Far Away explores the theme of loneliness surrounding the two explorers tasked with discovering a new world. The explorers, however, are not the only entities in the universe. We’ve previously discussed the creatures and how their ecosystem operates both in opposition to and independent of the players. The other group with some stakes in the explorers’ mission is the Federation Alliance. The Federation is a nebulously defined space government that provides players with ships, missions, and not much else. Their gameplay function is to set the story’s tone.
Early in design, we laid out strict guidelines for how the Federation behaves. Too much space-themed media revolves around a space government that’s either overtly tyrannical or secretly malicious. Alien did that story better than we ever could (and probably worse as well). But, Far Away’s Federation can’t be a purely benevolent and altruistic force either. They need to challenge the players. If the planet’s creatures are an independent force, then the role of antagonist must still fall on the Federation.
Bureaucracy is the real villain. The in-game Far Away program was founded during a time of enthusiasm and wonder about the cosmos. Since then, their budget has been slashed. It’s not that the Federation doesn’t care about their explorers, it’s just expensive to plan for emergencies. Plus, it’s often cheaper to hire a replacement crew.
This financial restriction gives the game one of its signature mechanics: communication limitations. Radios were deemed an unnecessary expense, so explorers are unable to communicate when separated. This challenge forces players to act independently, but ensures they will be suboptimal. It also adds the element of loneliness, both in the game and for the players. Explorers need to check in with each other, lest they succumb to space madness. The mission is made so much more dangerous because a bureaucrat analyzed some equipment-cost spreadsheet.
Far Away’s missions also need to turn a profit to justify continued exploration of the universe. This pushes players against their ethics. You could go out of your way to save the brainwashed crew of the previous mission, but the Federation really wants to bring back the artifact that altered the crew’s minds in the first place.
The Federation’s limitations are baked into the core aesthetic of Far Away. The “retro sci-fi” look is because they haven’t been able to update their equipment in years. The transmissions you receive stress financial concerns and a fear of violating regulations. The planet is wild and mysterious. The Federation Alliance is depressingly familiar.