Okomotive is becoming pretty good at creating immersive puzzle adventure games about piloting massive machines through breathtakingly vast worlds. FAR: Lone Sails came out in 2018 and captured a lot of love in its landship progression and maintenance approach to a puzzle game. Now, FAR: Changing Tides follows up on that formula with a new pilot and machine, taking the journey to the ocean. Much like its predecessor, Changing Tides is a cornucopia of enjoyable puzzle-solving, stark, yet beautiful scenery, and lovely accompanying music.
FAR: Changing Tides continues Okomotive’s pedigree of machine maintenance and traversal in a post-apocalyptic world. Playing as a boy known as Toe, players gain control of a seacraft seemingly cobbled together from scrap in a drowned world of water and ice. Only the remnants of civilization and the vessel itself are your companions. With that in mind, Toe must pilot the vessel to find a new home. His journeys take him through a multitude of obstacles, from broken down industrial wreckage and dead facilities to swelling storms and massive tidal waves. Along the way, upgrades for the vessel are discovered, expanding its utilities as you pilot through increasingly complex situations.
The whole narrative and playout of Changing Tides is extremely minimalist. There is no dialogue in this game and no direction whatsoever. Your methods for progress are introduced to you wordlessly with the help of light blue indicators on most objects with which you can interact. For the most part, even without any text, I found Changing Tides to be very good in directing me to a problem and the method by which I was to solve it. However, there were some occasions where the answer to how to move forward was just a bit too abstract to me. Thankfully, these times were few and far between.
As you continue through the world, Changing Tides treats you to a vast variety of visuals and breathtaking scenery, even for its minimalist style. Traveling through various dead machinery reveals murals on the walls telling the story of how civilization was drowned out by the ocean. There are also beautiful mountainous regions, rolling seas stretching on forever, imposing storms, and gorgeous underwater encounters with natural sea life. It’s all accompanied by a fantastically adaptive soundtrack that plays to your progress. When you’re on the move or discover a breakthrough, the music swells with your victory. When you hit a storm, it dances intensely with the waves and lightning. It also outright clears out at times to leave you in quiet meditative reflection of your journey.
FAR: Changing Tides isn’t an incredibly long game. I got all the way to the credits in about five and a half hours. Moreover, there are some sections where it lingers a bit too long with the player having little to do but wait to arrive at the next obstacle. Even so, the beauty of the game’s music and visuals helps to smooth out these slight annoyances between direct interactivity.
One of the big stars of this game, as was the case in Lone Sails, is the vehicle you operate. Toe can handle some platforming, climbing ladders, jumping gaps, and operating machinery, but he also gets a dive suit with which to travel through the water quickly, explore the ocean depths, and collect supplies. However, it all goes towards powering your vessel, keeping it operable, and upgrading it.
The sea craft starts humbly at first. You have a mast you can raise to expand sails and change their direction so they catch the wind and carry your vessel forward. However, you soon get an upgrade that allows you to burn cargo to power the ship’s paddles via steam. Eventually, you even get an upgrade to the ship that allows it to travel underwater as a submarine. Each upgrade provides a fun bit of new interactivity to the vessel and maintaining it all is a constant and enjoyable process throughout the game whether you’re sailing on the surface through ice floes or chugging along through subterranean caves and tunnels.
There’s a good mix between operating the vessel and disembarking to explore the areas immediately around it as Toe. The craft has a sonar device that tells you when useful cargo is nearby and vaguely where it can be found. It also has things like a cargo bay and hooks throughout that are good for keeping your found treasures and resources safe. There’s often times where some obstacles will cause your machinery to become damaged. In these times, you’ll want to keep one of the game’s limited repair torches on hand to keep your gear in working order. You can also use a water hose to both control elevation of your ship in the water and quickly put out your steam engine or cool it down before it overheats.
The growing level of interactivity and custodial duty with the ship throughout the game is a constant part of the progressing puzzle that keeps this game so engaging. That said, there are all sorts of environmental stops along the way in which you must operate further external machinery to either get obstacles out of your vessel’s way or upgrade it to be able to break through. Inside and outside the ship, Changing Tides is almost always smartly engaging as you play.
The mystery of this broken world and the wordless, yet varied means by which you explore it makes FAR: Changing Tides an excellent follow-up to Lone Sails. The vessel is incredibly enjoyable to operate and maintain, and the music and world around it make the journey a compelling and satisfying one. It’s not a long game and the adventure arrives at the credits before you know it, but for what it has going, Changing Tides is a compelling and gorgeous puzzle full of satisfying mechanical engagement and incredible breakthrough moments as you sail ever forward.
This review is based on a PC digital copy supplied by the publisher. FAR: Changing Tides launches on March 1, 2022 on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam and Epic Games Store.