You guessed it; Far has something to do with distance. Thankfully at this year's E3, Far refers to an indie game developed by Mr. Whale's Game Service instead of the distance between me and my next date. This game pits the player in a mysterious vehicle that needs constant maintenance. Imagine being the sole person on a road trip having to stop every few miles just to put water in your radiator and crank the alternator so you can travel forward. The shoe leather express might fare better in that scenario, but moving forward in Far requires upkeep more than just pressing a button and ensuring you're not winding off of a path. Besides, we doubt anyone here wants a polygonal remake of Desert Bus. And yet, that's a game being remade for virtual reality...
Pointless projects aside, Far operates much in the vein of ABZU, where there aren't many instructions and there's a small learning process that fires in your noggin as you play the game. Players become a red blocky character with a mouth. They make a trek via a massive vehicle that is best described as the Rube Goldberg version of a car falling apart. A series of switches turn on necessary functions in the car (water to put out flames, an accelerate button, etc). Get from the start to the finish. Simple and effective.
We spoke to a development team member about Far and the purpose behind the game (besides enoying yourself and having fun). "The driver has to maintain the vehicle and react to certain circumstances in his surroundings," he mentioned as the vehicle crashed into a mysterious shipping container dangling in the air. "The main mechanics are you have a lot of buttons inside the vehicle and you have to figure out when to push which button." I was able to get into a nice cadence of gathering energy buckets, putting out fires, keeping the engine running, and not losing more of my already-thinning hair.
I'd never seen a game where the main character treks across a barren wasteland in a massive contraption, so I asked about where the inspiration for such a game came from. "Movies," was his surprising answer. "The Straight Story from David Lynch was a major inspiration. I wanted to have a vehicle that is interesting to drive and not only just to be controlled with a controller."
The main obstacle in the game, however, is purely the weather. High winds, snow, thunder, rain, dark environments, etc. can work for and against you. It's this upkeep and constant push forward which is the heart of the game. But that still doesn't answer why? "The narrative will be in the background and you need to get further into the journey to find out what happens. At the beginning, you know next to nothing. You are mostly alone in this journey."
It's a sad but sweet game that focuses on the journey rather than the finish line. The demo didn't provide us with much content, but I'd like to see how Mr. Whale's Game Service (a company name I could say over and over) will pull this game through to the end.