Spiritfarer: Animal Crossing Meets the Underworld

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Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Caitlin Henderson

Contributing Writer

Spiritfarer is a role-playing game (RPG) that follows the story of Charon, an ancient Greek mythological guide who helps newly-deceased souls cross the River Styx into the Underworld. Charon has retired and found a replacement — a young spirit named Stella who inherits the title of Spiritfarer. 

Stella and her cat Daffodil sail across the spirit world, visiting different islands and finding spirits to house on their boat until they are ready to pass through the Everdoor, a portal to the spirits’ final resting point in the afterlife. The game is a farming simulator similar to “Stardew Valley,” described by its developers as “a cozy management game about dying.” 

The first spirit Stella encounters is Gwen, her childhood best friend. Stella must help Gwen, her late uncle Atul, her late aunt Summer, and several other spirits process the lives they lived and reconcile with those they have lost, hurt, and loved during their lifetimes before being brought to the Everdoor for their final goodbyes. 

With this backdrop of the afterlife, Stella can farm, cook, mine, smelt iron, chop wood, forage for mushrooms and berries, go fishing, and complete many other tasks to give her passengers the best experience possible while aboard her ship. 

The game takes a comforting and relationship-focused approach to death, which is often considered a scary and dark topic. Each character is well thought-out and has interesting backstories that gradually unfold throughout the course of the game. Several characters are Stella’s relatives and friends from when she was alive, and the player learns about how they dealt with friendship, family, and loss during their lives. 

“The game takes a comforting and relationship-focused approach to death, which is often considered a scary and dark topic.”

Besides its intriguing story, fun features like customization bring this game to life. I discovered “Spiritfarer” because I was looking for a game similar to “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” (ACNH), and Stella’s customizable ship incorporates many of the decorating and building aspects I enjoyed in “ACNH.” 

One can easily sink hours into this game with all there is to do, as well as all of the side quests one can complete throughout the main story. You can play the game at your own pace, as there is no set order to the game’s events. One feature that seems small, but stands out while playing, is the ability to hug characters. It doesn’t do much other than boost their mood, but it is a sweet addition.

The art style is beautiful and storybook-like (take a look at the game’s art book). The Everdoor was inspired by the Rakotzbrücke Devil’s Bridge in Germany, which appears as a full circle in its reflection. The artwork is full of vibrant colors and takes inspiration from different parts of the world, including Northern Europe and East Asia. 

The only disappointing aspect to this game is that there was not enough time to play it to its fullest (even though I have at least 30 hours logged already). I feel as though I needed more time with the characters before saying our goodbyes. Additionally, it is not always clear which tasks to complete or how to navigate some islands — some Googling is required, but very little in comparison to other games. The only other notable criticism is that the dialogue comes across as vague at times.

I highly recommend “Spiritfarer” to anyone looking for a relaxing — but not boring — cozy game. Due to the pandemic, many have lost loved ones and are currently struggling with grief. A game that takes a mostly positive, comforting approach to death can offer a catharsis of sorts to those grieving. “Spiritfarer” feels like a warm hug, and we could all use one of those right now. 

“Spiritfarer” is available for Nintendo Switch, Playstation, Xbox, and on Steam.