‘FAR: Changing Tides’ is a gorgeous, compact maritime adventure

Christopher Byrd

THE WASHINGTON POST – One thing that has always impressed me about filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky and Béla Tarr – known for using slow moving, wide-angle shots – is the trust they place in their audience.

To linger on a landscape or fixate on slowly unfolding action is to welcome the viewer into a meditative space.

A creator must have exceptional faith in their material to embrace such an approach because it carries the risk of boring an audience accustomed to the frequent scene-shifting that’s the basis for so much popular movie making.

The same holds true for video games. In a medium, more often than not, associated with histrionic action, games like FAR: Changing Tides tend to stand out. Like its predecessor FAR: Lone Sail the new game makes a virtue of quietude.

FAR: Changing Tides follows the journey of Toe, a young adventurer. Avoiding any kind of stodgy setup it opens simply, with the boy plunging into water and swimming through a partially-submerged city.

The zoomed out camera recalls the work of Danish development studio Playdead, whose Inside seems like an obvious influence. Beautiful lighting and water effects, coupled with a subdued, rusty colour palette imbue the game with a lovely aesthetic that’s enriched by composer Joel Schoch’s restrained, melancholic soundtrack.

In short order, Toe makes his way into a building and acquires an astronaut-like suit with a retractable propeller around its neck which helps him to navigate deep water.

A scene from FAR: Changing Tides. PHOTO: OKOMOTIVE & FRONTIER DEVELOPMENTS

Later, he comes upon a ship with a mast that folds down with the push of a button. A lever next to the mast allows Toe to trim the sails. It’s not long, however, before the boy must contend with one of the many obstacles that interrupt his voyage.

To get his ship moving, Toe will have to fiddle with all sorts of machinery in and out of water, as well as make upgrades and repairs to the ship. Eventually, Toe acquires a steam engine that he must feed with a steady supply of fuel to keep it chugging. Further down the line his ship gains the ability to transform into a submarine.

The game skips between puzzle sections in which players have to work out how to get the ship from one point to another and stretches where there is little to do but bask in the splendor of travelling through an alluring, post-apocalyptic landscape bereft of other people.

Those serene moments are your reward for going about the painstaking work of getting the ship over, under and through an escalating series of obstructions.

As I fell into the rhythm of darting about adjusting the sail, stoking the furnace and hosing down the engine when it threatened to overheat, I noted how my focus narrowed and these tasks became quite consuming.

FAR: Changing Tides effectively makes the ship feel like its own little world.

Keeping the vessel moving often comes down to executing out-of-the-boat tasks – like moving a power source with a crane, sawing a piece of wood, or heating up the engine to generate electrical power that can be used in different situations.

The clever puzzles spun around these satisfyingly low-key activities made me soak in the relaxing sight of watching the ship cutting through the water, unimpeded.