The orchestral score is genuinely stunning, and fits the enigmatic, meditative quality of FAR: Changing Tides perfectly.
Taking you to through the decaying vestiges of a lost civilisation, the sequel to FAR: Lone Sails offers a beautiful apocalyptic world, rendered with a hint of the melancholy.
Think a massively simplified version of FTL, fixing up and maintaining your ship as it carves through the water. It's enjoyable, despite the occasional lull.
A polished, 4 to 5-hour adventure, which you probably won't mind embarking upon again once you've reached your destination. A fine way to relax.
Mostly story-driven milestones, Changing Tides' list also has a smattering of objectives you'll need to keep your eyes peeled for. Also, there's a speedrun one, if you like that sort of thing.
February 21, 2022
In FAR: Lone Sails, you played as a plucky little protagonist striving to make his way across an apocalyptic desert, aboard what was essentially a sail barge able to trundle along on large wagon wheels. FAR: Changing Tides is a much soggier sequel, beginning without context in a drowned village, houses half-immersed in seawater, quite possibly the result of some sort of perilous environmental disaster. Story is only ever hinted at in Changing Tides, which lends the game an enigmatic, mysterious air, as you can only wonder how the world came to be ruined and sodden by the rising oceans.
It's just me and my boat.
This time around, you play as a child with a mop of tousled hair, bundled up in sensible cold weather clothing, and able to glide through water with a funny diving helmet and propeller blades whirring around his neck. Within minutes, he finds himself at the helm of a rusted old hulk of a steam-powered sail boat, referred to simply as 'the vessel' – it's a cylindrical, fantastical thing, but it's missing some essential components to achieve its full potential. Your mission is to restore it to some sort of former glory, and make it to a safe haven – any port in a storm.
Initially, you'll cut through the waves, hoisting and trimming your sails, turning them according to the direction of the wind, ensuring they're billowing as the air currents dictate, keeping your boat zipping through the briny waters. Before long, you'll be able to feed fuel into the ship's furnace, jumping up and down on the bellows to set the fires burning and propel your vessel faster than sailing alone will allow.
Stoke the flames too much, and the engine will overheat, but you've a hose that can be used to cool things down and keep the gears turning and your boat dutifully chugging. You don't really ever know where you're supposed to be going aboard your indomitable workhorse, but it's understood that your quest involves plotting a course past anything that stands in the way of progress, which involves solving puzzles to activate mechanisms, shift debris, or unlock doors.
These sections involve scaling impressive steampunk buildings, pushing buttons, pulling levers, moving platforms, reactivating long-dormant machinery in elegantly constructed platforming and puzzle sections – it's all very nicely put together. A 3D side-scrolling adventure like the first game, Changing Tides' dynamic camera knows exactly when to pull out to give the optimum view, too, and provide a close-up cutaway of your ship and its various chambers, as you scurry around, industriously feeding its fires, having scavenged on the outside for anything to deposit into the hungry furnace. Herein lies the challenge, of keeping the vessel moving, even when fuel is scarce.
The crux of FAR: Changing Tides lies in the operation of your faithful ship, and it's interesting how you gradually form a bond with the rust-encrusted vessel, every time the mast is knocked down because you forgot to fold it in, every knock and impact feeling like something you really should have avoided – I couldn't help but suck air through gritted teeth whenever the ship hit something and it was my fault. For the most part, however, Changing Tides' pace is gentle, allowing plenty of time (perhaps a little too much) to soak up the scenery and composer Joel Schoch's gorgeous soundtrack, all mournful violin, soft strings, and soaring woodwind cues.
There's a fair bit of ladder climbing to be done.
When you are doing nothing but keeping your vessel moving forward through the water, whether it's a sedentary inlet or a roiling sea, all you're really able to do is use the trigger buttons to zoom in and out, leaving you wondering when you'll reach your next port of call. And when your fuel reserves are dwindling and you're slowly drifting, there's something of a lull to proceedings, as the scenery glacially rolls by. As you gradually slot new upgrade cells into your ship's hull at various junctures, you're able to traverse the tract of ocean to your destination faster, submerging to pass beneath icebergs, or pumping the bellows until you've charged an energy boost that gives you a temporary burst of speed. Maintaining your vessel, meanwhile, requires a little welding torch, and you'll undoubtedly bash the mast and overheat the furnace more than a few times to warrant its use.
From a flooded village to a sunken train station, cleaving through sheets of arctic ice, and climbing ancient structures, by the time you've reached the end of FAR: Changing Tides, you'll feel like you've been on a proper journey, you and your boat going through the whole thing together, overcoming whatever lies in your way. Remarkably pretty, wonderfully meditative, and enjoyable while it lasts, FAR: Changing Tides is a fantastic voyage worth embarking upon.