exterior, two huge wheels, steampunk interior and glowing blue fuel gauge it’s like an odd hybrid of gypsy wagon and 1950s ray-gun. Then the sails are added like a pair of slightly ageing bunny ears.
It’s a hugely characterful vehicle and I found myself getting more and more attached to it over my journey. The work required in keeping your land-boat moving is simple and oddly pleasing as you feed items into the energy converter for fuel, push the power button in and punch the steam release button occasionally so the engine doesn’t overheat. It can be quite an involved process to keep the momentum going as the power button often pops back out, you have to refuel frequently and occasionally weigh anchor to jump out and collect more material to burn.
This repetitive action could get tedious fast, but bizarrely it has a weird sort of meditative quality as you get into the rhythm of refuelling, venting steam and pushing the power button. Once the sails get involved you can really pick up speed and steam ahead, and because I built up a strangely empathetic relationship with my yacht over the course of the game these moments of acceleration genuinely felt quite exhilarating.
It might seem like an odd thing to say that you form a relationship with the vehicle, but in the lonely expanse of the Lone Sails world you develop something that is almost symbiotic. As the player you keep the craft “alive” by feeding it an assortment of items for fuel. These range from barrels and crates to random debris. Books, radios, plants even containers of highly flammable material can be fed into the engine. Although like eating an especially spicy curry, the flammable containers can have something of an explosive effect on the inner workings of your cruiser and you will need to put out a few small fires.
There are also a few upgrades along the road for your rusty friend. You can install a hose to combat the previously mentioned fires, a welding torch to fix any breakages and a rear-mounted vacuum hose which saves you having to stop and collect every item on your way. There’s also some sails and some replacement wheels to really pimp your ride.
It’s no surprise then that this odd friendship evolves. Aside from the occasional flock of seagulls and herd of hairy buffalo, there is no other life in the game and your boat is your only companion. This meant, for me at least, that whenever I had to leave my steampunk beauty behind to solve puzzles and open up areas, I started to get separation anxiety. I felt horribly vulnerable without my boat friend in the desolate landscape of the world and hurried back to it as soon as possible.
This lack of other life or NPCs means that there are no battles, boss fights, or any enemies to worry about. Your little red sou’wester also doubles as a sort of parachute and you can drop from pretty much any height without taking fall damage, so technically it should be very hard to die in this game. I managed it however… for science! Death can be achieved if you decide to press your face up against any environmental hazards, like an engine fire. However death is not permanent and you will always reappear back in your beloved craft where you left off.
The story itself is somewhat open to interpretation. The lack of any other characters suggests some sort of cataclysmic event or mass evacuation has taken place. There’s a distinct lack of water and it seems like sea levels have plummeted to the point that huge ships and tankers have run aground and now sit derelict. There are some indications of life and attempts of survival. Tattered billboards exclaim messages about “The Blue Isles A Fresh Start!” and you reach an area littered with abandoned pod-shelters like the Futuro houses of the 1960s, but you start to get the sense that you are somehow the lone survivor of this world.
For a “story light” game FAR: Lone Sails has got a number of amazing set pieces. The most memorable involving a huge land walking vehicle, run down and empty and yet another hint of the tale being told. It’s not an especially long game and can be completed in around 3–4 hours, however in terms of replayability I have already played it through twice, and I’m probably going to give it another go to collect a few more trophies.
Because of its serenity, the visually striking landscapes and the score which floats from jaunty to melancholy to hopeful, FAR: Lone Sails is clearly not the most action-packed game you will ever play. But this is its unique selling point. It has a relaxing, calming influence. I feel like calling it a “palette cleanser” would be doing it an enormous disservice, but as someone who is always between games or playing 3 different games at any one time, Lone Sails is almost like a vacation or relaxing retreat where I can unwind.
While FAR: Lone Sails might be simple it certainly isn’t a shallow experience. Keeping your ship running across the stunning and occasionally intimidating landscapes has a curious mindfulness to it. The story, while subtle is still thought provoking and in some ways heartbreaking, and even though there is a sadness to the end of the game it comes tinged with a feeling of hope. I’d absolutely encourage you to give this little hug of a game a go.
TBG Score: 9/10
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 02/04/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Vehicular Adventure
Download link: PSN