FAR: Lone Sails
Developed by: Okomotive
Published by: Mixtvision
Available on: PC

One of the more elegant games to have been released this year is one in which expansive swaths of shifting-colored landscapes guide much of the experience. “FAR: Lone Sails” is a compact exploration game about a solitary traveler who ventures across a desolate, wind-swept land that was once covered by an ocean. Because much of the game’s appeal rests on its atmosphere, comparisons have been made between it and games like “Limbo” or “Inside” from Danish developer Playdead. But “FAR: Lone Sails,” lacks the more unsettling qualities of those titles. Its tone is much more placid and encouraging of daydreams.

At the start of the game, Lone, a smallish figure who has the appearance of a firefighter, stands before a grave that is close to a leafless, forlorn-looking tree. Barely nested in the tree is a dilapidated treehouse. Lone’s red hat and white-striped red coat are the brightest things in sight. The grey-ish, cloud-smeared background dwarfs the figure and accentuates the melancholic aspect of scene. Moving Lone to the right leads to a barn in need of a roof repair. On the interior wall is a picture of an unusual vehicle and on the top floor is a bed over which hangs a picture of the main character or someone identically attired. Advancing beyond the building, Lone walks through shallow pockets of water and past scattered, broken boats that stick out of the ground like the bones of long-dead animals. Soon after, Lone comes upon a scaffolding structure designed to accommodate the strange contraption pictured in the barn.

Stepping into the vehicle, which looks like a train crossed with a boat, reveals an interior that is made up of three levels. An elevator in the center provides access between the floors and the roof deck. Lone can access the vehicle’s fuel station by taking the elevator to the second level where there is an overhead button that, when pushed, raises a small platform. When the platform is loaded with one of the game’s various types of fuel sources and then raised, the fuel tank is filled. This allows Lone, after jumping onto a different platform in the middle, to hit the speed button and get the vehicle rolling.

With trial and error, players will fall into the operational rhythms of the machine — moving the character back and forth between the fuel station and hitting the accelerator button and the nearby steam button, which must be occasionally pressed to make sure the engine doesn’t overheat. Strategically building up and releasing steam is useful for doing things like giving the vehicle a burst of traction up an incline. Over the journey the vehicle gets some nifty upgrades. One of the most important is acquired early on: a sail made of tattered canvas. Harnessing the wind means that you can take a break from running around gathering fuel to keep the vehicle moving. Watching the little voyager stand next to the sail and enjoying the scrolling scenery accompanied by the strikingly good instrumental soundtrack is to experience the game’s reward state.

When roadblocks crop up, it’s usually necessary to get out of the vehicle and search the area for a useful object, such as a button or something that can be winched to the buggy. The puzzles aren’t very demanding. They struck me as excuses to venture outside of the vehicle and inspect whatever curiosities lay nearby. Ultimately, the game is more about the journey than the destination. The game’s refined art style is there to delight the eye at every turn. Though there are times when Lone must dash frantically about the vehicle to keep things chugging along, “FAR: Lone Sails” leaves a lasting impression of tranquility.

Recent game reviews: