Ed Note: I will be discussing a specific incident in the game with a fair amount of detail. Needless to say, the whole post is basically one long spoiler.
I have nine hours into Spiritfarer, and I have finally done the titular job. Not after dragging my feet for a few more hours, mind you, but I really wanted to see what it was like more than I wanted to just meander around and I finally, reluctantly, did what I’d been putting off for hours.
Gwen is the first passenger I took on board, and I felt an instant affinity with her. She was a caustic, jaded deer who had seen some shit, let me tell you. She constantly smoked, and it was clear that she had a wall around her carefully crafted to keep everyone out. A few hours into the game, she requested that we go to the island where she used to live with her parents. She had told a few stories that indicated her father was an abusive jerk–emotionally, if not physically. She didn’t say anything about her mother until the very end, but it was enough for me to imprint her story over my own.
She mentioned she wanted to visit her home villa (on an island!) fairly early in the game. I, of course, ignored her and went about my merry business building up my boat and tending my crops. And cooking.
Side note: Because I tend to put off the main missions for as long as I can, I don’t get the necessary resources I need when the game wants me to get them. In this game, it doesn’t matter because the game doesn’t punish me for not progressing. Which I much appreciate. Around the five hour mark, however, I was itching to see the actual spritfaring mechanism so I reluctantly acquiesced to her request.
At her villa, she was contemplative and somber. It was clear that she was running from her demons, and I ached to help her however I could. I couldn’t, though, which made my heart hurt. We went back to the boat and soon after, she informed me that she needed some space. Um, ok. Don’t know how you’re going to get space on a boat, Gwen, but you do you. Later, she’s in her house, and I try to open the door. Usually, all the doors on the boat are open, but not this time. She’s locked the door, and I go away feeling worried about her.
It’s amazing how with a little dialogue, I became so invested in her. Not much, but enough. And, more like a monologue since Stella doesn’t speak. I continued on doing my chores while worrying about Gwen. at some point, I went to check in with her, and she was gone. She wasn’t in her room (which was now open again), and another passenger mentioned that he hadn’t seen her in a while. My hunch was that she was back at her parents’ villa, which he mentioned as well. The game is very generous in giving breadcrumbs, which normally would annoy me, but in this case, I’m grateful. I’m not playing the game to test my mettle–that’s what FromSoft games are for, thank you very much–and I’m already having a little difficulty tracking what is where. Yes, the map helps by telling you what resources are at each point, but when you’re looking for something specific, it’s not the most useful.
I went back to the villa with my heart in my mouth. I wanted Gwen to be ok, but I could empathize with just a general feeling of malaise. I could also empathize with the weight of your childhood dragging you down in the present. There was Gwen on the cliff and meditating on her past. She alluded to thinking of killing herself at the villa, and I just had to give her a hug.
We went back to the boat. She told me she was ready. I protested ‘no’ out loud because I did not want to lose her. She was my first passenger, and she was my friend. I liked her best of all the passengers, and I did not want to lose her. That was selfish of me, though, and it was my job. Or Stella’s job, at any rate, and I was controlling her. I could conceivably put it off forever, but I didn’t. Why? Because I wanted to respect her wishes, and, on a gameplay level, I wanted to see how the actual spiritfaring was handled.
So I started for the Everdoor, my heart growing heavier and heavier as I approached. She moved to the dingy, and I took a second before I dismounted as well. Daffy was by my side, of course, and I rowed her to the Everdoor. As we approached, she started musing about how she had been guarded all her life and how she had espoused that loving people always meant pain and betrayal. She added that she was wrong, and she reminded me that she had loved me as best she could. I cried the whole time she was talking, and I couldn’t help it. Then with a hug, she’s gone, and I cried harder. Her soul went up in the air and created a deer constellation in the sky, and I was bawling at this point.
Oh, she also mentioned something about supposing she should forgive her father, but she didn’t care. I resonated with that as well. I’m not about forgiveness at all, but that’s neither here nor there.
I was a wreck, and then, there was a platforming bit that felt out of place to me. Yes, it was just as gorgeous and dreamy as the rest of the game, but I was lost in the emotions of helping my old friend, Gwen, move on, and I did not want to be thrown into gameplay, no matter how light or gentle.
By the way, this part really reminded me of Night in the Woods because that game also had a dreamlike sequence in which you meet a god, and I didn’t care for it there, either. In this game, there was the added frustration that the jumping wasn’t precise–which is always the case with games that aren’t platformers trying to make you platform–so I would have to redo bits of it. I just wanted to mull over helping Gwen and my complicated feelings, not talk to a huge Owl god/demon who might or might not be malignant. I don’t hate it, but I don’t like it, either. It’s at best neutral.
I’m still missing Gwen, I’ll admit. I have not felt the same about any of the other passengers (currently, there are four), but I’m still loving the game. I’ve kept Gwen’s house intact, though I assume you can knock it down. I’m not going to get rid of it! This is a game of loss, yes, but it’s also about remembrance and keeping someone in your heart.