Abandon Ship: FTL vs Sunless Sea on a deadly-beautiful ocean


We’ve been gently drifting through a sea of “FTL but in a…” games for a while now, and I see no reason whatsoever for that to stop any time soon. Roguelite + survival + management + fragile vehicular home + TERRIBLE THINGS KEEP HAPPENING is an excellent formula for what feels like a very personal videogame story every time you play. Abandon Ship [official site], which we’ve looked at previously, is an upcoming FTLbut with a Pirates of The Caribbeany sort of vibe (earpiece-directed, rote scenery-chewing not included) – i.e. big ships and bigger monsters.

Previous look-sees at Fireblade Software’s nautical permadeath odyssey have focused on the ship-to-ship and ship-to-kraken combat, but now we get a lengthier look at the aspect which most appeals to me – exploring the wild blue-green yonder, seeing the sights and constantly worrying that an enormous tentacle will suddenly burst from beneath the painterly waves.

The water effects are very beautiful, which seems important given this is essentially a game about staring at water for a few dozen hours. The waves crashing against the shoreline, the sun glinting off the ocean surface, the shifting colours of said surface as day turns to night and night turns to day. We get live volcanoes, island-sized frozen trees and ghostly sheets of mist to boot, plus, in an on the nose but nonetheless rather pleasing self-reference to its vaguely Constable-like vistas, the borders of each area of the map are a literal picture frame. I very much want to sail across all this.

My hope is that the combat, though that looks appealing too, with all its dramatically splintering wood, screen-sized beasties and per-crew management, won’t interrupt this stuff too often. I want to get some soul-stirring sailing in, not experience the nautical equivalent of sprinting through long grass in a Pokemon game. Picking up quests scattered across the open sea appeals, as does pulling into port to trade and hire. I.e. I don’t want it to be quite as intense as FTL, because it’s a whole lot purdier than FTL and it’d be a shame to waste that on constant fights.

I also dig the concept that getting your ship sunk is not the end. Your captain and sometimes some of your crew escapes in a lifeboat, and then try to survive for long enough to be rescued – if you can pull it off, you can end up at the helm of a new ship, but if you can’t, it’s game over. Heat Signature did something similar recently, though that was more about a few breathless seconds of hurtling through the vacuum of space and praying you can slingshot yourself back into your ship before you lungs explode. One last chance to survive is a neat concept I’d like to see more, in an age where the explorey-fighty game norm is often instant death.

Abandon Ship is due out before 2017 takes its final bow, which I guess means sometime in November or December.


  1. GrumpyCatFace says:

    I’ve had this on my wishlist for a few months now. Hype is increasing…

    • Nosebeggar says:

      Oh boy I feel you. I’ve read about this on some site before it came to steam and it was the first game I ever singned up for a newsletter for so I won’t miss when this finally comes out. Been keeping an eye on the whole early access campaign and I’m eagerly waiting for the final release. Cannot wait for the whole experience.

  2. x1501 says:

    Looks a bit rough but promising. Does it have co-op, by any chance? If they get it in, I’ll definitely be buying a couple of copies for me and my sea dog crew. Arrgh.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    Can’t view the video, but wasn’t Sunless Sea a bit FTL-but-water? So now there’s Sunless Skies, which is Sunless-Seas-but-Space, and oh god what is happening

  4. duns4t says:

    Looks great – could be Sunless Sea with better combat! Just wish that developers would stop treating sailboats like powerboats and add at least a rudimentary movement system that obeys wind direction. It would create interesting tactical decisions if escape from an enemy fleet or kraken required tacking to move upwind instead of zooming in a straight line with 0 momentum, and would completely alter navigating the map.

    • wislander says:

      Yes, yes, yes! I’m finally sinking into Sunless Sea after bouncing off a few times, and while I appreciate it as it is, I long for a variant with the relative freedom of range but constriction of direction that comes with wind power. A basic wind simulation would be a great way to make this game stand out.

    • morganjah says:

      Wind is a malicious fiction invented by climate change alarmists.

    • Zenicetus says:

      You’d think more people would follow Sid Meier’s lead, with lightweight sailing mechanics in the classic “Pirates!” game that was fun. But no, instead we have sailing ships in game after game that drive around like motorboats.

      It’s just not that difficult! But apparently game developers think we’re too stupid to understand how sailing works, even on a simplified level.

  5. Babymech says:

    They’re at least not coy about their influences – that spider-webbed group of islands seems to pretty much just be Saviour’s Rocks revisited.

  6. KayAU says:

    This looks great. I loved FTL and Sunless Sea both, and despite there being many roguelites these days, few really hit the mark for me. This might be one, though. Shortest Trip to Earth might be another.