In 2018’s FAR: Lone Sails, gamers played as a nondescript protagonist—looking like a jumble of layered cloth—who scampered around and nursed a crumbling land ship through an oversized world of empty towns, factories and shipyards. It was a laid-back game of besting clever physics-based puzzle challenges in a mysteriously destitute, wordless world.
FAR: Changing Tides takes us back to another part of that same post-apocalyptic, earthquake-riddled world. Only this time, instead of facilitating the movement of a land-bound contraption with sails and steam engines, our new silent protagonist—who sports a deep-sea diving suit and a head full of shaggy curls—sets off on a perilous water journey of discovery.
The setting is completely different and a bit less tranquil—this time featuring some raging seas and violent floods—but the keep-it-moving challenges and puzzles feel comfortably familiar.
The game starts with someone dog-paddling through this watery wasteland and finding an unfinished sailing vessel featuring a folding mast, battered sail panels and lots of dials, switches and gadgets. Once he figures out how to get this large craft into the water and catches a bit of wind, the challenge begins.
Like the first game, the “ship” is an odd steampunk wonder—its interior seen through something of a 2-D cross-section view whenever we’re inside. And it’s in need of constant management in the form of hitting a series of buttons or pulling a series of levers. You pull here to open the sails; run inside and jump there to stoke the steam engine; put collected boxes of fuel here and spray a water hose to cool down the mechanisms there: it’s a constant strategic choreography of duties to keep your craft sailing toward new vistas.
Outside the vessel, gamers are challenged to dive into the deep or rummage through dilapidated structures to pick up oil cans, wooden crates and other bits of fuel to feed into a sort of onboard boiler. Of course, a new list of challenging environmental puzzles wait outside the ship, too.
How do you lower the water levels in a given area, for instance, or make it past impossibly high waterfalls that block your path? To those ends, the craft itself can be transformed with the right equipment—turning it from a wind-propelled ship to a turbine-driven submarine to a steam-filled hot air balloon.
In spite of some stormy moments, the game feels comfortably soothing. The visual challenges are constantly underscored by a musical blend of plucked and strummed strings, accordion and woodwind chords and xylophone plunks. It’s a peaceful, yet invigorating euphony that never grows stale.
It’s also fair to note that this game has no monsters or deadly things to kill or blast, which means no guns to aim or triggers to pull. Players can even jump to solid decks from great heights with no injury. FAR: Changing Tides is simply a game of thought, puzzle-solving and exploration. And if gamers have played the first Lone Sails title, there are unexpected discoveries to be made here by games end.
The largest concern for parents might be the fact that Changing Tides does not telegraph solutions to its environmental puzzles. Sometimes young gamers might find themselves stumped and frustrated by a seemingly impossible blockade. The solutions can require patience, exploration and detailed observation.
Depending on how deeply you want to look into the wordless story on hand, you could say that FAR games are, in a sense, predicting a future of environmental gloom and doom. But even with that perspective, this game leaves players with a sense of hope.
Like any good sequel, FAR: Changing Tides ups the ante, so to speak, over the original Lone Sails game.There’s more to explore and even more beautiful visuals delivered by the new high-def consoles. But the puzzles and pleasing gameplay of the first entry sails along just as smoothly here.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.