Abandon Ship lowers the anchor until 2018

Sailing down along the coast of High Barbary

Avast, et cetera! Abandon Ship is the FTL-like game of nautical combat and crew management where you sail across a big oil painting of the high seas. We’ve previously peered through the news telescope at its exploration, lifeboats and flailing tentacles (Kraken ahoy!) It’s been a bit delayed, say developers Fireblade Software, and now sails into early access in “early 2018”. As compensation, we’ve been given a 30-minute playthrough to inspect, with running commentary from the lead developer. Spoiler: the navigator gets blown overboard and drowns.

Highlights include being chased down by the shadow of a Kraken, ramming an enemy vessel, and the crew being forced to throw a bunch of food overboard to escape from two ships manned by horrible squid people. It also shows off the kinds of things you can buy and sell while in port. Acid bomb mortars that burn enemy crew, suppression cannons that knock sailors to the deck, and big doubleshot cannons that fire two balls at once. There’s also crew for hire, to replace your drowned shipmates, and you can sell your lifeboat too, which, uh… you probably shouldn’t do?

There’s a lot of other detail about how the game works. Crew morale can diminish, leading to a mutiny (although it doesn’t say what happens in that instance), tidal waves can sweep your crew overboard, and the environment has other effects on battles (for example, fire weapons will be ineffective in a rainy storm). Roaming the map meanwhile is mostly about finding enough event pop-ups to unlock the gate to the next area while making decisions about what resources to trade or whether to fight or run from an enemy.

Hopefully, those events and choices are characterful and varied enough to keep things fresh for a decent amount of playthroughs. For fans of desperately repairing hull damage, it’s probably enough that it repeats the frantic man-clicking of FTL. But I’m hoping all the stuff around the battles is just as good. I’m thinking of those high risk, high reward planet landings, or the unconscious castaways who may be villains or pals. All those small decisions that feel critical. If Abandon Ship can harness that, I’ll be a happy sailor.

7 Comments

  1. Ghostwise says:

    and big doubleshot cannons that fire two balls at once.

    Sounds like a sticky situation, right here.

  2. elevown says:

    The water still looks terrible. Why is it heading to the top left corner of the screen still, making the boats look like they are sliding!? You need to clearly show the ship cutting through the waves in the direction of travel – even if turning or the waves are going a different direction – otherwise there is no correct sense of motion!

  3. sagredo1632 says:

    Combat looks interesting. Exploration… does not. You enter a map and engage in x number of completely random events and have a random chance of finding a port. That’s completely devoid of strategic value, since you can’t order your actions to your advantage since nothing is telegraphed to the player. Nor does exploration itself serve any particular purpose, since each map could just have easily been represented by “Here is a room, there are x boxes you have to open to go to the next one.” The map itself and going around the boundaries of it has no significance in terms of gameplay or mechanics.

    Comparatively, in Sunless Sea, finding a particular port was a *big* deal since that knowledge expanded your route strategy. Alternatively in FTL, you had to prioritize your exploration with the constant threat of a hostile fleet overtaking you (and also event types were at least partially telegraphed most of the time).

    Some suggestions might be: broadly characterize encounters so you can see what kind of mess you get into for each one; don’t strictly gate map-map passage and instead impose supply costs inversely proportional to number of events completed. These would at least allow some player agency and cost-benefit decision making in how to proceed.

  4. Belmakor says:

    I want so hard to like this, but it just looks so.. boring?

    I agree with sagredo, the map phase looks pointless. Which leaves just the combat.

    I think they need to play more on the Lovecraftian horrors side of thing.

    The centre of each map should have a maelstrom which graudally grows outward the longer you spend on each map causing the seas to get more violent and skies to darken and combat to become higher stakes.

    Thus, the longer you stay on a map board the bigger the challenge but better the rewards. Keep the one exit and then the map phase becomes about getting to as many events before they become unreachable and then exiting the map.

    I feel like the Kraken should be actively seeking you out on the map after the first few minutes to encourage you to keep moving and have some situational awareness.

    There also isnt enough crew. Double or triple that number and make them a bit more expendable so that hand to hand becomes more interesting, healing becomes more tactical and make them level up quicker.

    A life on the high seas is not for the faint of heart after all.

  5. Lieutenant_Scrotes says:

    Some good gameplay suggestions in this comment section.

    I like the idea of a burgeoning maelstrom developing on each map, making the choices about which encounters to pursue much more important. Making the map transition cost significant enough that a player needs to balance this cost with the risk of staying longer in the maelstrom would be a better mechanic than strict gating in my opinion.

    Shouldn’t a player be able to make their own judgement about whether it’s worth the risk to rapidly transition to another map knowing they will have very limited resources if they don’t properly explore?

    It appears the Kraken functions as a gameplay mechanic in a similar way to the enemy fleet in FTL. It may also serve the role of incentivizing the player to improve their ship over time, in order to survive it’s attacks and eventually defeat it.

    Well it’s not even early access yet so there is plenty of time to develop these mechanics. Will definitely be keeping my eye on this one.

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