When I hear the phrase “post-apocalyptic” used to describe a game, the first thought that comes to my mind is zombies, and the second is that I will have to kill those zombies for survival. This is definitely not the case for FAR: Lone Sails, a 2D post-apocalyptic vehicle adventure game. With what started as a student project in 2015 and was eventually developed by Swiss indie studio Okomotive, FAR: Lone Sails is actually a mostly peaceful journey across a dried-out seabed turned desert set to a gorgeous soundtrack.
The goal of FAR: Lone Sails is simple, navigate a vessel and keep it going through the wasteland. As the silent red-hatted protagonist, you are constantly scurrying around to make sure there is enough fuel to keep the vehicle going and that the land-bound ship’s sails are tight enough to let the wind carry you. However, the main character of FAR: Lone Sails is the vessel itself. The steampunk-inspired red vehicle stands out against a mostly gray setting with its neon-blue fuel visible behind a giant wheel. The whole thing looks just like a vessel that has been pieced together in a post-apocalyptic world would.
As there is no tutorial or any instruction,FAR: Lone Sails simply just begins. You merely jump into the vessel, push a giant red fuel button, and you’re off. Other than making sure that steam doesn’t build up too much, maintaining the vehicle is not too difficult unless you run into trouble. Speaking of which, the journey is not all simply peaceful. A gray day will fade into a tumultuous night, and the weather will often wreak havoc on your vessel. As hail and lightning inevitably cause damage, you’ll have to use the hose to put out fires and the torch to solder the necessary repairs.
At various stages of the game, you are gifted with different improvements to your vessel including your set of sails, complete, unbroken wheels, and a vacuum that collects fuel so that you don’t have to keep jumping out of the vessel to collect fuel barrels. Oh, and make sure to put the brake on the vessel when you do step out, or you’ll end up chasing after your vessel as it barrages down a hill. However, for the most part, the upkeep of the ship is never too overwhelming.
Part of the frustration and charm of FAR: Lone Sails is that nothing is revealed. Everything is reliant on trial and error. You will get stopped by multiple obstacles like giant cement walls that you’ll have to figure out a way around, or under or over. Different buildings block your way as well, and you’ll have to leave your ship to figure out the order of buttons to press, boxes to carry, and exactly where to stand at a certain time to allow passage. None of the puzzles ever feel repetitive, and each area they are in feels different than all of the other ones. At one point, you’ll find yourself in a giant walking vessel filled with strange paintings that looks much like the AT-AT Walker’s (All Terrain Armored Transport) from Star Wars. You must work to keep it powered to carry you and your vessel over the deserted wasteland.
The methodical upkeep of the vessel and the overcoming of obstacles is overall soothing. Even though it is quite obvious that you are alone with your vessel, the game does not feel lonely even as you pass by abandoned houses and other broken down vessels. You’ll start to feel more protective of your own ship right up until the end.
Just as there is no instruction given on how to get around obstacles, questions remain about how the world was left in this state. How did the ocean dry up? Where is everyone? Seriously, how the hell do I get around this giant wall of cement? However, emblazoned across many rundown billboards is the slogan, “We Build Our Future”. It is clear that instead of looking back, you’ll just have to keep moving forward. Especially since the vessel does not go into reverse.
While your vessel itself is something to look at, the entire game is simply beautiful. The developer has called it atmospheric, and that is definitely the right word for it. Traveling through what looks like abandoned industrial parks, ship-filled graveyards, and by empty houses, one definitely feels alone but never lonely. The visual style is simple, but that works well in FAR: Lone Sails.
One of the real stars of FAR: Lone Sails is the music. Composed by the game’s sound designer Joel Schoch and recorded by a small orchestra, the soundtrack is upbeat when you’re chugging along and haunting when you’re exploring deserted areas. It definitely reflects the atmospheric feel of the game, and you’ll catch yourself listening contentedly during the brief stretches of time when your vessel is simply lumbering along with no maintenance needed. A DLC is currently available with the soundtrack, and I have been listening to it ever since I finished playing.
Eventually, you’ll make it to the end of FAR: Lone Sails. I honestly didn’t even know I was finished until after twist four hours into my own gameplay. While the game is short, only about 3-4 hours long according to the developer, it’ll definitely keep you on your toes without feeling repetitive. Every time you get into a rhythm in keeping up your vessel, you’ll either have to switch your approach or leave it to figure out how to get around an obstacle.FAR: Lone Sails can definitely be replayed, but probably not too frequently.
FAR: Lone Sails has quite a few awards and it is easy to see why during gameplay. Okomotive has done a beautiful job with their debut game of weaving together simple a simple story and gameplay with gorgeous visuals and soundtrack. If you’re looking for a post-apocalyptic survival game with lots of zombies to kill, this won’t be it. However, if a nice little journey over a dried-up seabed with a beautiful soundtrack is what you’re looking for, then you’ll enjoy FAR: Lone Sails‘ trip.