When a game is set in some sort of post-apocalyptic future, it’s usually a brown and bleak landscape filled with death and hopelessness. Some titles, such as Horizon Forbidden West, manage to bring hope through their portrayals, but they’re few and far between. Rarely does a game manage to make you experience joy, closeness, loss, and friendship in such a setting, but FAR: Changing Tides does that and so much more.
These tides, they are a changing
The sequel to FAR: Lone Sails begins the same way as its predecessor. You are a lone human left behind centuries after some catastrophic event came along to cause everyone to up and leave Earth, killing most of those who stayed behind. This part of the world is completely flooded. You swim through it endlessly in search of something that doesn’t become clear until the final quarter of the story.
When controlling the nameless protagonist, you can jump, pick up items, and run. However, when you stumble across a boat, things change. Suddenly you have the ability to sail across this flooded world at speeds you’ve never dreamt of. All you need to do is manage the sail, keeping it close to the wind so you maximize your speed.
Each time you reach optimum speed, the music swells as if to reward you. The soundtrack really is astounding for such a short title, including an entire orchestra of instruments, all of which have been used to great effect.
Over the course of the story, which lasts for roughly five hours, you’ll find upgrades for your boat that make it faster and provide you with new abilities, such as a hook for pulling treasures from the ocean floor. Each one provides you with a new way to explore or progress. More upgrades mean more to manage though, and this is where the true gameplay loop presents itself.
Just as you must manage the sail at the start of the game, so too must you manage the boat’s engine and other mechanisms as you acquire them. You need to feed fuel to the fire, jump on the bellows, ensure there’s a constant supply of new fuel for when you need it, and keep the temperature of the engine down. Moving forward has never been more stressful, constantly overseeing the various moving parts of your boat, but the elation you feel when you achieve top speed for a brief moment is worth it.
When you’re not managing your boat, FAR: Changing Tides is a 2.5D platformer. There are regular puzzles that require you to move either the protagonist or the boat through complex paths, activating machines and acquiring upgrades along the way. The game does a beautiful job of demonstrating the new mechanisms your ship acquires through its puzzles.
Some of these puzzles seem frustrating to start with, but once you contextualize them as machines rather than an artificial challenge, their solutions seem simple. A part that needs to be replaced is far easier to understand than a complex crane puzzle. Powering up a battery to open a door is more logical than burning fuel and heating up an engine with no clear goal. There’s a point in the game when you’ll make the transition to thinking this way, and it makes the rest of it even more enjoyable.
However, the game isn’t without its faults. Some puzzles do seem incredibly obtuse, and in most cases, there’s no hint system to indicate what you should do next. The protagonist’s movement is also fairly awkward when jumping off of ladders and carrying important items. When they leap off at the wrong time or don’t behave exactly as expected, it can be frustrating. For example, one puzzle requires you to drag a hose down a ladder while it spews water. The protagonist leaps and lets go of the hose randomly while you drag it, making this puzzle almost impossible. These are minor gripes though, and the majority of the game isn’t affected by the few instances that you’ll encounter such issues.
Light at the end of the tunnel
FAR: Changing Tides is a journey unlike any other. You start with nothing, not even a goal outside of moving to the right-hand side of the screen, but your boat gives you purpose. With this companion, you can forge a path to the end of the world and back.
Strangely, you’ll find yourself forming a bond with your mode of transport. It requires so much from you to stay in ship shape that it feels very much dependent on your presence. The thing is, you’re just as dependent on it. Without its ability to harness energy from fuel or the wind, you’d be stuck scavenging scraps in cities, unprotected from the earthquakes that regularly cause floods and other disasters around you.
Losing your boat becomes an unbearable thought, but the protagonist is going through so much more than you know. You’ll discover their personal tragedy, just as you did in FAR: Lone Sails, but there’s also something better waiting for you just around the corner. You can feel it in every puzzle you solve and each new area you explore. Despite the game being so short, it’s hard to put down and should be experienced in one sitting if you have the time.
By the end of your time with the game, you’ll have experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. While it’s such a simple title that doesn’t seem to do anything massively impressive visually or mechanically, FAR: Changing Tides makes you feel and experience the emotions and physical exertion of the protagonist much better than any QTE ever has.
8 / 10
|Satisfying gameplay loop
|Enough going on that it never gets dull
|Issues with the platforming controls
Gamepur team received a PlayStation code for the purpose of this review.