Far: Lone Sails is a slow-dance Mad Max

Okomotive’s gorgeous Far: Lone Sails casts you as a diminutive sprite, travelling across a post-apocalyptic landscape in a lumbering land-boat. At Unity’s Unite 2017 expo in Amsterdam, I had some hands-on time with the game, and was drawn in by its glacial pace and ashen art style.

The game starts very much in the vein of atmospheric platforms like Playdead’s Inside, with a small figure travelling left to right across a harsh environment. Seagulls perch in the foreground, a dried-up seabed stretches in every direction. Okomotive pitch the camera so that the sky dominates, all looming clouds and grey uncertainty.

Within minutes you’ve found a strange vehicle – misplaced in its sci-fi design against the surrounding coastline, as if it has fallen out of a Simon Stålenhag painting. With it, the rhythm of the game changes. Instead of walking on your own two feet, you force this unwieldy vehicle forward, nipping out to grab scattered fuel canisters, rolling across the scorched earth.

Suddenly, the adventure becomes a road trip. This starts slowly, with my initial minutes following a pattern of starts and stops; short bursts of momentum petering out amongst the dunes. Before I’d finished, however, I’d found some tattered sails to adorn my land-boat, and was able to pitch these for the wind to carry me onwards. Less Mad Max, more Melancholy Max.[gallery:2]

“There’s a story that starts to progress in the scenes,” Goran Saric, one of the game’s developers, told me. “It’s a dried-out seabed, so something happened to this civilisation. You get hints from the environment. You also need to find out why you’re alone. There’s not a single text that indicates anything.”

Saric explains that, over time, the player’s ship will accrue extra parts for quickening the journey. This will include, for example, a magnet for automatically grabbing fuel canisters without needing to plod the ground. With these new modules comes new dangers, and the player will need to maintain the parts to prevent overheating and fire. “As soon as one thing gets easier another gets more complicated,” says Saric.

It will be interesting to see how the pace of Far: Lone Sails changes over time, and how it uses the game’s sparse environments to tell a story. The opening minutes, at the very least, are a charming experience, so here’s hoping Okomotive’s shipbuilding mechanic doesn’t overcomplicate the nicely downbeat tempo of the game’s start.     

Far: Lone Sails is slated for release on PC and Mac in Q4 2017, with an Xbox One and PS4 release planned for Q1 2018.

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