It’s a commonly used adage, but sometimes a picture can be worth a thousand words. That’s especially the case in FAR: Changing Tides, the sequel to 2018’s Lone Sails, which utterly nails the solitude and pensiveness of a solo, dialogue-free adventures. In its four- to five-hour length you’ll piece your own pseudo-narrative together, in an experience that’s as engrossing in its gameplay as its story and themes are touching.
In a game that’s more than welcoming to FAR newcomers, you play as Toe, a boy who traverses a post-apocalyptic sea entirely alone. Yes, there’s not a single line of dialogue: instead the crux of Changing Tides‘ narrative is done through emotion, as the blank canvas that is Toe becomes a conduit for your own reactions to take hold. As you traverse across icy tundras, debris-scattered lakes and underwater caverns, you’ll encounter hulking animals, remnants of the world before chaotic societal downfall, and plenty of tribulations to overcome.
In many ways, FAR: Changing Tides feels like a sailing simulator, combining stunning 2.5D platforming with genuinely gripping sailing mechanics. You power each and every part of your ship, from funnelling in coal to boost the engine to mooring the sails. It’s all introduced slowly enough that by the time you master one mechanic, there’s a new traversal method to learn, and it makes for a very rewarding experience. Some of the game’s best moments come from you dynamically reacting to your ship’s status: be it a dearth of fuel meaning you have to use wind power, or encountering obstacles that’ll require you to disembark in order to solve.
This is where the gameplay loop feels so layered and rewarding: a lot of the time you’ll come across an obstacle, be it an icy crater in your way or a sealed door, and have to decide yourself how to deal with it. The game makes no effort at all to hold your hand, leaving you entirely to your own devices to figure out how to progress. In some ways this is awfully refreshing, with Changing Tides feeling like a sandbox where the only person you can rely on is yourself. While an optional hint mechanic would’ve been useful for some of the more perplexing puzzles, it’s clear why you don’t get any help – this is Toe’s journey, and Toe’s journey alone.
And it’s a touching tale too, that manages to achieve an awful lot without any explicit dialogue or storytelling. It’s that onus on figuring things out and exploring alone that make the narrative threads so satisfying to uncover, while also using dark moments and ideas to reinforce the solitude pumping through the experience. It’s brilliantly subtle storytelling, that leaves you more emotionally invested than you may ever have imagined.
It all adds up to a genuinely gripping and often quite striking tale of loneliness, perseverance, and ultimately one boy and his boat. The gameplay is rewarding and dynamic enough to constantly have you on your toes, and the story is subtle with just enough to tide players by. You’ll explore gorgeous vistas, deal with harrowing panic, and learn about the world that came before – but most of all, FAR: Changing Tides will show you just how much story can be told without uttering a single word.
FAR: Changing Tides is out now on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Reviewed on PlayStation 5 with a code provided by the publisher.