Spiritfarer came out last year to a very positive critical and consumer response. It's not really all that surprising given how well-made and wonderful the game is, but I'm sure you've already read all about it in our Nintendo Switch review. For those who don't know, Spiritfarer is a management game about dying. You play as Stella, a ferrymaster to the deceased, a 'Spiritfarer'.
You'll build a boat to explore the world, then befriend and care for spirits before finally releasing them into the afterlife.
I had the chance to have a brief chat with Nicolas Guérin, Creative Director at Thunder Lotus Games to chat about the game.
The studio previously released Jotun and Sundered, both of which are heavily action-based, and far removed from the cutesy and far more chilled gameplay of Spiritfarer. It feels like something of a right angle when it comes to progression, but that's because "the team wanted a change of pace, tone and universe," Guérin explained.
"We’re a small indie studio and the joys of being part of a smaller, simpler structure is the freedom we have to basically craft the games we actually want to make and play!"
Indie studios are becoming far more spotlighted thanks to better distribution and a growing desire for something more than what's offered by many AAA games, so it's nice to hear about a studio that's enjoying the flexibility that approach offers.
It seemed like an odd thing to do though, and to me, death isn't as cosy as the game makes it seem, but to Guérin it tends to be something that happens in a soft and caring environment, "although terribly dramatic, is rather simple and mundane." The approach here was to stick with that observation by mixing the personal stories you stumble upon throughout the game with small acts of care.
It makes sense that they've managed to nail that combination though, because Guérin said the earliest pitch was simply to have the tale of Charon from Greek mythology collide with the worlds you can find in a Studio Ghibli movie.
"In a way, we owe to Hayao Miyazaki the initial inspiration for Spiritfarer’s approach, from the visual atmosphere to the tonal treatment."
Presumably, this is more on the happier side of Ghibli films though, as pieces like Grave of the Fireflies are also firm reminders that the presentation of something doesn't always match the feelings it'll evoke.
A lot of people enjoyed Spiritfarer enough to want more stories in that world. Naturally, I had to ask if there was going to be anything else in the universe or even a full sequel, though I was told that Guérin couldn't comment on what's coming next outside of their desire to "continue tackling universal themes, experienced through the lens of evocative game design and deep character development."
That's the usual answer you get when trying to pry into what's coming next for any games studio, so it's not all that surprising. Guérin did say that the team is taking time to reflect on what they've accomplished so far, and that they'll also be aiming to "satisfy our fans and community to the best of our ability."
That's promising at least.