This particular review takes place in Nantucket, the new game developed by Picaresque Studio and published by Fish Eagle. It’s a game about whale-hunting during the “Golden Age of American whaling”, which means you start in 1820.
The tutorial is short, but to the point. It teaches you most of what you need to know to start your journey on Earth’s oceans. You are ostensibly under Captain Ahab’s command for the tutorial, where he shows you the basics of gameplay. Most importantly, you need to keep your men happy, fed and paid — the entire time without killing yourself. If or when you die, it’s Game Over.
If you choose to start your game with the ‘Sea Dog’ option, it turns the game more into a rogue-like. There are no saves during gameplay; it only saves your game when you quit the session. If you don’t use the Sea Dog option, then you can save at any time, even during battle. If you die while in Sea Dog mode, your saved game is deleted… but the only way to earn achievements is in this mode.
Whichever way you choose to go, you start with a one-star ‘Rotten Sloop’ (AKA. a crummy, bottom-of-the-line boat) and the ability to hire three crewmen. Your choices for them come from: Hunter; Sailor; Craftsman; Scientist; and Cabin Boy. While the first four mentioned have specific roles and sometimes specific skills, a Cabin Boy is someone you develop as you see fit, or train how you intend them to become. A Cabin Boy’s leveling-up path works somewhat like your own (the Captain’s).
When you start, the job offers and opportunities are quite limited — find a new whale-hunting area or follow the path of a missing ship. This is actually fortunate for you because once the tasks become more complicated, the dangers increase as well.
An unfortunate aspect of Nantucket is that you should be prepared to grind your way up through the ranks. While supplies are very reasonably priced, bigger and better ships are expensive. It will take you quite some time to be able to get out of your initial (albeit functional) lousy ship.
As this is a whaling game, never think the non-whaling missions — while sometimes more appealing — will earn you enough of a living to feed the crew and keep progressing your career. Even though ‘Nantucket’ is the name of the game, whaling is your bread and butter, as it were. Luckily, those early missions send you to ‘possible’ whaling areas. Realize though, that just because you find one doesn’t mean you can continually keep going back for an endless stream of income. Whaling seasons in each area only last for three months of the year, so you have to find enough spots to keep you supplied year-round.
You slowly earn Prestige points in Nantucket as well and can use these to hire more experienced crewmen, if you so choose. The higher their experience, the more Prestige points they cost. Each mate hired has possible inherent Traits, States and Skills — some guys even come with bonuses. Be aware that any of these features can be positive or negative. There is a wide range of characteristic modifiers dealing with such as things as food or water consumption, morale effects, work habits, etc. It is important to know who you are hiring and how they will help or hinder your crew.
There’s a load of information in Nantucket: hit points, morale, traits, levels, etc. for your crew; hull points, cargo content, compartments, etc. for your ship; as well as wind and weather conditions. These all need to be watched and kept track of. However, any statistic you need is easy to find and readily available — except, for some odd reason, you cannot look at the map while you’re docked.
Graphically though, Nantucket’s not going to be winning any prizes. There isn’t a large variety of screens. There’s the main ocean/overview map, each port’s screen (which are all almost identical), then a different screen for each fight while at sea (creature, canoe, pirate, etc.). While it is all hand-drawn, the people are somewhat cartoonish, but the map and loading screens are great and really gave me that feel of the time period.
Good lord, those loading screens though. These are the Immersion Killers of Nantucket. When you enter or exit a town, the loading screens take over — for seemingly an eternity. These are the only things I would definitely change about the game. They absolutely take you out of this 1820s era.
We’re all tired, but excited. We’ve been out to sea. We’ve survived whales beating on us, a shark attack and two pirate attacks. The hold is full of blubber, we’ve found yet another new whaling area and we’ve actually completed two separate assignments. We’re low on water, wood and grog, but we’ve just bypassed an ocean storm. We get ready to pull into port, ready to get paid and resupplied…
Finally, this is all adult fare. It’s ironic I got the opportunity to review Nantucket shortly after doing an article about animals in video games. However, Nantucket does not show any kind of graphic violence whatsoever — only drawn splotches on hand-drawn pictures. Still, grog is a mandatory supply on the ship. Sodomy can be frequent at times.
Loading screens aside, Nantucket is quite the enjoyable experience. There is the main story I chose not to say anything about — you’ll just have to figure that out all on your own. There are many and varied random and interesting events. Since dice are involved, there is some element of RNG, but not so much to make someone rage-quit. The bottom line is that it’s fun to play. While I need to officially finish the story, my next time through will be as a Sea Dog.