‘Far: Changing Tides’ review: a gorgeous journey that’s a little too quiet

We're going to need a busier boat

When I started playing Far: Changing Tides, I wondered if any of my own scraps of nautical knowledge would – for the first time in my life – have some use. My Grandad’s a sailor, so I’ve picked up odd bits of nautical know-how through the years. You know – your starboard and port sides, how the tides work – bits like that. But what to do when a ship gets itself tangled up in a train track wreckage? Er, let me get back to you on that one.

That’s the sort of question that you’ll have to answer in Far: Changing Tides. As a small child in a world where most of the land now lies submerged between the ocean, your main goal is to simply get from A to B. To make things even easier, this is a 2D sidescroller – so that A to B is, to be reductive, just left to right.

However, the ocean’s apocalyptic rise has – as you’d imagine – thrown a few soggy spanners in the works. Far from smooth sailing, you’ll have to contend with the remnants of a society long gone on your voyage. Civilization’s drowned debris – houses, trains and the like – still float awkwardly on the waves, and the post-apocalyptic setting requires plenty of problem solving to navigate.

Far: Changing Tides. Credit: Okomotive.
Far: Changing Tides. Credit: Okomotive.

This starts off fairly easily, at first. You jump into the protagonist’s shoes with nothing but the ability to swim, and that’s all it takes to bypass Changing Tides‘ first flooded homesteads. Swimming feels fantastic – there’s a satisfying punch of propulsion with every thrust, and an early upgrade makes propelling through the water a delight.

It doesn’t take much swimming to find a far more efficient means of transport: a rickety steampunk ship that, with a little elbow grease, is mostly sea-worthy. Keeping this ship moving requires hoisting up the sails and adjusting their angles to make full use of the wind. This is by no means a ship that will win any races (not that there’s anybody left to race), but it’s still mildly gratifying to pay attention to the wind and get the most out of your ship. Later on, the odd upgrade to your ship will make operating it feel a bit more engaging, but there’s never any intensity to the boat’s mechanics.

At first, the voyage is smooth sailing. There’s not particularly much to do aside from tinker with the sails, and that means plenty of time to soak in the scenery. It feels like a lot of love has gone into the scenery of Far: Changing Tides, and the result is a charming backdrop that remains pleasant to watch shift and change throughout the game. The opening town felt like an apocalyptic painting of Disco Elysium‘s Martinaise, and that’s not the only area in which I was reminded of the despondent coastal town – the world has a sense of gorgeous melancholy that strikes many of the same notes.

Far: Changing Tides. Credit: Okomotive.
Far: Changing Tides. Credit: Okomotive.

In a more literal sense, lots of these notes crop up in Far: Changing Tides‘ impeccable score. At times, the soundtrack captures the morose loneliness of being a child adrift in post-apocalyptic ruin. At other times, the score’s strings swell with the promise of adventure and freedom in this new, watery world. What’s interesting is that the soundtrack isn’t a constant companion – Changing Tides‘ will often leave you with nothing but the soft lapping of waves as company, which makes every scrap of music feel stronger when they do appear. Along with the gorgeous backdrops, Changing Tides‘ soundtrack is far and away one of its best elements.

Unfortunately, there are significant areas of the gameplay that I struggled to enjoy. Though I liked watching the scenery and listening to the soundtrack, none of these things are particularly interactive. There’s long stretches of time where you’ll have nothing to do but watch the waves carry you along, and I found that these moments dragged on a bit too long for me. When your ship starts to pick up some early upgrades – such as a boiler room – it adds a lot more interactiveness, but even the limited scope of these tasks mean that they get repetitive fairly soon.

Far: Changing Tides. Credit: Okomotive.
Far: Changing Tides. Credit: Okomotive.

Overall, art of the issue I had with Far: Changing Tides‘ pacing was that any puzzles felt few and far between. There can be big gaps between setpieces that need solving, and when you finally encounter them, they can often be a bit too simplistic and routine. Your problem-solving skills aren’t really tested in any way, which cuts into the satisfaction of getting your voyage in motion again.

In a sense, I understand that Far: Changing Tides isn’t looking to jeopardise its relaxing, slow-paced adventure. In the same way that I wouldn’t expect developer Okomotive to add high-speed chases or ultra-violent boss fights, I know that having incredibly challeging puzzles wouldn’t be a good fit. That being said, I think that Far: Changing Tides could have added a bit more to do without compromising on its vision.

It’s worth noting that I think that, as it is, Far: Changing Tides will absolutely strike the right spot with lots of people. The trudging gameplay wasn’t quite for me, but I can recognise that others will probably love it for what it is – a slow journey that fits right in with a rainy day and a cup of tea.

Far: Changing Tides launches on March 1 for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch. We reviewed it on PC. 

The Verdict

Far: Changing Tides didn’t offer up enough puzzles for my liking, but don’t let that get in your way if you’re looking for a game that gives you time to unwind. It could do with more interactive elements, but Far: Changing Tides uses beautiful set design and a touching score to capture a precious sense of hope in a drowned world.

Pros

  • Gorgeous artwork and set design
  • The soundtrack packs a lot of emotion into short, carefully timed bursts

Cons

  • The game could have been more interactive
  • Keeping the ship sailing felt a bit repetitive at times
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