The end of mankind is a common theme in many books, films, and TV shows. Unsurprisingly, the gaming industry has followed suit with an array of apocalyptic events. However, though, each one differs significantly in style and approach. Whether it’s a zombie outbreak, a cataclysmic event, or warfare, they are all equally heart wrenching and grim. FAR: Changing Tides is the latest in a long list of titles that dips its toes in the murky water (pun intended) of doom and gloom.
Developed by Okomotive and published by Frontier Foundry, this is an emotive adventure title. Unlike other doomsday games, this one doesn’t aim to petrify you, nor will it shock you. Instead, it will mesmerise you with its chilling beauty, touching audio, and simple concepts. Moreover, the slow gameplay creates a relaxing and immersive atmosphere that is rarely seen. Therefore, you will lose yourself in an azure world filled with beautiful creatures, puzzles, and audacious machinery.
FAR: Changing Tides is a lonely experience.
Surviving a life-changing event has consequences. However, to be the last person alive in a flooded world is going to be tough to swallow. Yet, this lonely existence is chillingly beautiful, calming, and oddly fulfilling. The place you once called home is no longer recognisable and with no reason to stay, you begin a long and brutal journey. You become the captain of a strange sea vessel that must traverse obstacles, survive violent storms, and dive to great depths. You must open locked doors, visit ancient locations, and improve your ship’s abilities. Furthermore, fuel and resources are scarce, and you must scavenge the seabed and other structures to find the items you need to continue your trip.
This standalone title is the sequel to FAR: Lone Sails, but instead of scorching deserts and sprawling lands, you live in a place similar to Kevin Costner’s Waterworld. Fans of the series will love the new protagonist and the depth of mechanics that make this a fresh and interesting addition to the franchise. The ever-changing vessel becomes your best friend and the only way to stay alive in a dangerous and large side-scrolling world. As you progress and explore further, you realise that your ship is hiding abilities that aid you on your journey.
One ship and many powers.
In a world that is laced with danger, I’d have thought the gameplay would be short and sharp. However, FAR: Changing Tides has other plans. No matter the risk you face, the action tends to unfold at a snail’s pace. Now, this isn’t a complaint, as I loved the suspenseful atmosphere and its timeless qualities. Subsequently, you are never punished for taking your time while exploring the surrounding areas. Whether you are swimming with fishes and whales or climbing never-ending ladders, you’ll never get pushed to the next area.
However, the gameplay progresses nicely thanks to the unlocking of new abilities. Your bulk standard ship starts life as a wind-powered monstrosity. Soon, though, the elements take their toll and you must improvise to continue your adventure. This Frankenstein’s monster approach creates an interesting multi-faceted ship! No longer are you reliant on wind power, instead, you have new tools at your disposal. As puzzles are completed and energy cells are discovered, you’ll improve your ship. This luckily unlocks a combustion engine that is fuelled by junk, a hook that can salvage wrecks, the ability to dive like a submarine, and more.
Each new skill requires you to pull levers, add or drain water, and douse flames as the engine becomes too hot. You’ll have to avoid obstacles by unfurling or lowering the sail, reversing the oars, or correcting the buoyance. Furthermore, you are required to utilise basic platform and puzzle mechanics as you flick switches, leap platforms, and grab fuel. Sadly, however, the problems you face are rarely challenging and each has a distinct Déjà vu feeling. Consequently, it was disappointing, as the concept is thoroughly interesting, but the execution falls short.
No matter how far you travel, or the stunning landscapes you pass through, you will yearn for more. Unfortunately, to make matters worse, everything you experience becomes predictable very early on. Yes, the new ship mechanics are refreshing and a welcome surprise, but the core gameplay follows a rigid structure. Whether you are clambering massive structures, diving into secret caverns, or moving buildings from your path, the puzzles are all similar. Subsequently, pushing a switch, or dragging a box to reach a higher location, becomes tedious. This sadly undermines much of the brilliance of this title and will potentially stop gamers from exploring it to its fullest.
FAR: Changing Tides is beautiful.
The apocalyptic theme is usually depicted with grey tones, plenty of gore, and an overriding sense of doom and gloom. However, FAR: Changing Tides is on the other end of the spectrum. Yes, there is destruction at every corner, and the sense of isolation is overwhelming, yet it’s stunningly beautiful from start to finish. Blasting your way across the ocean as a storm whips up waves was incredible to experience, but this can be avoided if you dive below the surface. Here, debris floats past you. However, the atmosphere is serene, calm, and welcoming. I adored the striking imagery, the brilliant combination of colours, and the different landscapes on offer. I was disappointed by the puzzling elements, but I was in awe of the excellent and touching graphics.
This adoration continues with the brilliant audio. The sumptuous soundtrack and realistic sound effects are a joy to listen to. Whether it’s a warm and upbeat piano song that fills the silence or a daunting and aggressive tune that adds drama, it’s stunning to hear. FAR: Changing Tides relies on long periods of repetitive tasks that could become tiresome. Luckily, though, the wonderful audio distracts you from the moments of nothingness.
If a game relies on slow-paced action and precise movements, you expect the controls to be perfect. Sadly, though, this isn’t the case! Climbing ladders is a tedious task and you’ll fall repeatedly. Then there are the moments where you activate switches in error and waste precious resources. Whenever you were on the ship, you were guaranteed to make a mistake, and this was infuriating. I wish the developers had incorporated a better control setup, as using one button to execute most commands was a mistake. Luckily, the annoyance of the controls doesn’t ruin the title, but they do break the immersive nature of the gameplay.
The simplicity of the puzzle mechanics rears its ugly head when you attempt to experience multiple playthroughs. If you wish to see everything on offer, you have to complete several journeys while using trial and error. Sadly, though, this enhances the monotony of the puzzling moments. Therefore, only the hardiest of completionists will uncover every secret this title holds.
FAR: Changing Tides: stunning but flawed.
The story and concept were interesting and could have been brilliant. Unfortunately, though, the delivery of the key ideas was flawed, and this undermines much of the gameplay. I wish the developers had made the puzzles and exploration elements much harder and this would have improved it exponentially. However, instead, you feel like you are going through the motions to continue the journey with little to no challenge.
Despite its shortcomings, FAR: Changing Tides is stunning and is an atmospheric triumph. I loved the developer’s vision for a doomed future, and the array of environments you explore. Furthermore, the incorporation of new ship abilities with the exploration mechanics was fascinating. Despite my complaints, I enjoyed it and I recommend you to buy it here! The world, as you know it has changed and nothing will bring it back. Can you overcome the obstacles you face to find a new place to call home?