At every E3 there seems to be a game that catches me completely off guard when I play it, either because I dismiss its initial reveal as something I wouldn’t really be into, or its value is difficult to convey with a simple trailer. This year, Spiritfarer was that game.

Unveiled as part of Microsoft‘s Xbox briefing, Spiritfarer is described as “a cozy management game about dying,” which sounds grim, I know, but hear me out. You play as Stella, who is tasked with managing a boat which ferries deceased animal spirits to the afterlife. You’ll care for them, navigate the boat, build and expand its layout, visit various locations, and more.

“As ferrymaster to the deceased, build a boat to explore the world, care for your spirit friends, and guide them across mystical seas to finally release them into the afterlife,” the official description reads.

I got to give the game a whirl today and was pleasantly surprised by it. While the gameplay itself is fairly straightforward, it’s a charming little adventure which is incredibly relaxing. The kind of game you’d play to zone out and destress at the end of a long day.

You can check out the reveal trailer below.

I got to have a go of building and customising my ship, visiting a few islands, speaking to the colourful characters of the world, and helping my snake pal’s spirit get to the afterlife.

Many of the tasks you’ll complete for these spirits are ticking off the last few things they’ve always wanted to do before they pass on. A spiritual bucket list, if you will. For my friend the snake, for example, I retrieved a special possession from her old house, as well as show her an island she always wanted to see.

Once they’re ready to move on, you’re treated to a beautiful scene which features a gigantic spirit animal kinda thing. It’s a weirdly special moment, even within the confines of a video game. Sombre, yet uplifting.

With its hand-drawn cartoony visuals and animal-like characters, it holds a lot of similarities to the Studio Ghibli film, Spirited Away, which centres around a hotel for spirits. After pointing this out to one of Spiritfarer’s developers, he told me the movie was actually a massive influence on their work.

The game is currently in development with Thunder Lotus, the makers of Jotun and Sundered. If you’re keen to go on your own spiritual journey, Spiritfarer will hit Xbox One, PC, PS4, and Nintendo Switch at some point in 2020.

Image: Thunder Lotus