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

abandon-ship

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.

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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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