Changing the tides does not preach its climate fiction

The best climate fiction does not preach a message; it just shows what it might be like to live in a radically different environment. Discomfort induced by heat and humidity in JG Ballard The drowned worldto the corporate rush for alternative sources of calories at Paolo Bacigalupi The mechanical girl, the perception of these stories as dystopian is partly the work of the public. Ballard doesn’t tell you his imagined future is bleak – indeed, The drowned worldThe protagonist of becomes more and more eager to kiss her – but he hardly needs to. We familiarize ourselves with these parameters and we decide that we don’t want to live like that. We can draw our own parallels with the real world and wonder how much we want to risk this kind of future for ourselves.

It is therefore with FAR: changing tides. You start the game as a lone boy in a half-flooded town, making your way through crumbling buildings to a sailboat that you steer into the vast unknown. There’s no dialogue, text or cutscenes – just the evocative art and soulful soundtrack. The game leaves you free to decide who the boy is or why he is browsing. It may be about finding a family or a way to fix the town, but his singular goal moving forward suggests something more grounded – the boy is simply looking for something different, hoping he can outgrow the environmental disaster. in which he is trapped.

This makes the landscape the boy walks through all the more poignant. Uprooted forests, melting ice caps and dead machinery linger in the background. Houseboats and other abandoned vehicles litter its path, indicating a mass exodus long ago. No matter how far it goes, there is no escape from the detritus of civilization. Worse still, one cannot escape the feeling that the journey has been attempted by many before him, in vain.

The boy upgrades his ship during his journey: a steam engine when the winds are too calm to sail, an overdrive module to overcome the most difficult obstacles and a submersion system to transform the ship into a submarine. These are managed by a set of analog switches and levers. A button turns on the motor, a set of bellows must be jumped up and down to keep it running, a pump switches between a vacuum and a hose to dispense or remove water, a switch raises the mast, and a line is pulled to hook the sail. The boy must dash between them, climbing ladders and rigging, occasionally wielding a blowtorch, to keep the whole system balanced and in good working order.

It’s more delicate than in Changing tides‘predecessor, FAR: Solo Sails, and as a result, it loses some of the elegance and sense of rhythm of this game. pretty much read the game’s 2.5D design, either because the obstacle came up before I could answer it. But the reward is FAR: changing tides is more varied than Lone Sailswith a greater variety of navigational challenges and puzzles and a wider range of environments that tell their own stories.

At the start of the game, a massive wave rips the stern of the boy’s ship apart. Later, there is a suggestion that the surge was due to a breach in the city’s flood wall. Later still, as the boy lifts another city from the depths of the ocean, we might deduce that all of civilization has adapted to rising sea levels. This is not the hopeless post-apocalypse of some thing like The last of usnor the joyful nihilism of To fall‘s retro-future, but a kind of ballardian melancholy – the boy’s energetic obsession with his journey to the fore against an apathetic world.

FAR: Changing the Tides Doesn't Preach Its Climate Fiction Okomotive Frontier Foundry

There are murals to be found everywhere FAR: changing tides which suggest that the crisis may be man-made, perhaps a bomb, a nuclear accident or an overexploitation of resources. Certainly, the ship’s reliance on steam is in uncomfortable tension with the slow death of the boy’s world. This tension is perhaps accentuated by the fact that the only fuels available to burn are relics of the old world: fuel cans, luggage, cardboard boxes and other waste. It’s as if the boy burned his story, because everything else was already exhausted.

On the other hand, the murals could just as well be interpreted as a story of struggle to adapt to climate change. Some of them look like maps of the flood wall, for example, while others a possible council meeting to discuss solutions. FAR: changing tides works because it doesn’t force an interpretation. For this reason, it is also particularly effective in emphasizing the consequences of the disaster. Cause and therefore blame don’t matter when the world is already broken.

And yet, all is not so gloomy. Along with the game’s bittersweet ending, which I won’t spoil here, there are signs of healing. Moose or deer can be seen in the distance, schools of small fish and even groups of manta rays swim underwater, and new plants bloom in some of the drier areas of the game. Even the boy – if the player chooses to leave it – can bring a flower from the flooded town at the end of its journey. FAR: changing tides doesn’t preach to the player, but the silent effort to traverse its dying world speaks volumes.