Games of 2022: Far Changing Tides was the best paean to survival

Games of 2022: Far Changing Tides was the best paean to survival

This piece contains spoilers for Far Changing Tides.

What would you cling to in a world where you had nothing? The future, perhaps? The hope that one day, one day, this too would pass? What would it take for you to keep putting one foot in front of the other when nothing in this freezing place can spark enough excitement to worry about whether you live or die?

It turned out to be a carousel that I hung onto. A carousel, then a duck, then a roughly sculpted deer, and finally a tiny ballerina in a box, the character forever frozen in a pirouette. I hung them on strategically placed hooks in my caravan-ship-best-friend, but always on the ones furthest from the oven, as if storing them far away meant I never had to burn them. It’s not that I didn’t care about the things I sacrificed to the starving engine. It was impossible to collect the abandoned luggage and not wonder who had packed it and where it was now. But the deer and the duck and the ballerina symbolized something else, I think. By storing them separately from the rest of the trash I picked up along the way, I was making a choice. I chose to protect them for the future. Because there was a future – and I chose to survive.

Apparently, Far Changing Tides is a travel adventure, a game where you puzzle over rusty levers, curious knobs, and strange little pressure plates to figure out how to keep rolling. Your strange locomotive is delightfully mobile, able to glide on water, roll on sand, and even dive beneath the waves as you carve your way through a broken and silent city. And like its charming predecessor, Far Lone Sails, Changing Tides weaves a painfully short, briefly painful tale of love, loss and heartbreak.

Find out what Far is about in this trailer.

But survival is at the heart of Far Changing Tides. Survival is what allows you to put one foot in front of the other, even when it’s hopeless: especially when it’s hopeless. The metaphors won’t seem particularly abstruse as you slip through inky depths and trample empty houses where there’s nothing and no one to help you piece together what went wrong here.

But later, when things look incredibly bleak, a patchwork balloon unexpectedly takes hold of you. It lifts you through the water, then the waves, then up, up – way up! – in the clouds. For a brief, glorious respite – floating so close to the pale blue sky you can almost touch it – you realize you can rise above it all; darkness, coldness, pain, loneliness. It’s miles away now! Suddenly your world is vast. Unending. Bright and warm. You start to think you can do it.

And then the balloon sinks. Imperceptibly at first, but then less so. You realize that the crude scaffolding that held your ship together – held you together – is crumbling. The euphoric respite recedes as your on-screen companion physically and metaphorically descends back to earth.

But you will survive this. Like the last time. Just like the next. Whether you choose to cherish the duck or burn the carousel or just throw away the carved deer, it doesn’t matter, does it? Things are just things, and you will do whatever you have to to survive. To keep fighting. To keep moving. Because someone somewhere is waiting for you there. And that’s what makes this unpretentious little puzzle game so absolute.

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