A couple of years back I had played and been charmed by a little game called Far: Lone Sails. I had no idea a follow up was coming, but Far: Changing Tides was the most meditative game experience I had this year.
Lasting just a handful of hours you make your way through desolate landscapes that tell a story without a single word. It’s interpretative and the games pacing lets you take your time absorbing the little details of the world.
The core mechanics of the game will evoke memories of Limbo and Inside by Playdead. The key difference being that there it’s just a boy against the unknown while here it is a boy and his transportation machine against the unknown.
The almost symbiotic bond between human and machine plays out in the game itself as you push, repair, and upgrade your machine to be able to continue your progress through the world. One thing to clarify is that this is not a frequent activity or something that involves micromanaging your vehicle. With every creak, groan, and sputtering sound of the engine you begin to feel responsibility towards it.
Though not every game can do it, games like Limbo, Inside and the Far series are the very best examples of games that tell you nothing beyond the basic button functions. Everything else that you can do with them must be conveyed through level design.
While there were occasions where I felt stuck for a bit, most scenarios were designed in a way that with a little bit of exploration you can discover the keys to unlock your progress.
A lot of your time is also just spent moving forward. The wind in your sails, the gentle waves and just you and your machine bobbing along. Accompanied by a beautiful score these moments were what I referred to as meditative.
The end was an incredibly sweet surprise for those who have played the first game. A perfect gaming experience to cap my weekend.