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Community Article: Indie Insights - Far: Lone Sails

Written by John Edwards

"You know why this TARDIS is always rattling about the place? It's designed for six pilots and I have to do it singlehanded." In the episode Journey's End, David Tennant's Doctor provides an explanation of why such advanced technology is so erratic and prone to going wrong so often. You're bound to end up running around somewhat excessively while things catch on fire if you're trying to do everything with one-sixth of the crew needed.

At least in Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime, you can have up to four people running around dealing with the controls and, depending on how good you are at teamwork at least, reduce the chaos. In Far: Lone Sails you have no such luck and much like the renegade Time Lord, you have only one pair of hands to manage the controls of a vehicle clearly designed for more.

Far sets out its stall from the start with your character at a grave. It is clear you are very much on your own in this world. The harsh, barren landscape manifesting your isolation on a larger scale. Trekking along the parched landscape you'll come across a hulking pile of metal that you'll come to call home. Stepping inside you find switches and hooks, tubes and wheels, even a small cubby with a bed. This vehicle was abandoned long again, left to rot in the desolation surrounding it.

Feeding the machine some fuel brings it to life, a cool glowing blue line is injected into the main circular fuel tank that is surrounded by the giant wheels waiting to propel the craft. An inviting, chunky red button starts the vehicle moving, chugging into life after lying disused for so long. There is a lumbering feel to your momentum, a hefty weight chugging along, evoking echoes of a steam train pulling out of a station.

But the fuel you put in only lasts so long and there is a constant battle to keep up with finding more along the way, feeding the hungry engine that's propelling you closer to your eventual goal. You'll find yourself dashing around the cabin from the lift that loads the fuel to the steam release valve and out to the world you're passing through to scavenge more resources in an effort to keep on moving. During these hectic moments, it's hard to take in the beauty of the devastated world you're passing through.

Far is set in a world where there's been some sort of ecological disaster. There seems to be little left but miles of salt flats and the remnants of civilisation. It uses an understated colour palette, with red being reserved for switches and buttons and little in the way of blues or greens. It is a scorched earth but one replete with stunning vistas.

Thankfully Far gives you a chance to savour these landscapes and escape the constant maintenance of your travel with the addition of sails. You come across several places where you add upgrades to the vehicle, but the most crucial is the sails that you clamp on the top. Once in place, they can be unfurled and provide fuel-free travel while the wind is blowing in your favour. These moments of tranquillity are to be savoured as a stark contrast to the frenetic activity needed to keep moving without the wind.

If everything goes well, you can manage more easily as a crew of one, but of course, things don't always go easy. So there's a hose for when fires start and later a welding tool for repairs. It's when things break that you'll long for another soul on board to help. But then the desperate scramble from one station to the next, refuelling then rushing back to release the pressure, clambering over your cargo so you can hit the breaks before some precious fuel whizzes past, these are the moments that hammer home the solitude of your character. You are in a world built for more people, but you are alone.

Far: Lone Sails is so skilled in conveying feelings of being a solitary figure alone in an abandoned world. It's far more than just picking your way through the remnants of decaying society like some sort of apocalypse tourist. It uses the burden of singlehanded multitasking and moments of peaceful tranquillity. It has a haunting painterly style and a sparse but moving score. You are left with nothing but a direction to travel in and a clanking, wheezing, metal beast as your shelter, transportation and sole companion. Much like the TARDIS, it may have been designed for a crew, but a solo pilot makes for a more memorable journey.