PlayStation 3 classic Journey wasn’t the first game about traversing a vast natural expanse in a wide-eyed state of childish bliss, but it’s the one that spawned the most imitators. To say that Far: Lone Sails is among them would be selling it short. It’s part puzzle-platformer, part exploration game, that draws just as much inspiration from similarly lauded indie hits like Limbo and Inside.
Like Journey, you’re on an unexplained quest with an indeterminate destination somewhere far, far to the right of the edge of the screen. But unlike Journey you’re crossing a more inhospitable wasteland, aided by the use of a clattering, steam-punk landship contraption.
To make the ship move requires scurrying around inside it like a Victorian child in a factory. There are buttons on the walls, spread across different interior floors. One turns the debris you collect from the wasteland into energy, another turns the energy into locomotion, another releases the steam that builds up as you go.
Keeping your ship moving along means running from button to button like a borrower operating a multistorey steam train. Energy is used up quickly, and feeding the ship is a constant task that has you hopping in and out of your vehicle to grab more stuff to throw in the furnace. Fires can break out and need extinguishing, and as you roll along the ship flexes and rattles convincingly, as if about to fall apart at any moment.
While this sounds stressful, getting your ship firing on all cylinders and running smoothly is deeply rewarding. Once you’ve fit sails, the occasional favourable winds allow you to take a break from the hard work, stand on the deck and observe the spectacle of the game’s painterly landscapes as they gently roll past.
There aren’t many games that have you form this kind of a companionship with a vehicle – Half-Life 2 and its buggy springs to mind, as does Final Fantasy XV and its Regalia – but its sadly not a relationship that lasts very long. Far: Lone Sails comes to an abrupt end just as it feels like its journey is beginning. You’ll reach the credits in just a couple of hours.
But however brief the ride is, it’s a memorable experience that will hang around in your head long after you’ve left it behind.