The first FAR game, Lone Sails, was an unexpected marvel full of novelty and invention within the confines of a small cinematic platformer. As with the previous entry, FAR: Changing Tides tasks you with dashing around a towering ship to manage the various gears that keep it moving. Only this time, instead of a weird land-based sail train, you have a slightly more conventional submersible houseboat.
At a glance, and for the first hour or two, a lot remains the same. The game consists of alternating between the tactile management of the machine and the slow and gentle transit over magnificent pictorial landscapes. This familiarity is by no means a criticism. More of the same in this case involves a repeat of one of my favorite little games of years past, and the team at Okomotive truly has a knack for compelling views. The nautical variation adds immediate novelty as we move through small sets and setbacks, stormy seas and treasure dives. Changing the Tides takes place in a similar post-apocalyptic setting but unlike the first, it’s not quite as tranquil. Lone Sails was a broken world but almost at peace, evolving pleasantly without human rulers. This time the world is more turbulent and it feels like everything that happened happened much more recently, with severe floods sweeping across the world. (Players who complete the game will assume this is literally not the case).
Your character, a young boy, begins to mid-dive into the water, and it takes a bit longer before you have your signature ship. But I love this energy of the little guys! That big fluffy hair? He’s just doing his thing. Its large sleeves and oversized wetsuit are a compliment to the underwater places where you’ll spend most of your time, which it traverses with surprising speed, if not great grace. The good vibes it gives off contrast with this collapsing world, with its omnipresent melancholy. Lone Sails felt like a game about the fantasy of travel, but Changing Tides feels a lot like a search for something lost. Or maybe move on from that loss. It’s a bit of a different vibe, that’s the thing. It has much more varied moods than the first game, which was mostly too soft to have the moments of unease and apprehension that can be found in its sequel.
The center ship itself is a diverse contraption, packing more gadgets and new machinery than your ship in Lone Sails, while still being a decent portion larger. There’s also a bit more micro-management than before, as you have to carefully trim the sails and adjust the speeds. However, you’ll still be balancing the use of sail and engine power, as tapping too deep into fuel reserves will mean burning up the precious little trinkets you’ve gathered along the way. I was upset when I had to sacrifice a small music box to get us through a storm. However, I managed to take a potted plant from the very beginning of the game until the end, a challenge that I also propose to you to complete. Especially since Changing the Tides throws a lot of different obstacles in your way. I really enjoyed how the wordless story means everything has to be delivered diegetically, and so there’s little artifice to its puzzles. You are rooting yourself properly in his world.
Whenever an obstacle arose, I would spur the little boy into action thinking, “Oh, I know what we can use for that!”, like a big kid getting his first toolbox. Childlike sensibilities are a defining part of the game. While there’s a thoughtful detail to the machinery, it’s all operated by massive buttons and levers, simplifying the systems into something that makes sense while also being easier to understand. If you had this boat as a toy in your childhood, it would be your favorite. Every piece is fun to watch in motion, and every little action to keep it moving involves a playful aspect, whether it’s jumping from the crows nest to raise the sail or jumping up and down to pump some water. in the oven. The way the side of the craft fades out to give you a cross section reminds me of those Star Wars books I saw as a kid that showed all the layers of a spaceship. Half the joy of the game is digging around and figuring out what each piece of your craft does, all on its own. It taps into a kind of powerful wonder as easily as the first one. A vehicle powered by toys and fun.
Of course, some frustrations return, albeit slightly mitigated. Moving around is always awkward and you’ll probably find yourself hitting a button you didn’t want more than once. The awkwardness is presumably intentional to some degree, perpetuating the idea of you as a kid above their heads, dashing like a daftie between each machine. It got to points, however, where the fun faded and the friction, while part of the experience, reached a tipping point towards distraction, and I ended up having to think a lot more about what I was was literally doing to a controller rather than what I was supposed to do in-game. The improved ability to zoom and pan the camera helps, though – I strongly encourage using it while running around inside to better navigate all the small ladders and hatches.
FAR: Changing Tides is another delightful little adventure, but I feel like I’m underselling it to say it. Because it surprises, especially towards the end, by taking you to exhilarating places. Those little sets where you’re not sure what you’re working towards until the last moment and then suddenly you see, with joy and excitement, what’s going to happen next… that stuff is real magic .
It’s as poignant as the first FAR, but its mood seems a bit more barbed, eager to issue a simple but heartfelt climate change warning to gamers. For all the fun and wonder we strive for here, there is no getting away from the surrounding disaster or the ensuing struggles. Hardship is more central to Changing Tides than Lone Sails. He goes back in time to the apocalypse as we move forward to meet him. Reconciling this discomfort is not something he treats lightly, but there is still hope to be found. I’m grateful. If you give FAR: Changing Tides the handful of hours it takes to complete, I think you will too.