By Ronald Gordon
Three years ago, I went on a trip through FAR: Lone Sails. With the help of the trusty and rusty Okomotive, I traveled through a desolate world in search of some semblance of another living person, or at least I thought I did before I realized the truth: that that wasn’t going to happen. That game ended on a cliffhanger, leaving me mournful that the small character I controlled was left alone with a broken Okomotive and only a lit fire to signal anyone who could see them. It was then that I came to terms with the fact that FAR isn’t about the end goal but about the steps in between the start and finish. The Okomotive was one of my favorite parts about Lone Sails, and seeing it destroyed in the end left me sad but satisfied that it made it through the whole game. Fortunately, FAR: Changing Tides brings a new light of hope to that downtrodden world, along with a new machine, called the Vessel, to travel with.
FAR: Changing Tides, the second installment in the FAR series, is developed by Okomotive and published by Frontier Foundry, a different publisher than Mixtvision, which helped to publish the first game. It’s the same Adventure Exploration genre, but Changing Tides adds a new chapter to the overall story, and with it a bright new hope for the world we saw in Far Sails. You play as a similarly small character taking control of an even bigger machine that has a bunch of new functions and features to aid in your adventure. As you proceed, unlocking more parts for the Vessel from scrap powered rotors to a towing hook, you even gaining the ability to submerge the entire machine underwater. You’ll find that you’re not only trekking through a dead world but reviving the old machines left behind by the people who built them. In doing so, you end up leaving behind a bit of inspiration for any other stragglers that may end up on the same path, giving them platforms and towers you’ve pulled from the briny depths to act as beacons so they can make it through this dead world more easily than you did.
Unstructured, as Lone Sails was, Changing Tides begins with you being dropped into a flooded city. You swim around and find an abandoned machine with sails but no wheels, as it was made for the sea rather than the land. Exiting the flooded city is now a simple task, but of course the journey ahead is far from simple. Storms, massive waves, overhangs that’ll break your sail mast and various other issues will get in the way of your progress. Sometimes you can avoid them. Other times, it seems as if this world is trying to prevent you from moving forward. However, as long as you never let anything stop you, and keep repair tools close by, you’ll find that the obstacles are only a part of the trip, and that they make you appreciate the calm moments when you get to stand atop the Vessel and watch the waves pass you by.
The joy of the voyage is something that Changing Tides really helps you embrace, since FAR isn’t a series you should go into anticipating its end. There’s so much to see in between the start and finish that you’ll forget the finish is supposed to come at all. Taking a look back at Lone Sails makes me think of the old Okomotive, simple and sweet, just a machine with an engine that allows you to move forward. You push it with fuel and it pushes you along the road, so uncomplicated that it could go on forever and you’d never even know it. Changing Tides keeps this spirit alive by allowing you to sail across a sea of waves, with a view of jagged rocks and long expanses of wide open land, areas that seem to have no boundaries or borders. This is something I applaud some games for: just being a long path with no goal in mind. At the end of the day, isn’t that what an adventure is?
From my experience playing both games, I can tell you that the FAR series is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable experiences out there. The enhanced graphics of Changing Tides brings into full view a whole new side of the world that Lone Sails showed only briefly. The drowned out whites and grays are replaced by subtle colors that complement rather than overpower one another. The sense that the world is desolate and dead is still there, but instead of only rock and rubble there are colorful trees and grassy hills. This change in the art style, from simple backgrounds and complex foregrounds to greater detail everywhere adds depth, which Changing Tides takes advantage of. For instance, if you don’t pay attention to your surroundings, a large rock can tear the fabric of your unfurled sails and push them back, making them unable to hold much wind and in sore need of repair to get them back in working order. The music adds to the feeling of wonder by providing both orchestral and melodic music to accompany your blazing across the tides with your Vessel, or viewing various parts of the landscape from the vantage points you come across.
Both games filled me with glee. The chance to explore a world beyond what I see initially is what I love most about gaming, and both FAR games offer that sense of astonishment and discovery, pulling you into their world and keeping you there, enjoying the ride. I suggest it to anyone who wants a good old-fashioned quest with no real endgame in mind, a trip to somewhere novel, somewhere you’ve never imagined. I think a lot of people would appreciate that.
Ronald Gordon is a New York Videogame Critics Circle senior intern. He recently completed an internship at Rockstar Games.