I must admit, thinking about being out in the open ocean scares me, but that doesn’t mean I need to be afraid of a game that is aiming to take the player on a pirate adventure. Fireblade Software is the development team behind the naval combat and ship management adventure game Abandon Ship. The game features all the trials and tribulations that come with being the captain of your own ship with a unique approach to game design that has potential to stand out when compared to other naval combat titles.
To get a more structured opinion about Abandon Ship, I played almost eight hours of the game’s Early Access version. Over an engaging story that I wasn’t expected and many deaths, I began to feel confident in my sailing skills. Although I ran into some trouble out in the open sea, I ended up enjoying my time.
Abandon Ship’s story begins with the player’s created character escaping from prison and forming a quick crew. Incidentally, the ones who captured these sailors are a dangerous cult who worship a monster known as the Kraken. During your travels, you will constantly be on the run from these cult followers, but trust me, they aren’t the most dangerous enemies you’ll encounter. Throughout the game, story events will occur that gives the player a better understanding of the captain and a look into his mind. It was definitely a surprise to find out that the story of Abandon Ship is actually complex and engaging. Also, the story scenes offered a nice little break from battles or the approaching cult.
The sea is traveled in sections represented by a square painting. Each area is like a blank canvas that reveals itself as you traverse the seas. Starting a game will procedurally generate each section of these frames which will randomly mix up event locations and ports. I quickly became a fan of the oil painting design direction of Abandon Ship and felt that it made the game stand out when compared to titles in the same genre, but the combat is where I feel Fireblade has found a nice balance of deep tactics through simple execution.
While traveling, players will need to engage in a number of events before being allowed to pass through a gate leading to the next area. A few of these events involve naval combat with cult followers or desperate pirates. During combat, the ships will line up and the player must assign the crew members to various parts of the ship, such as canons, guns, navigation, and repair. Using the crew wisely is necessary to survive these encounters because although some battles might seem easy, not all encounters are the same and your ship is not indestructible.
This presents one small issue in Abandon Ship, the difficulty can ramp up rather quickly if you don’t repair your ship’s HP or handle events properly. After a battle, the crews HP gets refilled, but your ship’s overall HP stays the same until you find a port and pay to repair damages. Money isn’t easy to acquire at the beginning of the game so every little bit counts. It’s during these early portions of the game that I met death the most. However, having your ship destroyed isn’t the end of the game because if the captain survives there’s a chance that he’ll reach a port and you can continue the adventure, but sometimes you just die at sea.
Additionally, during your travels, a gauge at the bottom of the screen indicates when a tough event is about to occur. This gauge increases over time and will signal a Kraken or cult battle when full. These battles are fairly difficult and must not be taken lightly. Losing is discouraging and hope might seem lost, but if you have the money then you can potentially get back on your feet, otherwise, it might just be easier to start over and lower the difficulty.
Ship and crew customization is straightforward but has a good balance of deep systems to offer in terms of how a player wants to take on the open sea. This includes ways to speed up your ship or improve the crow’s nest to reveal more of the painting. Also, players can upgrade the ship’s weapons to have canons fire an extra round and even equip motors. The crew can also be upgraded as each member has a different job class. I felt that the customization features of the game were nonintrusive and easy to get through to get me back out to sea in minutes and ready for battle.
Abandon Ship is shaping out to be a fun adventure game with a story that caused me to plan out every encounter and make sure that I was ready for whatever the sea threw at me. Although the difficulty can prove troublesome at first, each death taught me something new that allowed me to make it further with every new beginning. There are plenty of quests left for me to accomplish as well as many areas that I have yet to discover, but for now, I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on the what the Early Access program does for this game that already has me feeling like a true ship captain.