Far: Changing Tides review – a stirring apocalypse fable | Games


Far: Changing Tides melds Mario with Cormac McCarthy and a touch of nautical engineering. Human civilisation lies in ruins, and you are a child journeying to the other end of it. You can’t do this on foot, however. As in Okomotive’s previous Far: Lone Sails, the star is actually your vehicle – a rattling origami hybrid of sailboat and first world war tank. Scurry inside, and the hull lifts away dollhouse-style to reveal a warren of buttons and boilers. This isn’t the fantasy of uninhibited traversal offered by car-based apocalypses such as Mad Max: you don’t so much drive the craft as maintain it while it plots its own course rightward through flooded cities and glacial seas.

Changing Tides is a game of three moods. First, the satisfying rhythms of ship management – stowing fuel and pumping the bellows while hosing down the overheating engine, or angling pop-out sails to catch the wind. Second, the mild thrill of exploration outside, whether scouting for fuel or to clear the path by, say, operating a crane. And third, the reflective interludes when things are humming along nicely and you have a moment to watch the horizons pass.

This is an artfully disguised concept album: your progress is delicately synched to the score, with certain melodies triggered through sheer momentum or reaching the critical point in a puzzle. The ship itself plays a role in some puzzles, slotted into mechanisms like a skeleton key. It’s often augmented in the process – one bolt-on even lets you delve beneath the waves.

Changing Tides is more waterborne remake of its predecessor Lone Sails than a sequel. In some regards, it’s the inferior game. The backdrops remain mesmerising but the soundtrack isn’t as inspired, and there are clumsy touches such as buoys that must be rammed aside. The grander supporting narrative suggested by certain wall murals also feels like an unwelcome Marvelisation of a setting that works better as a collection of symbols for ecological catastrophe.

It’s a landscape worth visiting, nonetheless. Okomotive’s games are the antithesis of open world blockbusters – see that mountain? You can’t go there – and their geography is all the more sublime for being non-traversable. Rather than routine video game empowerment, Changing Tides offers mindful deprivation in a ravaged world where even the concept of a haven must move with the flow.

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