Usually, post-apocalyptic games are about survival. Getting food, finding water, getting weapons, and dealing with threats is what most players have come to expect from the genre over the years. FAR: Lone Sails, however, subverts that expectation. None of these things play a role in this game — instead, you simply have one goal: get in your vehicle, and keep moving forward.
It sounds like a boring concept on paper, but the game manages to make everything from maintaining your vehicle to traversing the lands engaging and often times, challenging. When you pair this with the gorgeous art and the phenomenal music, it becomes clear that FAR: Lone Sails is something special.
Gameplay: Maintain your vessel
FAR: Lone Sails immediately starts you off on your journey. Hundreds of miles of land lying before you, and the only way to cross is with your part-train, part-boat vehicle. There are two ways to move: burning fuel and raising sails. The sails will only work in open areas, and fuel reserves are finite. Burning fuel also generates steam, and releasing it when it's at critical levels will give you a nice boost of speed.
These are the core mechanics of FAR: Lone Sails, and understanding how to manage your fuel is the most important thing in the game. Sources of fuel are often few and far between, so it's crucial to save as much of it as possible. This alone is already a fun strategic challenge, but the game throws a few wrenches into your plans. For example, the various moving parts of your vehicle can catch fire or break down, and you need to handle those problems with your onboard water hose and repair torch, respectively.
Weather can be a factor as well, and some forms of it will even damage your vessel, meaning you'll need to go as fast as possible in order to get under cover. Lastly, there are scenarios where the vehicle will get stuck, and the only way to get it out is to go on foot, find out what the problem is and fix it, usually by platforming and puzzle-solving your way to a button. These are satisfying variations in gameplay that keep the experience from feeling repetitive.
A creative aspect of the gameplay is the way you can find objects that help "brighten up" your vehicle's interior but will be forced to sacrifice for fuel if you don't utilize what you find well. For example, you can find a radio that will play charming music as you pass abandoned signal towers, but if you screw up and waste fuel, then you'll be forced to use the radio for fuel and your experience will return to lonely silence.
Atmosphere: Impactful, gripping, beautiful
Though the gameplay is excellent, I would be lying if I said what drove me to stay up one night playing this game wasn't the atmosphere. The art direction is amazing and really does a lot to contribute to the feeling of loneliness in an empty world. Music is also fantastic, and both intense and sad moments are emotionally impactful because of the score.
As you travel, you find several remnants of civilization. Everything from abandoned farms to industrial sites is visible, and every time I saw one it renewed my determination to keep chugging along to see if I could find other forms of life.
Perhaps the cleverest thing about FAR: Lone Sails is the way it builds a relationship between you and your vessel. Since you're on your own for the whole game, you'll form an attachment with the craft. You rely on it for movement and protection from the elements, while it relies on you for repairs and moving past obstacles. The two of you will be through thick and thin together, and this ultimately makes the vehicle feel less like a tool and more like a friend.
FAR: Lone Sails for PC conclusion
Through excellent gameplay mechanics, phenomenal presentation, and a touching atmosphere, FAR: Lone Sails is the best indie game of 2018 thus far.
- Excellent gameplay.
- Gorgeous music and art.
- Effective, impactful atmosphere.
- Occasional slight framerate dip.
FAR: Lone Sails is available on Steam for $14.99. It will also be coming to Xbox One later this year.
This review was conducted on a PC, using a copy provided by the publisher.